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The Other Contract Extension The Avalanche Have Looming

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Logan O'Connor avalanche

You never stop planning ahead as a general manager in the NHL. The immediate concern for the Colorado Avalanche right now is how they’re going to navigate this summer. Is Gabriel Landeskog going to be able to play next season? What, if anything, can be done about the Valeri Nichushkin situation? And with those two wingers in limbo, is there even cap space to bring back Jonathan Drouin?

Those are just a few of the immediate issues Chris MacFarland has to deal with this summer, but I know they’re thinking about the future as well. An extension for Mikko Rantanen, one of the most productive regular season and postseason players over the last decade, is likely high on the to-do list before next season even starts, but he’s not the only right winger entering the final year of his contract. The other one just doesn’t have quite as high a profile.

Logan O’Connor, coming off the best season of his NHL career, has just one season left on the three year, $3,150,000 contract he signed back in 2021. The Avalanche signed him to that contract before he had even established himself as a full-time NHL’er, betting on the energy winger becoming a strong bottom six player in Colorado.

I’d say that worked out for the team.

While O’Connor followed up the signing with two solid seasons, he really looked like he took another step this past season. He started the year on the fourth line, but a few weeks into the season, Jared Bednar put him with Ross Colton and Miles Wood, creating the “Roaring 20’s” line. The results were magnificent, and a lot of nights, they were Colorado’s best line.

Everything would seem to indicate that O’Connor was the engine that drove that line. A quick peek at the on-ice numbers for Colton and Wood with and without O’Connor show they benefited greatly from the 27 year old winger being on their line. That’s why it was such a big deal when the Avalanche announced O’Connor would miss the remainder of the season due to hip surgery right before the Trade Deadline. He was probably the bottom six forward they could least afford to lose, and his absence was very noticeable against Dallas.

The former DU Captain is expected to be ready for training camp, which is good news for the Avalanche. This is the same hip surgery Miles Wood had a few years back, and he doesn’t appear to have lost a step, so I don’t think people should be too concerned with O’Connor losing any speed. The question now facing Colorado’s front office will be – should they try to sign him to an extension after July 1, or wait and see how he recovers from the surgery?

O’Connor is set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, but I doubt the Avalanche want that to happen. He’s become a huge part of the locker room and is viewed as a leader on and off the ice. If you look at his offense last season, he was on pace to score about 36 points over an 82 game season, which is 10 more than his previous career high. If we’re trying to find a contract comparable for O’Connor, it might be just as simple as taking a look at the guy who centered him most of the season.

Last summer, Colorado gave Ross Colton a four year, $16 million contract coming off 39 and 32 point seasons. Colton doesn’t kill penalties like O’Connor does, but points are what pay in the NHL. With the salary cap going up, one would think O’Connor could at least get that much if he hit the open market. Role players who have helped teams win Stanley Cup’s tend to get paid pretty well in free agency, and a lot of the time, overpaid (see: Barclay Goodrow). Another bottom six forward making $4 million a year could be tough to stomach under the salary cap, so there may have to be some reshuffling to make the numbers work.

O’Connor would be a difficult player to lose in free agency. He’s not a star, but he is very much a glue guy who helps the team in a lot of ways. That Colton contract might give everyone an idea into what it will cost for the Avalanche to re-sign him, whether it happens this summer or not.

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