Yesterday, I warmed everyone's hearts by taking a preliminary look at the Avs' roster situation (defensemen, goalies) next year and wondering how that might effect the Avalanche at this year's trading deadline a month from today. Today, I tackle the boys up front - our forwards.
Last year, this was the most tumultuous group with several pending free agents. That piece was also where we began to speculate that the Avalanche might consider moving Wojtek Wolski, which turned out to be one of the few predictions we've ever gotten right. This year, there doesn't seem to be a lot of question marks with the group. First of all, here's the current contract status of the Avalanche forwards on the roster, plus the four forwards in the minors currently under contract for next year:
There are only 3 UFAs in the bunch. One is Milan Hejduk, and I don't think he's going anywhere. He either retires this summer (he'll be 35 and he doesn't strike me as a guy who has a burning desire to do this forever) or he re-ups with the Avalanche for another year. Another UFA is David Koci, and his status is not exactly vital to the Avs' future. That leaves Tomas Fleischmann, currently out for the year. I would be very surprised if Flash changed teams this summer; he and the Avalanche appear to be a great fit for each other.
The Avalanche have 5 RFAs on the roster, and, as of now, I would think that all them would be back in the fold next year. The Avalanche really have just one forward prospect who would be expected to provide a major push for a roster spot, and that would be Joey Hishon, currently tied for 5th in the OHL in scoring.
With a healthy Fleischmann and Mueller, this is a deep group of forwards next year - especially if Milan Hejduk decides to play another year. This year, however, the group has been stretched a little thin with injuries and inconsistency. Of course, the addition of a certain despicable Swede could fill a rather large void. If Forsberg decides not to sign and if the Avalanche are still in the hunt a month from now, the Avs may be in the market for a rental type player at the deadline. But I'm inclined to think that the Avs will mostly stand pat here, maybe even moving one of the lower-line forwards (Yip, Porter) to clear some roster space.
Next Year's Projected Lineup:
Next Year's Projected Cap Hit: $28.8 Million