With just five days until the NHL draft in Nashville, and eight days until the start of free agency, things should start to pick up. I say should, because to date, the Colorado Avalanche have only made a minor deal to acquire Fredrik Olofsson. Beyond that, nothing with the NHL roster has been done.
The only real news we’ve gotten in the last week is that it appears Erik Johnson is headed to free agency, and that means Colorado has a need on the bottom pair. Their big needs, however, are up front. Ideally, the team needs a second line center, but a top six forward is the bare minimum. Colorado may not care as much about center or wing, which is why the list below is a mix. The playoffs exposed the secondary scoring on the team, and upgrades are needed.
With a weak free agent class, the trade market is likely where they’ll have to do it. The initial trade board was posted two weeks ago, and we’ve already dropped some names off. That doesn’t mean those players are out of the question, but new names had to be added that perhaps make a little more sense.
C Pierre-Luc Dubois
Contract: Restricted free agent, $6 million qualifying offer
On Thursday morning, Elliotte Friedman “wondered” if the Avalanche would be in on Dubois, but only as a rental. He’s asking for a lot of money for a long time, and it might not be something the Avalanche can do. But if they truly are going for it next year, a risky one year rental isn’t out of the question.
C Elias Lindholm
Contract: 1 year remaining, $4,850,000 cap hit, will be unrestricted free agent
Nothing is final, but the Flames have apparently backed up the money truck for Lindholm and he has not given them a definite answer just yet. Speculation is that he’s leaning towards not re-signing, and if that’s the case, he will almost certainly be traded. Craig Conroy has said he doesn’t want another Gaudreau situation, so they’ll want to move him for the best value. He wants an extension in the range of what Bo Horvat got with the Islanders, so retaining him would be difficult.
Do the Avalanche have enough trade capital to go in on either Lindholm or Dubois? That remains to be seen, but both are near perfect fits behind MacKinnon.
C/W Kevin Hayes
Contract: 3 years remaining, $7,142,857 cap hit
He played more winger than center last season, but that just gives the Avalanche a little bit of flexibility. The Flyers are apparently very flexible when it comes to Hayes’ contract, and would be willing to retain enough to get it into the 4’s. That changes a lot, as it makes it much easier for the Avalanche to fit him under the cap not just next season, but beyond. A player the organization has always coveted, but maybe not your ideal 2C at this stage in his career.
C/W Yegor Sharangovich
Contract: Restricted free agent
As we touched on just last week, the type of player the Avalanche have typically targeted in years past. A young player coming off a down year who maybe doesn’t have the value he had just a year ago. At his age, he’d also be under team control for the next handful of years, depending on what type of extension he will get. Colorado would not be the only team calling, as a lot of teams have been touching base with the Devils to see what it would cost to get him.
W William Nylander
Contract: 1 year remaining, $6,962,366 cap hit
Another player we touched on over a month ago, because he would be a perfect stylistic fit with the Avalanche. While he’s dabbled at center here and there, he’s mostly played wing, and is one of the more productive ones in the league, coming off a 40 goal season. If the Maple Leafs do decide they’re going to move one of the big four, he seems like the easiest one to move. However, it sounds like the Maple Leafs are going to take a run at re-signing him. I have no idea how they’ll do that, but they’re going to try.
LW Ross Colton
Contract: Restricted free agent, $1,250,000 qualifying offer
Tampa Bay is in a cap pinch, and Colton may be the odd-man out. He didn’t quite reach the production he had the previous season, but still had a solid season. Has played a little bit of center but mostly sticks to wing. Outside of being a productive player, he’s a pain to play against, something the Avalanche could use. Unlikely to come cheap, and will need a (likely) pricey extension, but Tampa is in a really tough position and may be forced to move him.
C Mikhail Backlund
Contract: $5,350,000 cap hit, UFA next year
It’s a mass exodus in Calgary! On Thursday, it was reported that Backlund, like everyone else in Calgary apparently, is leaning towards not re-signing. That puts his name out there on the trade block. His offense bounced back last season, and at age 34, he might just be a one year rental, but a good one. He’s also the type of guy who can take some pressure off MacKinnon, as he’s strong defensively. With his age, he might be a cheaper center to target, especially if the team doesn’t care about him being a one year rental.
LW Jake Debrusk
Contract: $4,000,000 cap hit, UFA next year
Debrusk rescinded his trade demand last summer, but Boston is in cap hell this summer, so moving him is on the table. Even with the cap issues, it won’t come cheap, but he’s someone the Avalanche have sniffed around before. Would replace a lot of the sandpaper that will be missing without Landeskog. Outside of the COVID year, he’s been consistent in the 20-30 goal pace range.
D Andrew Peeke
Contract: $2,750,000, 3 more years remaining
The only defenseman on the main list, because defense isn’t as high of a priority. With everyone (hopefully) returning to health, giving up assets for a defenseman isn’t at the top of the list, but Peeke is an intriguing option. Everyone knows the Avalanche and Blue Jackets have a history together, and Peeke would be cost controlled for three more seasons. Columbus suddenly has a lot of right shot defenseman and not enough spots to play everyone. With EJ hitting the market, Colorado has a need for another right shot defender.
Other names to keep an eye on
Brett Pesce – A defenseman the Avalanche were linked to last week, but it doesn’t make a ton of sense on the surface. A real steady defenseman just one year from UFA, so the only way it makes sense is if Colorado is really looking to change the make-up of their defense.
Scott Laughton – The Flyers allegedly turned down a first and second round pick for him, which is insane, but we’re seeing more and more that teams will give up draft picks for gritty players under team control for a few years.
Matt Grzelcyk – If Colorado trades for him, I’d have to look up the spelling on his name for a good month to get memorize it. Another player that Boston may have to move simply because of the position they’re in. A small guy but doesn’t necessarily play like it.
I want to re-iterate to not rule out names from the initial trade board. Guys like Kuznetsov and Roslovic are still options, but there just simply isn’t enough space for everyone.