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Avalanche Thoughts After The NHL Draft And Before Free Agency

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This was supposed to be the busiest week of the year, and it’s starting to live up to it. All we saw on Friday were trades involving draft picks, including one the Avalanche made, but for the most part, it was pretty quiet. Then the floodgates kind of opened on Saturday and the fun has begun. I thought my 5 PM flight leaving Vegas on Saturday night would force me to miss some moves while in the air, but Frontier made sure that wouldn’t happen by delaying the flight several hours. By the time we took off and landed, every GM in the league was asleep.

The Avalanche have been quiet so far. There’s really no news to report (yet), and I’m not sure how much we’ll get in the next week. Unless Chris MacFarland makes a move tonight involving someone whose no-trade clause kicks in tomorrow, it might be a very quiet week. Before free agency started, I wanted to get some thoughts out, including what I heard (and saw) at the NHL Draft, some thoughts on the unrestricted free agents, and a look at some restricted free agents that weren’t qualified around the league today. There are a few that would make sense in Colorado.

The Draft

First of all, I was very skeptical of the draft being held at the Sphere. It felt a little…over the top. I was very wrong. I mean, it was definitely over the top (Céline Dion?!? Michael Buffer?!), but in the best way possible. The event was fantastic, and I’m sure other leagues might take a look at it and try to host some of their league events there in the future.

As for the Avalanche at the draft itself, the Cole Eiserman talk is very real. I believe MacFarland and Chicago GM Kyle Davidson had legitimate talks about a swap that would have seen the Avalanche move up to 18. I witnessed MacFarland call Davidson over to his table, write down some things on a piece of paper, and hand it to Davidson to take back to his group. It would be easy to assume it was an offer of sorts, but what would the offer have been? That part I have no clue on. The Avalanche aren’t exactly a team that has a ton of assets they can deal to move in a trade-up scenario. If it wasn’t going to be Eiserman, it was going to be a Russian. Colorado liked Yegor Surin, but Nashville made it pretty apparent that’s who they wanted, as they were even trying to trade up from 22 to get him. At that point, a move to trade down was already being completed between Colorado and the Utah Hockey Club. MacFarland’s phone was very busy that first night.

The Avalanche were going to take a Russian, but it wasn’t the one I expected. I thought for sure it would be forward Nikita Artamonov at 38, but instead, they went with Ilya Nabokov and started a run of goaltenders, as eight went in the second round. I’ve seen some people say that Colorado could have gotten Nabokov at 71, but with that run of goalies, that seems really doubtful. He wasn’t my top pick, but I get Colorado’s thinking here. They’ve struggled to develop goaltenders of their own, so why not find one that is already older and developing really quickly? There’s still plenty of risk involved, but in theory, he should be in the NHL a lot quicker than most second round picks would be. I would have to imagine the Avalanche touched base with his representatives to get an idea on when he’ll come to North America before taking him.

As for the rest of the draft, I couldn’t tell you a thing about most of those guys. We’ll see a lot of them this week, but we’ll judge how the Avalanche did in a few years.

UFA Talk

Okay, free agency starts in less than 24 hours and the Avalanche, at the time of me writing this, haven’t signed anyone. Here’s kind of where I stand on those guys…

Yakov Trenin has the same agent as Nabokov. When I reached out about Nabokov, I got an immediate response. I’ve reached out several times over the last month about Trenin and have heard nothing. My guess is he has priced himself out of Colorado, although I would like to keep that guy around if possible. I’m interested to see what kind of deal he gets.

Sean Walker is almost certainly gone and should get himself a nice contract in free agency. I haven’t heard anything about Brandon Duhaime. To me, his play dipped in a big way come playoff time, but I liked him during the regular season. Not someone I’d overpay for, though.

MacFarland said they haven’t closed the door on Jack Johnson. They know what he will cost, and might as well see what’s out there on the market.

Jonathan Drouin is the big one, and it really felt like MacFarland and Allan Walsh were working the media this weekend. MacFarland made it pretty clear that he thinks the Avalanche played a pretty big role in Drouin having a career year. Just a few hours later, Walsh took to social media to hype up Drouin, making sure everyone saw that MacKinnon called his client his favorite teammate ever.

Unless a move is made, I’m not sure how the Avalanche can afford Drouin. I would be really interested in seeing what kind of deal he can get on the open market. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if there are plenty of teams out there that agree with MacFarland’s premise that the Avalanche had a lot to do with his bounce-back year.

The Ross Colton trade talk is very real, but with his no-trade clause kicking in tomorrow, time is running out for a trade scenario like that to play out.

