The first day of Colorado Avalanche free agency caused quite a stir in NHL circles. The team essentially rebuilt several of their lines in a short span of time. Not including guys who will start in the AHL, Colorado brought in three new forwards, extended a fourth, and made a huge trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Detailed analysis of these moves reveal a team ready to compete for a Stanley Cup right now. Almost every player acquired so far played in the most recent postseason.
The Trade That Started Things
Colorado made a savvy move a few days before the start of free agency. They flipped two picks in the 2020 NHL draft and depth forward Scott Kosmachuk for Washington Capitals forward Andre Burakovsky. The 24-year-old winger has a prime opportunity to improve upon his 25 points in 76 games in 2018-19 as he slots into a top-six role. Burakovsky has been an efficient, if underwhelming player in five years with Washington. He has scored a total of 145 points in 328 games while averaging just 12:45 of ice time. That should increase on Colorado’s second line.
The Trade That Got Everyone Talking
The biggest move from July 1st wasn’t a signing or extension. It was a blockbuster trade that sent promising Avalanche forward Alexander Kerfoot, defenceman Tyson Barrie, and a 2020 sixth-round pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Nazem Kadri, Calle Rosen, and a 2020 third-round pick.
Kadri immediately becomes the Avs’ second-line center next to Burakovsky and improving forward Tyson Jost. The team wanted more secondary scoring and traded for it in a big way. Kadri is just one year removed from scoring more than 30 goals two straight seasons. His antics in the postseason might frustrate fans, but there’s no denying the production he brings to a new team. Fans should expect far more out of both Kadri’s potential linemates with the skill and experience he brings.
Rosen will play for Colorado in the AHL, but possesses a reasonable ceiling as a third pairing defender. He’s knocking on the door of the NHL right now behind Colorado’s loaded blue line group. Rosen put up 46 points in 54 games for the Toronto Marlies this season.
The Trade That is Easy To Forget
It’s hard to believe it has been over a week since the Avalanche sent 49-point scorer Carl Soderberg to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for blue liner Kevin Connauton and a 2020 third-round pick. The move sent Colorado’s capable second-line center away for an offensively-challenged defender who will mostly play on the penalty kill.
This was ultimately a smart move because it cleared almost $3.5 million from the Av’s cap sheet and brought in injury insurance; at least one Colorado defender will miss the start of the regular season while recovering from hip surgery. Additionally, the money saved on Soderberg is key to keeping the team’s pool of developing prospects and restricted free agents on the roster.
Avalanche Free Agency Brings Back a Veteran
Forward Colin Wilson was the lone unrestricted free agent to stay with the team after the signing period officially began. The 29-year-old scored 27 points in 65 games for Colorado. He could center the third line, but it is more likely he flanks the line with one or two of the team’s new acquisitions. He’s not the same player he was in Nashville, but Wilson is still an effective bottom-six player with plenty of experience to provide.
Colorado Avalanche Rebuilds Their Bottom Lines
The best player signed as part of this effort was former San Jose Shark Joonas Donskoi. The Finnish winger scored 37 points in 80 regular season contests, but failed to score a goal after January. He won’t have much pressure to excel, but is still capable of contributing 35-40 points a season. Putting Donskoi and Wilson on the third line is a solid move to produce more scoring from the bottom-six.
The fourth line will feature the third forward acquired, 34-year-old Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. The 6’0″, 198 pound former Vegas Golden Knight posted 15 points in 76 games this past season. In five years in the NHL, Bellemare has scored just 65 points in 385 games, but is reliable and a popular locker room presence. His stability will work well on a fourth line that saw a good amount of shuffling in 2018-19. Bellemare’s two-year deal also gives the team time to work out the health and development of other bottom-six options.
What Colorado Could Still Do
Despite making multiple smart moves, the Avalanche still have roughly $27 million in cap space to bring back key players including Mikko Rantanen. The team could continue to acquire more talent for the AHL squad to act as insurance in case of injury. The team’s most notable signing of that sort so far has been T.J. Tynan, who posted 71 points in 71 games for the Chicago Wolves. That was good for fourth in the AHL. There are also several quality free agents left on the market that include Ryan Dzingel and Micheal Ferland. Those two in particular scored at least 40 points this past year and are still in their 20’s.