Impending Free Agents for the Colorado Avalancheby Zach Gotlieb July 25, 2021 0 comments
The Colorado Avalanche are entering the first of two huge years. Their championship window is wide open and have a core that looks to be championship caliber. With a foundation this good also comes important contract decisions. Next year, contract talks can begin with Nathan MacKinnon. Honestly, that should simply be giving him a blank check and telling him to write down whatever number he wants. However, it’s a little more complex than that with the flat cap the NHL is using for the next few years. That leads to this year. The Avalanche have just about $30 million to play with and a lot of guys to sign. The big names include goaltender Philipp Grubauer, wingers Brandon Saad and Gabriel Landeskog, unrestricted free agency, and restricted free agent defenseman Cale Makar.
Many decisions to make and just a few days left until these players hit the open market and are free to talk with any team. With that, let’s dive into what these players’ future could be with the Avalanche and beyond.
Makar should be the easiest player to keep around. He has played two full seasons with the Avs and has earned Norris Trophy votes in each. An argument could be made that he deserved to win it this past season. In short, he’s arguably the best defenseman in the league and should be paid as such. The Avalanche will need to pay this man, and he’s going to deserve every penny. How they decide to approach his contract is an interesting conversation. Whether they just get the deal done or wait for him to get an offer sheet and match is something to watch. Regardless, he should be getting seven or the max eight years to keep him for the rest of his 20s. $10 or $11 million AAV is the expectation for him, especially with the new deal for Seth Jones just getting signed. Regardless, Makar will be an Av for the foreseeable future.
Grubauer, along with Saad, we know the least about. The whole season has been a varying number for how much he should be paid. The conversation primarily focused on if he should get a 6×6 deal like Jordan Binnington. The answer: Maybe? It’s hard to tell. He had an outstanding season as a deserving Vezina finalist. He played more games than they’d probably have liked, given the tight schedule and the injury to backup Pavel Francouz. How much of it was a byproduct of one of the best defenses in the league? That’s the big question.
There is mutual interest between the team and Grubauer to keep him around. His presence in net brought a calming element to the team that was not evident when any of the three backups they played were in net. His simple game of cover or send the puck to the corner fits very well with all of the Avalanche’s puck-moving defensemen. Grub is 29 years old. A six-year deal certainly seems plausible, and it seems it will flirt with $6 million AAV; possibly dropping closer to $5.5 million.
If a deal doesn’t get done, the Avalanche have also been tied to acquiring Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper. If Grubauer hits the open market, it’s expected that several teams will be interested in signing him, including the Toronto Maple Leafs.
This is where the path splits for how the Avalanche approach free agency. Makar and Grubauer are things that will happen regardless of what occurs with the Avalanche captain. Everything else is entirely based on him. It’s a fair question to ask why this wasn’t done ten months ago, but here we are, and things are only getting murkier. Landy’s team has taken to the media to express frustration with how negotiations have gone thus far. The reports confirmed that the Avalanche offered a 7×7 (which would appear near the max of what they would offer), while Landy is looking for $9-$10 million AAV.
Recent contracts signed by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (8 x $5.125 million) and Taylor Hall (4 x $6m) suggest that number is unlikely, particularly with the cap being flat. The Avalanche top scorer this year, Mikko Rantanen, is also their highest-paid player at the moment. He’s making $9 million AAV to produce at a 1.27 points per game clip. Landy is just under one ppg. That, paired with the contracts of Makar and eventually MacKinnon would likely say that he’s not going to get $9-$10 million from Colorado. There’s a shot he could get that elsewhere, however.
Despite frustrations, there is still mutual interest in getting a deal done before free agency. Losing Landeskog would be a huge blow for the Avalanche. A very good top-line player and an outstanding locker room presence as the captain. This could set up an option to try and trade for a player like Jack Eichel. Landy will have a lot of suitors. Among many teams would be the Blues, Golden Knights, and Islanders.
The Saad situation has become very interesting. Both with trading Ryan Graves to essentially guarantee the Seattle Kraken take a forward in the expansion draft and the complications with Landeskog make this difficult. If Colorado signs Landy, it’s a near guarantee that Saad will end up elsewhere. He was acquired before last season, and that deal looked like highway robbery at the time and ended up being that way. He was excellent in a variety of roles on the power play and as a middle-six forward. His rugged forecheck and finishing ability were an outstanding addition to that roster.
Despite not getting a ton of first-line time, he proved to be a very valuable middle six and power play player. He did himself well going into free agency. It’s unknown the interest from either side to re-sign him, but Saad should have several suitors on the open market.
The Avalanche may bring back a few of their AHL unrestricteds but are not expected to re-sign their NHL UFAs, including goalie Devan Dubnyk, forwards Carl Soderberg, and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, and defenseman Patrik Nemeth. Among their RFA’s, they’ve re-signed Kiefer Sherwood to a two-way deal. They’ll likely bring back several of their players. The big names they still need to keep are center Tyson Jost and defenseman Conor Timmins.
Follow Zach Gotlieb on Twitter @zachgotlieb
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