Unqualified Restricted Free Agents

No word yet on if the Avalanche gave any of their restricted free agents qualifying offers, but they really don’t have anyone of note that needed one. Jason Polin, Alex Beaucage, Wyatt Aamodt, and Gianni Fairbrother are there four RFA’s. Not exactly a big list.

There were some interesting RFA’s around the league that didn’t get qualifying offers today, though. And quite frankly, if the Avalanche are going to have to sniff around the bargain bin this summer, there’s a few that could make sense for them.

Let’s start with the obvious one in center Blake Lizotte. No, he’s not a big guy at all, but he’s been a quality depth forward at the NHL level before. He’s coming off a down year offensively, but Los Angeles had decent numbers with him on the ice. Even though he’s smaller, he plays with an edge. Had a poor year in the face-off circle, but was much better last year. Definitely could make some sense.

I liked Jesper Boqvist last summer and wouldn’t hate that pickup, but he’s not exactly the most exciting player.

Defense is where you’ll find some interesting options. When Erik Brannstrom was with Vegas and playing against the Avalanche in rookie tournaments, he looked like a can’t-miss prospect. After being the main piece in the Erik Karlsson trade, it just hasn’t worked out in Ottawa, but his underlying numbers are really strong. At just 24, I would absolutely take a look at him.

The same goes for Jake Bean and Pierre-Olivier Joseph, although I’d prefer Brannstrom over both of them. Adam Boqvist is being bought out by Columbus, and was once a top 10 pick. He’s still only 23, and while I’d prefer Brannstrom over him, he’d be another intriguing pickup. There’s also Nils Lundkvist, who Avalanche fans may remember as the guy who mostly sat on the bench for the Stars when he was dressed. Dallas gave up a first round pick for him only to let him go for nothing two years later. He’s also still just 23.

Other than Joseph, they’re all relatively small defensemen, although Brannstrom’s defensive metrics are strong. Maybe not perfect fits, but it certainly would make sense for the Avalanche to try and bet on some talent this summer.

I think that’s all that I’ve got in my brain right now. Just like last year, we’ll have a free agency blog going up tomorrow that will update all day long with commentary on the moves that are being made. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Avalanche are quiet, but the rest of the league won’t be.

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Ricardo

The entire Drouin saga will be really interesting. Will the Avs take a little less for Colton to keep Drouin or will they let him go? Not much time left.

Matt McCarthy

Thanks for all your hard work Evan!

I thought Sam Steel might be a guy the Avs look at for the bottom six as well. Tough times this year trying to find value picks at near league min.

Aaron Hinton

Thanks for the detailed analysis here, Evan. Very well-written and informative. How much, exactly, do the Avs have to spend tomorrow? It seems like the last I saw it was around $10 million. Avs are great at reclamation projects so it will be interesting to see who they bring in but I would not overpay for Drouin. If 29 wants to keep him around then he can take a percentage of his weekly salary and Venmo his friend.

Rick

The 10 million number includes Val’s money so it’s really more like 4.

JEREMY

Smart to focus on the guys who didn’t get QO’s. The Avs are going to be shopping in the clearance section this July 1st & beyond.

I don’t see any of the UFA’s coming back. Unless as Evan pointed out, the market isn’t really there for Drouin. But it only takes one GM with an abundance of cap space to overpay. Would love Trenin back most out of anybody. But I don’t see it, he has classic bottom 6 guy who gets overpaid by some mediocre team that misses out the big fish, written all over him. Think Buffalo lol.

Aaron Hinton

Jeremy, just like Kadri two years ago, these guys could stick around and actually compete for a Cup albeit with less money during their prime. They want to get paid but they don’t prioritize winning.

JEREMY

Yeah..it use to bother me a lot more. Then I just accepted it’s the reality. I always laugh when the term hometown discount still gets thrown around. When a guy takes 12.5 annually as oppose to 13 for example. NHL analysts will say said player took a discount. I mean really?

Landeskog & Nichushkin & their contracts are holding this team back in the middle of their cup window. Regardless anyone’s emotional investment in either player, it’s simply a fact.

Rob Corkran

Imo, screw Nichuskin’s contract. Is there not some morality code they can use to let him go? Then there would be money for Druin! Yes we hope for Landy but if he can’t play again it’s better to know ASAP!

AxJx MacReady

Whether we like it or not, the Avs are going into the season with $13m tied up in Nuke and Landeskog. CMac said as much at the draft. That means Drouin is most likely gone and the Avs will have to raid the bargain bin to fill out their roster.

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