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Why An Oilers/Panthers Final Should Give The Avalanche Hope



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There’s no denying that when you look at the cap hits of the best players on the Colorado Avalanche, they’re a little top heavy. That’s not abnormal, though.

If the Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers meeting in the Stanley Cup Final shows us anything, it’s that you can still win with a few players taking up a large portion of your payroll.

You just need those players to play like the best players when the playoffs roll around, on top of many other things.

Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Cale Makar combine for a cap hit of $30.85 million. Yes, that’s a lot. Those are the best players on the Avalanche, and they earned those salaries, but for the longest time, many believed you couldn’t win with your best players making too much money. It certainly gets harder to win when you’re in that situation, but the times, they are a changing in the NHL.

Things started to shift last year when the Vegas Golden Knights became the first NHL team to win with a player having a $10 million cap hit (Jack Eichel). One of the Panthers or Oilers will win the Stanley Cup this season, and change the narrative even more. Connor McDavid makes $12.5 million, and would become far and away the highest paid player to win the Cup in the cap era. On the other end, Florida has not one, but two players with a $10 million cap hit (Barkov and Bobrovsky), which would be a first.

The three highest paid players on Florida combine for $29.5 million on the salary cap for the Panthers. For the Oilers, it’s $30.25 million for their three big ticket players. Those two teams are paying slightly less than what the Avalanche are paying their big three, but it’s getting clearer and clearer that you can go all the way if you are in the situation Colorado is in. Salaries are going up, and so is the salary cap. It will probably become more and more common for teams like this to go all the way. It all comes down to how you build around those big ticket players and how they perform. Those stars on the Avalanche were slowed by Dallas, and that’s one of the many reasons they’re sitting at home right now.

Sasha Barkov and Connor McDavid are probably the two leading candidates for the Conn Smythe Trophy right now. They’re certainly getting paid to play at the level they’re playing at, and they’re earning that pay. Leon Draisaitl has 28 points in 18 games, so he’s not far behind. Florida’s other high paid forward, Matthew Tkachuk, is over a point-per-game this postseason. Bobrovsky has been solid for the Panthers, who don’t necessarily need their goaltender to steal them games on a nightly basis.

The real outlier is Edmonton’s third big ticket player, Darnell Nurse. The 29 year old defenseman isn’t a bad player by any means, but he’s clearly overpaid, making more than Cale Makar at $9.25 million. He has just three assists through 18 playoff games, and took some real heat at the start of the third round from fans and the media. His play has been offset by the play of Evan Bouchard, who will probably get a big extension this summer. Edmonton has five players with 18 points or more, and no one else with more than eight. It can be done. You can be a little top heavy and still find ways to win.

Colorado has some unique situations limiting what they can do this summer, but all hope is not lost. There’s no reason to blow it up. It won’t be easy for them to get back to the top of the mountain, but the two teams matching up in the Stanley Cup Final are showing that winning is not impossible in the situation the Avalanche are in.

Colorado's premier coverage of the Avalanche from professional hockey people. Evan Rawal, Editor-in-Chief. Part of the National Hockey Now family.

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