With the NHL season nearing its end, the draft and free agency are fast approaching. What’s generally a whirlwind to begin with will be imbued with the frenetic energy of a Doc Emrick goal call. It’ll be made all the more intriguing given the difficulty many teams will have adhering to the salary cap. More than any season since 2005-06 they’ll have to get creative moving forward. Some big names may be in new places before the puck drops on 2020-21.
With that in mind, one team to watch is the Colorado Avalanche. A formidable group with a solid mix of young and veteran talent (on VERY team friendly deals) they were poised to make a Cup run in the bubble (with many picking them at the start of the playoffs) and had injuries not ravaged them, they likely would’ve gotten past Dallas, ultimately falling short in 7 games. While they don’t need to do a lot (if anything) to remain a competitive team, their window is wide open so why not take full advantage? The idea’s been tossed around on the likes of the 4th Line and Puck Soup: why not get bold and try to capitalize short term?
The Avs have an opportunity to stack as much talent on a roster since the 2002 Red Wings, a team GM Joe Sakic is very familiar with. It’s fitting that 4th Line hosts Carl & Nick grew up as Avs & Wings fans respectively, because they were essentially the last of an era. The pre-cap Avalanche and Red Wing teams of the mid 90’s to early 2000’s rolled out one Hall of Famer after another and spent whatever it took to win. Not that simply signing the best talent available meant success…Just ask the Rangers…It takes me back to my days of playing NHL 97 (before they created trade restrictions) and creating super teams. So why wouldn’t the Avs try to do the same, if only for a year?
With the cap set to remain flatter than a Scott Stevens victim, the Avs have some cap space to work with next season, before new deals for several young stars will have to be worked out, so why not take a one-time shot, a-la the Raptors and Kawhi? They wouldn’t even have to deal any assets! It’d certainly defy convention (which really, is all part of the fun) and with the litany of names available it’s an incredibly intriguing possibility and would make Colorado must see TV, whether you’re rooting for them, or praying they fail miserably, you can’t help tuning in. Question is would the chemistry mesh so quickly? A team like Tampa has had their core together for years before they rolled through the league last season. Could that be replicated in short order? Would players be willing to take a one year deal, and risk losing future earning via injury or should they underperform? And who could the Avs add to create such a Juggernaut?
The Avs boast an already steady blue line with the likes of Cale Makar, Sam Girard, Nikita Zadorov, and Bowen Byrum on the way. That said a proven All Star could really put them over the edge. A Gold Medal with Team Canada, a Stanley Cup last season with the Blues, and multiple All Star appearances, the resume speaks for itself.
He’s seemed destined to test the open market (though many are still speculating he’ll resign in St Louis) so why not take another run at a Cup and see what the market offers again next season? The stalwart could rejoin the Blues, or sign with his home town Maple Leafs….as apparently every player born within 100 miles of Toronto wants to…And it’s not as if one year, in particular if he’s successful, will really hurt his long term prospects when he goes to sign another deal.
One of the elite wingers in the game, it’s wild to think he’d likely not even play on the top line should he sign with Colorado. After struggling to find any playoff success in Edmonton, New Jersey or Arizona, the Former MVP is in win now mode and who better to give him that opportunity? At 29 by the time next season rolls around, he’s a veteran guy who’s in that prime, but for not much longer, stage of his career, so why not take a flyer (Not those Flyers…) and give yourself the best shot to win next season and go from there?
He’s coming off a down year (by his lofty standards) with just 52 points in 65 games split between NJ & Arizona, so perhaps joining a powerhouse offensive team where you’re bound to put up better numbers in your sleep would set yourself up for a more lucrative deal moving forward. Maybe even entice someone to over pay, either in dollars or years. Should teams give long term contracts to guys entering their 30 plus season? Someone will. Why not make them, make you an offer you can’t refuse.
The Avs have a steady goalie in Philipp Grubauer, who if healthy likely leads them to a win in the Dallas series, but could they use a platoon system for a year ala those same Stars? It’s not a bad idea. While Pavel Francouz tried admirably, he clearly wasn’t up to the task in the playoffs, and perhaps a 1, 1A situation could put the Avs over the top. That said, would you have to clear it with your starter? After all, Lehner was brought into Vegas as a backup option to Marc-Andre Fleury, and well…However, he more than earned the net, in spite of certain agents protests, and it was the Knights offence that dried up against Dallas.
Lehner will be highly coveted (even with the multitude of netminders available) as a number of teams are going to be looking address their goaltending situation, but who, perhaps other than his current employer, would offer such a legitimate opportunity at a Stanley Cup? And would that not add a bit more to the contract he could demand following the season? He’s put in the time, bouncing around the league since he left Ottawa, and never got that big, long term deal, so he may be sick of being almost a mercenary. He’s made his personal struggles clear, but if he’s willing to come for the year, it could be a huge opportunity in the Mile High city.
Which free agent should the Colorado Avalanche target this offseason? #GoAvsGo— The 4th Line Hockey Podcast (@4thLinePodcast) September 26, 2020