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Colorado Avalanche

(Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)

NHL 2022 Offseason Guide: The Colorado Avalanche

Colorado Avalanche
(Photo by Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)

2022 NHL Offseason Guide: The Colorado Avalanche

The next few seasons are going to be tough for the Colorado Avalanche. Players who are fan favorites are going to walk or get traded. Now is not the time to get a shirt with your favorite player on the back. Unless that player is Cale Makar, Nathan MacKinnon, or Gabriel Landeskog. None of that matters right now though because the Colorado Avalanche is YOUR STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS!!! All The Small Things indeed.

The Roster

A lot of the talk this offseason will concern the players the Avalanche will lose, but when you flip that and look at who will be there next season there’s a lot to be confident about. Makar, the Norris Trophy and Conn Smythe winner, will be back alongside his defensive partner Devon Toews. Bowen Byram will also return as will Samuel Girard on the back end. Then you move to the forward core and the three-headed monster of Landeskog, MacKinnon, and Mikko Rantanen will all be back as will Alex Newhook, J.T. Compher, and Andrew Cogliano who recently re-signed for another year.

General manager Joe Sakic has been planning for this too. Ben Meyers will be a big part of the team after signing as a free agent, while Lukas Sedlak will come back across to North America after three seasons in the KHL where he put up 121 points in 164 regular-season games. He’s also well known by Coach Bednar who had him with the Cleveland Monsters when they won the AHL Calder Cup in 2016, his last year before taking over as the head coach of the Avalanche that summer. These moves illustrate the organization’s effort to find cost-effective pieces that the coach knows he can get the best out of.

Team Needs

If the rumored $8-10 million AAV starting point is true for Kadri, the first order of business for the Avalanche is finding a new second-line center. Kadri has been amazing for the Avs. When the trade between Toronto and Colorado happened in 2019, the Avalanche were sad to give up Tyson Barrie and Alexander Kerfoot but understood the necessity behind it.

Kadri was the perfect second-line center to lead you to the cup, and in possibly his last year in Denver he did just that. There’s no denying that Kadri and his family seem to like it in Denver. But as he said, he knows his worth and at 31 years old, it’s time to go get that paycheck. Nobody would think any less of him for doing so and he won’t be easily replaced either internally or externally.

There is also a need to figure out what exactly you’ve got in Martin Kaut. The 2018 first-round draft pick is entering the last year of his ELC and has seen numerous players such as Logan O’Connor, Sampo Ranta, and Alex Newhook leapfrog him into the NHL side. Kaut got six games at the NHL level this past season and played big minutes for the Colorado Eagles, including on the penalty kill.

This is important when you look at who is out of contract this season. Kadri played minutes on the PK during the regular season and Nichushkin was one of, if not, the best penalty killer on the Avalanche all season long. If Kaut can fill those minutes and find his way to a second or third-line role, then you feel better about the offseason. If he can’t, you need to hit the open market and reevaluate why he’s still in your system.

Cap Situation

With $25,685,000, there’s the chance Sakic gets everything that’s needed to be done completed. The problem arises with the term. You are paying MacKinnon at the very least double his current salary starting in the 2023-24 season. That will also be the start of Byram’s new deal after a pretty impressive playoff this year and Newhook’s first non-ELC contract. That will bring you north of $20 million quite easily.

Now, if you decide Compher isn’t coming back after the 2022-23 season and Erik Johnson rides off into the sunset having won a Stanley Cup, you free up $9.5 million. That’s enough to keep Nichushkin and Artturi Lehkonen happy for a few years but leaves you short on forwards, which would preferably be filled from within with players like Oskar Olausson and Jean-Luc Foudy stepping up. Then if Kadri takes a four-year, $6 million AAV the gang is back together for another run. Is it possible? Yes. Is it unlikely? Also, yes. But if anyone can make it happen, Sakic can. 

The Draft

The Avalanche don’t have a first or second-round pick, so you will not see Sakic until later on day two. A couple of names to keep an eye on are brothers Marek and David Hejduk, twin sons of the legendary Milan Hejduk. Marek is expected to go late in the third round or early fourth which sets up nicely for the Avalanche. David is not expected to be drafted but could be a feel-good pick in the seventh round like Taylor Makar last year.

The Colorado Avalanche haven’t always had the best of luck with later picks but seem to have turned that around in recent years picking up the likes of Justus Annunen, Sampo Ranta, and Danill Zhuravlyov (who recently signed his ELC), Colby Ambrosio, and Foudy. While none of these have made an impact at the NHL level yet, there are high hopes they can contribute. The same will be needed from this draft to help stay cap compliant once MacKinnon’s next contract kicks in.

Conclusion

There are a lot of decisions to be made, but it’s all happening with a smile and the knowledge you are the best team in Hockey. I said before the Stanley Cup Final, “To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man.” The Colorado Avalanche beat the man and earned the right to be the man.

David Bowie once said, “Then we could be Heroes, just for one day.” The Avalanche, this team, and these players are heroes and will always be seen as such even if it was just for one day. If players leave and this group goes their separate ways, they will do so with a salute and a thank you.

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