Well, things were hectic for a week or two for the Colorado Avalanche. At one point, they were involved in 25% of the trades that had occurred during the off-season.
And then, in the blink of an eye, everything just kind of stopped. That’s not abnormal, however. When NHL teams pack up shop for the summer, they really go dark.
After the team re-signed Jack Johnson and Justus Annunen on July 2, it’s been very quiet. There are still holes to fill, and Ross Colton needs a contract, but the majority of the work has been completed by Chris MacFarland and company.
As for what they’ve done and what they still need to do, people had a lot of questions. So many that we’re going to split it up into two separate mailbags. This is part one, and look for part two in a few days.
From Jeff Harrison: At this point of his career, do you think it’s a stretch for Johansen to be a productive 2C?
I don’t think it’s a stretch, and quite frankly, he’ll be put in the best possible position this year to show he can still be that guy. There’s a good chance the Avalanche place him with Mikko Rantanen, and I’d bet that he’s playing in that bumper spot on the top powerplay unit as well. Considering everything, the expectation should be 50-60 points, if healthy. If he can’t produce that, then he probably doesn’t have it anymore (offensively).
Just think about it for a second. J.T. Compher put up 52 points playing a ton of minutes at even strength, getting top powerplay unit time, and spending a good chunk of the season with Rantanen on his wing. Johansen has quite a bit more offensive ability than Compher, so if he’s not able to replicate that, that’s a cause for concern. I don’t think it’s a slam dunk, given the highs and lows of his last few seasons, but the Avalanche are going to put him in the best possible position to succeed. Just based off the position he’ll be put in, I think he’ll do okay, but I’m going to be digging into his Nashville film here soon to get a better idea of what he might look like next year.
From ArkyFlicka: What does the new penalty kill look like?
This will be one of my storylines to watch through training camp and the start of the season. Compher led the forward group in time-on-ice per game while shorthanded, and they didn’t exactly replace him with anyone who fills that role. The team still has O’Connor, Cogliano, Nichushkin, and Lehkonen, but none of them are natural centers.
By bringing in Miles Wood and Ross Colton, the team added two bottom six forwards who don’t really have a history of killing penalties. That doesn’t mean they can’t do it, but they just haven’t had the opportunity. I expect both of them to get opportunities to see if they can handle those roles early in the year. That’s also why I think Ondrej Pavel is a sneaky guy to watch in camp, because he can fill a very specific role on the PK if they need it.
From Amber: I’ve seen all the beat writers support Wood & Drouin & RyJo as good pieces who fit our play style, but do you think they’ll fit in with the team’s culture & chemistry?
The Avalanche place a high emphasis on character, so I don’t think they would have brought anyone in if they didn’t think they would fit in the locker room. No one knows Drouin better than MacKinnon, and the front office consulted with their star forward a lot to make sure it was a fit, both on and off the ice.
I have questions how all of them will fit on the ice, but I trust that the locker room won’t be an issue.
From Rod: Do you think Georgiev will repeat the regular season he just had?
I am a big Georgiev believer. He exceeded every single expectation I had of him last season, outside of the postseason. Do I think he was great in the playoffs? Nope, but I don’t think he was bad either. He just set the bar high with his regular season. Considering he played way more games than most anticipated due to Francouz’s injury issues, he had a dynamite year.
As someone who does not really trust goaltenders at all, I have a lot of faith in Georgiev. A lot of that comes from his mental make-up as well. When you speak to him, you can tell he’s a guy who takes care of himself off the ice, works hard on it, and has a lot of confidence in his ability. I think he’ll be just fine, and the Avalanche usually make life pretty easy for their goalies.
From Rick: Vladislav Kamenev was 22-19-41 in 60 games in the KHL, good for 13th most goals in the league (same as Kovalenko). The Avs QO’d him before he left (similar to what they just did with Ranta) and retain his rights. His contract expires next Spring. Think there’s any interest?
I’d say it’s highly unlikely. I’m happy for Kamenev, because he’s had a lot of success in the KHL. Every time he posts on Instagram, it seems like he’s having the best time.
He had a rough go of it in Colorado, and was constantly injured. I had a few one-on-one interviews with him, and he was a very soft spoken guy, but I just don’t see the fit with the Avalanche. He’s not the best skater, and he tends to play on the outside. It was smart to retain his rights, but if he ever did come back to the NHL, I don’t see it being with the Avalanche.
From Dan: What do you think of taking a chance on Cal Foote? Former 1st rounder, plenty of local ties.
It would be a fun story, but he wouldn’t be my top choice. In my opinion, the Avalanche absolutely need to add a defenseman, it just might not happen before the season starts. With injury-prone guys like Manson, Byram, and Makar in their top six, depth will be crucial, and they don’t have a ton right now.
The reality is that Cal Foote just hasn’t been very good in the NHL. He’s still pretty young, so that could change with good coaching. If the Avalanche thought they could mold him into a third pairing defenseman, it makes sense, but he’s got work to do. I just think they need more of a sure thing. Not something I would be completely against, though.
From Glendon: With the possibility of only having $3-3.5M of cap space after signing Colton, which remaining UFA’s or trades do you think would fit as the 3rd line RW, 4C, and 6/7th d-man?
I will probably dig more into the remaining UFA’s in the coming days, because there are a few interesting options out there, but the one that sticks out is Jesper Boqvist. Not a ton of offense there, but he is strong defensively and has a little bit of experience on the penalty kill. Still just 25 as well.
But if the Avalanche were to make just one move, I’d go out and get a legitimate top six defenseman, even if it means sacrificing a little bit up front (for now). This is a team built around their blueline, so that would be my top priority.
Andrew Peeke is still my top choice if they do go out and trade for someone, but any top six defenseman will do. He’d round out the blueline really nicely, and as a right shot, can step up if/when a Makar or Manson gets hurt. There is very little offense there, but his even strength defensive numbers are real strong. Any move that pushes Johnson down to that 7th defenseman spot would be ideal.