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Avalanche Mailbag: 2C Rantanen, Other Sneaky Trade Targets

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Welcome back to another off-season edition of the Colorado Avalanche mailbag.

All this talk about the Avalanche needing a second line center, but do they have one already on the roster? Or is the team clearly not interested in using Mikko Rantanen in that spot? Also, other interesting trade targets, landmines to avoid this summer, and more.

Let’s just dive right in.

From Jackie: Let’s be honest, is Mikko the best 2C the Avs are going to find? And why is he still underrated?

It’s possible, but at this point, I think it’s pretty clear the team doesn’t want to use him there. If there was ever a season to give it a real shot, it was last year. When Nathan MacKinnon missed an entire month, they moved Rantanen there, but it lasted four games. He didn’t perform poorly, but was moved back to wing. I’ve always liked the idea, but it sure seems like a “last case scenario” situation for the team.

As for why he’s still underrated, I think that’s starting to change. You score 50 goals, and people start to take notice. Throw in a Stanley Cup and some dominant playoff numbers, and people seem to be figuring out how good he is now.

From Geremy: Is it time for the Avs to invest a draft pick or ELC into a goalie prospect? Whether or not Annunen makes the NHL, shouldn’t someone be looking to join the Eagles in 1-2 years?

Draft a goalie every year. You never know if it will hit, but it’s something I would do if I ran a team. Easier said than done, obviously. And yes, they need to start looking for their next professional goalie. Zhigalov‘s rights run out in under a year, and him leaving for Belarus isn’t necessarily the greatest sign. I’m sure they’ve looked at the NCAA market, but they certainly need to find the next goalie somewhere.

What is the percentage of likeliness of the Avs actively finding a trade partner for Girard?

The thing is that I don’t believe the Avalanche are actively shopping Girard at all. He’s a good defenseman on a good contract, and they like him. Could someone knock their socks off with a trade offer? Sure, but they aren’t in any rush to move him. Toews doesn’t have a contract beyond next year, Byram hasn’t proven he can stay healthy, Makar misses games every year, and Manson has struggled to stay healthy consistently for a few years now. There are question marks on the defense, and unless you get a great offer for Girard, you don’t move him.

From pho goth: Who are the absolute landmines of the offseason the Avs should avoid?

I know he just had a monster playoffs for Vegas, but the hype around Ivan Barbashev is wild right now. There’s talk of an 8-year contract on a sign-and-trade, and the thought of giving him an 8-year deal is crazy. He’s surpassed 45 points just once, and during that one year, he shot 23%. The fact that he’s being looked at as the top free agent forward on the market should tell you all you need to know about this free agent class. I guess J.T. Compher falls into this category as well.

Another one I would try to avoid is Alex Killorn. His underlying numbers aren’t looking great, and he’s going to be 34 when he plays a game under his new contract. We’ve never seen him outside of the Tampa Bay machine, and eventually the wear and tear of all the games he’s played will start to show.

From DFNTO: We think the Avalanche would like Sharangovich – any other of those types of players they might target?

Nils Hoglander is another one who I could see them liking. He’s on the small size, but all of his underlying numbers are strong, and has been underutilized in Vancouver. That means he might come cheaper than other players, and he’s still just 22.

If we’re looking at defense, Andrew Peeke in Columbus is a name that sticks out. He’s solid, just 25, and Columbus already has their top four set with their recent moves. With Gubrandson on the third pair, there isn’t a ton of room for a right shot like him. Three more years at $2.75 million.

From Sanjeev: Opening night of the season, who is your 2C? Prediction for draft day trade.

I’ll explicitly say this is just a prediction and not some guess based off insider information, but I’ll guess Kevin Hayes. The Flyers are apparently willing to retain a significant amount on his contract, and he’s a player the Avalanche have always coveted. I don’t think it would be perfect, but if we’re throwing out predictions, I’ll go with that.

From BK: Are we pretty sure we will be seeing Nichushkin on the ice at training camp this summer ? I hope so

Yes, he’ll be there at training camp, and it’ll be interesting to see what he says. He’ll have to answer to his teammates and explain what happened, but he will be there.

Chances Frankie is moved? A potential starter elsewhere on a good contract could have value

I would say very small. The goalie market this summer already sounds wild. Teams will have options in free agency, and there are some big name goaltenders that could be traded. I also don’t think any team views him as a starter. He’s a very good backup, but at his age and with his injury issues of late, I can’t see any team trading for him to be their starter.

From Henchy: Why and how will Jake DeBrusk be an Av?

That’s an interesting idea for a one year rental. I know he rescinded his trade request, but Boston has some tough decisions to make with the salary cap. He’s not a center, but he’d be a good fit for the Avalanche, and given their cap issues, he might come cheaper than he would under normal circumstances. What that would cost? I really don’t know, and he’s one year from unrestricted free agency, so it could just be a rental.

From hogoplan: What’s the team consensus on Annunen? Felt like he had a far better season with the Eagles this year, but a pretty disappointing playoff.

The Avalanche like him, and he’s their best chance  at breaking the goalie prospect draught that has plagued the team for two decades now. He had a much better season last year in the AHL, and is on the right track, but another year with the Eagles is expected. I imagine they’ll bring in a veteran to help him out, and with Francouz’s injury issues, he could very easily get more chances at the NHL level.

From Son: Are the Avs factoring Kovalenko into their lineup in 2024?

My understanding is the plan is for him to come over after his KHL season ends. He’ll be the age where his entry-level deal is just one year, so as soon as he plays an NHL game, that entry-level deal is burned. That’s what they’ll use to entice him over, and then re-negotiate a deal in the summer. Last year, his season ended near the end of March, so he could jump into the lineup for the Avalanche late. He also has a US Visa, so getting him to the US will be relatively easy.

From Tad: The Avs clearly missed Landeskog’s leadership last year. How do you think they’ll mitigate another year without him in the lineup?

I think that’s a big reason why guys like Cogliano and Erik Johnson could return. They’re big parts of the leadership group in that locker room, and losing them without Landeskog around could hurt team chemistry a little bit. Beyond that, I expect Rantanen and Cale Makar to continue to take on bigger roles in the locker room.

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