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Avalanche Thoughts: Interpreting Sakic’s Comments, Buy-Out UFA’s, and More



Avalanche Erik Johnson nhl

On  July 1st, GM’s around the league usually lose their minds and spend more money than they ever should when free agency opens up. Historically, the Colorado Avalanche have not been one of those teams that goes crazy on the opening day of free agency.

I don’t expect that to change tomorrow, and I’m wondering if this is the year GM’s wise up.

After all, the crop of UFA’s is downright bad. Is the top UFA soon-to-be 34 year old Alex Killorn, who had great production but his underlying numbers weren’t great? Or is it Dmitry Orlov, a very good defenseman, but one who will be 32 and is looking for a lot of term?

All of that might have changed this morning, because a few NHL teams tried to make some contracts go away. In doing so, the pool of UFA’s got a little better.

The Buy-Out Guys

Matt Duchene (Yes, that Matt Duchene) got the news this morning from Nashville that they’re buying out his contract. If you ask me, he now easily becomes the top player in a horrendous UFA class, regardless of what you think about him. Do I think he’s coming back to the Avalanche? No, so moving on.

Blake Wheeler would not have been high on my list either, but it’s unlikely he’s an option. He apparently wants to play in the East because of easier travel, so he’s out.

Kailer Yamamoto is getting bought out by Detroit, but I’m not sure he’s the best fit. It really just depends on the price.

The most interesting buy-out is going to be Mike Reilly from Boston. The Avalanche need depth on defense, and he can provide that. He’s only 30, and should come relatively cheap.


Joe Sakic came out yesterday and said they want to get “a little grittier” this summer. I don’t necessarily disagree. The bottom six, in particular, was a small group last season. Up until they got Lars Eller at the deadline, everyone in the bottom six was either 6′ or smaller.

But grit doesn’t always mean big, tough guys who go out there and smash the opposition at every opportunity. Grit could also mean guys that do the dirty work in the corners, and go to the net, even if they aren’t necessarily the biggest guys on the ice. Ross Colton fits that mold. He’s only 6′, but he plays fearless.

Jesper Fast would have been the perfect pickup. That guy does every little thing on the ice you could ask for, but he’s not someone who goes out there and hits everyone in sight. Unfortunately, the Hurricanes are extending him, so he won’t hit the market.

Guys like Tomas Nosek and Teddy Blueger fit the mold for the fourth line, which needs some help at the moment. Of all the current UFA’s on the team, Andrew Cogliano is the most likely to return, and we all know he’s not afraid to get his nose dirty. Even a guy like Tyler Motte, although extremely small, has a great reputation around the league because of his work ethic and penalty killing ability. Miles Wood isn’t my favorite player, but he can fly and has size.

We touched on Max Comtois a few weeks back, and it appears it’s unlikely he gets a qualifying offer from Anaheim, so he’d be an interesting reclamation project. He was, however, a part of that Canada WJC team that is being investigated right now for some pretty heinous stuff, so teams may not be interested until the results of those investigations come to light.

I have no doubt they’ll look to add a physical defenseman to replace Erik Johnson, but it still has to be someone that can play the way the Avalanche like to play.

There will be options, but when Sakic says he wants the team to get “a little grittier,” don’t just assume he wants the team to go out and add a bunch of huge enforcers. After all, the Avalanche are built to play a certain way, and whoever they bring in has to be a fit.

Risky Choices

Another guy we touched on just 10 days ago was Max Pacioretty. The Avalanche, like a lot of teams, are interested, but there’s a ton of risk involved with him. He’s coming off not one, but two ruptured achilles tendon injuries. Even before that, he dealt with injuries in Vegas.

When he’s healthy, he’s a near lock for 25-30 goals, but you won’t really know what you’re getting until you see him on the ice. He could come back just fine, he could come back and be a shell of himself, or he could come back and get immediately injury again. You just don’t know. And when will he actually play? After the second injury, it was reported he could miss 8-9 months. The injury occurred in late January, so that puts recovery around the start of the season.

If this goes into a bidding war, I’m not sure the Avalanche can hang. Cap space will be limited, but they’re doing their due diligence because the reward could be tremendous.

My other risky option was Gustav Nyquist. His production in Columbus dipped last year before injury, but that was the case for most of that team. In Minnesota, he was quite good, and one of their better performers in the postseason. He’s not a flashy pick, but if they’re looking to find a cheap option, you could do a lot worse.

July 1

I would not be the least bit surprised if the Avalanche are quiet on July 1, as they may sit back and wait for the bargains. They did that last summer with Evan Rodrigues, and don’t be surprised if they do it again this year.

This free agent market just feels a little different. It’s a poor UFA class, and the cap barely went up. Teams don’t have a whole lot of money to throw around. If there was ever a year for GM’s to take it easy with the spending, this is the year. I guess we’ll wait and see.

I’ll be hanging out all day tomorrow in case anything does happen with the Avalanche. We know they have to make some moves, because the roster requires it, but when will they make those moves? That remains to be seen.

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