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Free Agency, Drouin, Injuries, And More: What We Learned From MacFarland

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After a modest day of spending in free agency, Colorado Avalanche general manager Chris MacFarland spoke to the media for a little bit on Monday night, discussing various topics.

Obviously, the Jonathan Drouin extension was a big topic, but so were the rest of the signings the Avalanche made on July 1. In addition, he discussed Ilya Nabokov’s timeline and situation, injury updates on Artturi Lehkonen and Logan O’Connor, and yes, if there are any updates on Gabriel Landeskog and Valeri Nichushkin.

Here’s what we learned from Colorado’s GM before we head into the dead of the summer…

The Drouin Extension

When teams started throwing around money like it was candy early on Monday, it didn’t look like the Avalanche, who are in a bind with the salary cap, would be able to keep Jonathan Drouin. The one-year, $2.5 million deal Drouin signed is a big discount for the Avalanche, and seemed like a bit of a favor from the winger.

“We knew this was going to be a challenge,” MacFarland said. “Allan Walsh and Jonathan deserve a heck of a lot of credit in how this was handled over the last, really, couple of months. We’ve stayed in consistent contact. The first thing is that the player has to want to be here. I think Jonathan has been committed to our group. It wasn’t easy, a lot of these rarely are, but we were able to find a sweet spot this morning, and very happy that it’s done.”

It was ultimately a marriage that both sides knew they’d be better off continuing.

“When I spoke to Jonathan this morning, and he said he was going to come back, it was a really good moment, and certainly made our team better than when we didn’t have him up on the board,” he said.

Are the Avalanche Done?

Parker Kelly, Calvin de Haan, Joel Kiviranta, Calle Rosen, Jacob MacDonald, and T.J. Tynan were the other players signed on Monday. Not any big names, but a few guys that will provide depth for the team heading into next year. The latter three have all played in the organization before.

What else is the team looking to add?

“We’re always looking to get better,” MacFarland said. “We’ll monitor some things, but it’s not something that I’d expect to have anything else in the pipeline just yet.”

There’s still some holes up front in the lineup if it was put together today, and the obvious one is that 4C spot. Colorado tried to find one, but isn’t done looking.

“We’ll keep it on our radar,” MacFarland said. “We kicked tires on a bunch of things in that area, but we weren’t able to find a fit. It’s an important spot. We feel we’ve got some internal guys who can certainly play a role.”

Ilya Nabokov

Going back to the draft, I asked about the situation involving Ilya Nabokov, and how much communication the team has had with him about coming over when his contract ends after next season.

“We certainly have had some communication with him. I’m not going to get into the specifics of his KHL situation, but we obviously have very, very high hopes for him,” MacFarland said. “He was a guy that our goaltending department and our scouts had significant interest in, and was a key part in terms of moving back. It’s something that as the year moves on, we feels he’s got a good development situation this year. We’ll attack that as the year moves along, but we want to see him have a great year, play a ton of hockey, and go from there.”

The de Haan Signing

It certainly sounds like de Haan is someone you should pencil into the opening night lineup, although everything is subject to change. With de Haan, things are always subject to change because he tends to miss a fair bit of time due to injuries, but Colorado expects him to bring a different element than some of their other defenders.

“He’s been around a bit,” MacFarland said. “He’s played a lot of hockey, he’s a left shot defender, penalty kill in his tool box. We like the contract, we felt it was good bang-for-our-buck on a guy who has played a lot of games and is experienced. You need more than six defensemen, so to get a guy with his experience and how he’s been around and what he brings, was a nice add for us.”

A Mikko Extension

MacFarland was asked about a potential Mikko Rantanen extension, but as he typically does when asked about contracts, he didn’t have much to say.

“I’m not going to comment on whether we’ve talked to his camp or not talked to his camp,” he said. “I think the last few weeks have been heavy, heavy focus on draft and free agents. I’m sure at some point, we’ll kick that around, but certainly not going to be something that we provide consistent updates on.”

My guess is something gets done this summer.

Injury Updates

With the uncertainty around Gabriel Landeskog, it will be crucial for Colorado to get Logan O’Connor and Artturi Lehkonen healthy for the start of the season. At least one of them should be good to go.

“I believe Logan will 100% be ready for the start of camp,” MacFarland said. “I think Artturi’s situation will be close, but we certainly won’t know more until probably Labor Day.”

MacFarland was asked about Gabriel Landeskog, but there’s no real update there.

“Gabe is doing good. There’s still runway, but he’s doing good,” he said. “His rehab is continuing, we’re getting consistent updates, he feels good, and the road continues. But knock wood, there haven’t been any speed bumps and he continues on the grind.”

What’s Happening With Val?

Some eyebrows were raised when it became public that Valeri Nichushkin would play in a charity league over in Russia this summer. It sounded like Colorado heard about that the way everyone else did.

“We’ve heard about that,” the Avalanche GM said about the league he’ll be playing in. “I think Val is over in Russia, to our knowledge, doing his rehab work as part of the NHL program. I’ll get periodic updates from Mark Gandler (His agent) or the league, as directed, or if they feel there’s something that we need to be kept in the loop on, but we assume he’s doing well at this juncture and that’s really all we know.”

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