After a great start, a lot of key injuries and a disappointing finish, the Colorado Avalanche are in position to have a nice offseason. The team will have a number of areas to address, namely goaltending where there is no legitimate starter on the roster and perennial backup goaltenders Brian Elliott (RFA) and Peter Budaj (UFA) are set to become free agents. The Avalanche did just sign goaltender Calvin Pickard to an entry-level deal, and have Trevor Cann in the system, but neither of those two goaltenders should be considered for next season's starter in Colorado.
So the Avs basically have two choices for their need at starting goal; free agency or trade. The free agent market will have two big names that will certainly entice a lot of teams in Ilya Bryzgalov and Tomas Vokoun. According to capgeek.com Bryzgalov is in the final year of his 3 year, $12.75 million deal he signed with the Phoenix Coyotes after the Yotes claimed him off waivers from the Anaheim Ducks. Bryzgalov is only 30-years old and is having another solid season in Phoenix posting a 34-18-8 record with a 2.47 gaa, .921 sv% and 7 shutouts on the season. He’ll surely get a lot of interest from rival clubs and is likely to get a lengthy, expensive deal in the ballpark of 5 years $20-$25 million; something the Avs are unlikely to take on.
Vokoun is the other big-name, free agent goaltender to keep an eye on this offseason. Vokoun signed a very lucrative deal in 2007 that paid him $22.8 million over the course of 4 seasons. Vokoun will have made $6.3 million after this season with a cap hit of $5.7 million according to capgeek.com. Vokoun will turn 35 this summer so it’s unlikely he’ll get a long-term extension or the dollars he’s been used to making in the NHL the past couple of seasons, although he still is putting up big numbers. In 54 games played this season, Vokoun is 21-27-5 with a 2.60 gaa, .921 sv% and has 5 shutouts for the rebuilding Panthers squad. Vokoun is producing solid numbers for any goaltender, let alone one playing on a team like the Cats. Vokoun may be a more affordable option for the Avs in the long run than Bryzgalov. Vokoun has been openly frustrated with the Panthers’ approach this season and it’s very unlikely he’ll want to return to the Florida squad. Lyle Richardson of The Hockey News recently suggested that Vokoun is likely going to receive offers $4 million/season or south of that number. Perhaps the Avalanche could convince Vokoun to sign a 2 or 3 year deal for around $4 million per season and he can be the difference maker the team needs.
There are a lot of other names that will be available this offseason including Nabokov, Giguere, Roloson, Leclaire and Josh Harding but certainly you have to hope the Avs look at Vokoun or make a trade for "their guy". There could be a few quality, young goaltenders who hit the trade market this offseason namely Cory Schneider, Jonathan Quick and Semyon Varlamov.
Schneider has developed quite nicely for the Canucks this season playing behind Roberto Luongo and you'd have to believe the Canucks will be actively shopping their young goaltender this offseason. Schneider, 25, has one more deal left on his contract in which he will earn $900k next season. In 21 games this season with the Nucks, Schneider is 14-3-2 with a 2.22 gaa, .927 sv% and has one shutout. Not bad for a young goaltender and you'd have to believe the Avalanche could resign him to an affordable deal after next season.
Ideal Trade: The Canucks have a lot of difficult decisions to make this offseason, especially on the blueline as THN's Lyle Richardson recently suggested. It's been suggested the Nucks want to at least recuperate the 1st round draft pick they used on Schneider and perhaps the Avs could look at giving Vancouver a cheaper option on the blueline. The ideal situation for the Avalanche would be to move a 1st round pick (not their top pick in the coming draft of course) plus a defenseman like Matt Hunwick. This would hopefully help us all forget the Cohen-Hunwick trade and give the Avs a quality goaltender for years. The Canucks benefit by adding depth to their system and a top-six defenseman at a low cost, which should allow them to retain one or two of their current dmen or go after someone like Tomas Kaberle.
Quick is another more affordable goaltender, although he has proven more at the NHL level. In 54 games this season, Quick is 32-18-3 and has a 2.21 gaa and a .919 sv% while recording 6 shutouts. He's already a quality starting goaltender who will earn $1.8 million next season and $1.7 million in 2012-2013. He may become expendable for the Kings though if Jonathan Bernier proves he can handle the workload of a starting goaltender in the NHL. If that's the case, the Kings do have some needs that could be filled by Colorado.
Ideal Trade: One has to believe the Kings will give Brayden Schenn a long look for a roster spot next season which gives the Kings a 1-2 punch down the middle. They're projected to have almost $12 million in available cap space for next year and that would and they'd have to sign Drew Doughty, Wayne Simmonds, and a few other key players under that number. Regardless of what they do this offseason, the Kings could use depth on defense and on the wing. The Avs' depth is mainly at center but perhaps the Kings would entertain a deal that would bring Peter Mueller to LA. Mueller was on a tear with Colorado before going down to concussion, and while he's still young and has upside, he certainly comes with some question marks. Mueller plus a conditional draft pick for Quick would be ideal and the Avs could go after a wing in free agency to replace Mueller. The other option may be to move either Cumiskey and Hunwick plus an early draft pick to get the job done.
Finally, there's the big Russian goaltender, Semyon Varlamov. Varlamov is set to become a RFA leading to hype he may be dealt in the offseason. The strong play of teammates Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby will only increase the speculation he'll be dealt, especially considering Varlamov will be looking for more than his current contract which pays him $765,000 this season. He's certainly showing promise this season and has played well in the playoffs the past two seasons. Plus he'll be only 23 years old when the upcoming season starts, something that will certainly only help his value.
Ideal Trade: The Caps don't have a lot of needs as they're one of the best teams in the NHL. Colorado could possibly look to package a deal with Calvin Pickard and Ryan O'Reilly to move for Varlamov and someone like Mathieu Perreault. The Avs have the depth at center which would allow them to move O'Reilly, plus they'd be getting a nice prospect back in Perreault, who's already shown he can play in the NHL. And while Varlamov will certainly be tempted by more money from the KHL, he'll likely stay in the NHL but will probably command more than someone like Schneider, making him less appealing than the other two trade options.
There certainly are a lot of options Colorado can entertain and will be debating as they identify their needs this offseason. The Avs' best bets come in the form of Vokoun, Schneider and Quick and it will be interesting to see if any of those players end up in an Avs sweater to open the season.