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Colorado Avalanche

The One That Got Away From The Avalanche

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Rodrigues Avalanche nhl

Every summer, a GM has to make tough decisions when it comes to building their roster. Chris MacFarland certainly has his hands full with the Avalanche this offseason, handcuffed by the Gabriel Landeskog and Valeri Nichushkin situations.

Last summer, the Avalanche had some clarity as far as what they could do heading into the offseason, and made plenty of changes. One of those changes was letting Evan Rodrigues go in free agency. Whether it was due to his contract demands or the Avalanche looking for a change, Rodrigues left and signed an extremely reasonable contract with the Florida Panthers, where he sits just four games away from a Stanley Cup.

And right now, he kind of feels like the one that got away for Colorado.

“He can basically do it all,” Sasha Barkov told Florida Hockey Now. “He can play defense really well, he plays offense really well, he takes face-offs, you can put him in any situation on the ice. Off the ice, he’s a great guy. He can hang out with anyone and be a great guy with anyone, so that’s a really good thing to have as a person and I’m really impressed by him ever since Day 1.”

None of this should come as a surprise to Colorado fans. That’s who Rodrigues was for them last year. Sure, he was inconsistent offensively, and that’s probably why he didn’t get a bigger contract over the summer, but he was someone you could slot in on any line and feel comfortable with what he would provide. He’s adaptable to any role a coaching staff gives him. That’s extremely valuable in this league.

At practice, he was Nathan MacKinnon‘s running mate, doing a lot of the same things Jonathan Drouin did with the Avalanche superstar this year. He’d get on early with MacKinnon and they’d both stay on the ice late, working on various things. In games, the two had chemistry, working off each other really well. The fit was there on the ice and in the locker room, but Colorado ultimately went another direction.

Rodrigues signed a four year deal with the Panthers on July 2 for just $12 million, giving him a $3 million cap hit. There’s no telling if he would have taken that deal in Colorado, but I imagine he was looking for some term after what happened to him the prior summer. Florida has no state taxes, so players take home a bit more of what they earn, and given he signed that deal on the second day of free agency, the big offers probably weren’t there on day one.

Just looking at the contracts signed in free agency by the Avalanche, it seems like most of the money Rodrigues got went to Miles Wood. I thought Wood had a fine first year in Colorado, excelling on the penalty kill, but he’s a pretty clear bottom six forward. Would Colorado have been in a better off forking over a little more money to keep the versatile Rodrigues? That’s tough to say because sacrifices would have had to have been made elsewhere, but every single statistic would indicate Rodrigues is the more effective player.

Like he did in Colorado, Rodrigues has excelled with multiple linemates on the Panthers. He started the year with Barkov on the top line, spent time on the third line with Anton Lundell, and is currently on their second line with Matthew Tkachuk. That sort of versatility is crucial if you want to win in this league, and certainly could have helped the Avalanche this season.

It’s in the past, and there’s nothing you can do about it right now, but it definitely feels like Rodrigues is the one who got away from the Avalanche.

The Panthers are benefiting because of it.

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