It might happen today. It might happen tomorrow. Heck, it might happen 5 minutes before the two sides are supposed to meet in court. In any case, it’s going to happen, and he’ll (likely) be locked in as the 3C.
But as we’ve discussed over the last few weeks, there will still be some holes in the Avalanche lineup when he does finally put pen to paper. Some may be filled as the off-season goes along, and some might still be there when the season starts. After all, very few teams enter the season with a perfectly balanced lineup.
These are the biggest holes in the lineup as it currently stands on July 17.
Middle Six Forward
As it currently stands, a lot is riding on Jonathan Drouin bouncing back in a big way, as he’ll likely be reunited with Nathan MacKinnon. The 28 year old forward still has playmaking ability, as evidenced by his 1.37 assists-per-60 at even strength last year (would have been 3rd best on the Avalanche). However, there are legitimate questions about his overall game and how that will fit in Colorado’s system. Beyond that, Miles Wood is expected to take on a bigger role than he had in New Jersey, and we’ve seen Logan O’Connor go cold for long stretches in his first two full NHL seasons.
A middle six forward would help balance things out a little bit up front, and potentially push a guy like O’Connor to the fourth line, where he may be best suited. There are still interesting names out on the free agent market, such as Tomas Tatar, Zach Parise, Pius Suter, and Danton Heinen. At this point, none of them should cost too much. Bringing in one more forward would make the top nine up front even more dangerous.
A Third Pairing Defenseman
Re-signing Jack Johnson buys the Avalanche some time when it comes to making additional moves on defense. If need be, they can start the season with the top six as it’s currently constructed and get by just fine. Johnson was remarkably durable last season, but he’ll turn 37 in January. A third pair defenseman that could push him into a smaller role help out a lot.
But the biggest reason why adding an additional defenseman should be the priority (in my opinion) is the durability concerns for some of the current defensemen on the team. Devon Toews and Sam Girard have shown to be pretty durable in their time in Colorado, but Josh Manson, Bowen Byram, and Cale Makar have all dealt with various injury issues the last few seasons. It would be reasonable to expect that to happen again.
Brad Hunt filled in admirably last season, and Sam Malinski showed a lot of promise with the Eagles, but Kurtis MacDermid is arguably the worst defenseman in the NHL. Another defenseman that could push everyone down the depth chart just a little bit would strengthen the team, and organization, overall.
If they bring in a middle six forward, the need for an additional depth forward goes away a little bit. At that point, you can rely on what you have, with the additions of Riley Tufte and Chris Wagner, and young forwards currently in the system like Jean-Luc Foudy, Ondrej Pavel, Ben Meyers, and Oskar Olausson. But when Colton and Meyers do sign, they really only have 11 NHL forwards signed, two of which are Meyers and Fredrik Olofsson. They could leave that extra spot open for competition, giving a young player a chance to crack the roster, but I’d imagine a team that wants to contend would have interest in bringing in another forward with NHL experience to create additional competition.