The 82-game tryout and 5 players that could step it up.

Free agency started off with a bang this off season.Transactions included signing defenseman Jan Hejda and forward Chuck Kobasew, and apparently we've also traded the young Varlomov and signed the not-so-young but ever-so-wise J.S. Giguere. With T.J. Galiardi finally inking his new pay cut contract the Colorado Avalanche are beginning to wind down to their final 2011-2012 roster. Only a single RFA remains in the very lonely Kyle Cumiskey. The rookie and future self-help author, Gabriel Landeskog will also sign his entry-level deal after concluding rookie orientation. 

It has been interesting to see how the front office is handling their money. Almost every re-signing that has been made, Sherman has limited the contract to one or two years. Hejda was given four years at a cap hit of $3.25mil/year as the exception, probably because he has already established himself more than the younger members of the Avalanche. Otherwise, we are looking at one hell of a 2012 off season. 

All these players will be RFAs:

-Matt Duchene

-Peter Mueller

-Ryan O'Reilly

-Kevin Porter

-T.J. Galiardi

-Kyle Quincey

-Erik Johnson

-Ryan Wilson

-Mark Olver

-Ryan Stoa

-Jonas Holos

There are a few more RFAs when you look more into the Lake Erie Monsters that I didn't really feel I had to include. 


I feel it's safe to assume Duchene, Johnson and O'Reilly will be receiving offers quicker than most unless Ryan O'Reilly has a really bad season. Many prospects have deals spanning from 2-3 years. Also, Paul Stastny is signed for three more years. Both goalies are locked in for more than this season. Kobasew, O'Byrne and Gaunce have two years on their contracts instead of having to play their contract year with everybody else. I've mentioned Hejda's contract.

In total, the Avalanche will have 19 player in their contract year when you also include the UFAs (Hunwick, Hejduk, Jones, Winnik, McLoed, McClement, Yip and Lindstrom). 20 players when you include Cumiskey. The contracts could have been done this way just for the sake of financial planning or in preparation for the upcoming CBA, but anyway you look at it we have a hell of a year coming up. These players in their contract year will be competing to for a spot on the team for the next few seasons, assisting Johnson and Duchene in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And by the end of the season the team should begin to take shape. The fans will likely get to see these guys play with a little more fire in their game and maybe even be able to watch a couple players crumble under the pressure.   


With big years coming up for many of our players, I think we're due to see one or two breakout seasons from some of the players. Here are my five players ready to make their mark:


Erik Johnson

If he is ever going to live up to being the #1 overall draft pick, this is the season to perform. He's got the shot, mobility, size and fire to get it done. Now he's surrounded by people that believe he will be successful and he is in the final year of his contract.




Matt Duchene

Big shocker. I think this is the season that we see his point total go over 80, especially if Mueller is healthy and effective and Landeskog proves himself worthy of the top line. Duchene needs to become a leader and needs to show that this is his team in order to reach that superstar status.



Peter Mueller

He's going to be healthy and ready... I hope. I think we'll see Peter Mueller finally get the ice time he wants next to Matt Duchene and I don't think the concussion(s) will be an issue. He's gonna be ready to compete come opening night. 



Ryan O'Reilly

I think well start seeing Radar go to the net a little more, and maybe throwing his body around more frequently. I say he has his first twenty goal season and scores over 40 points.



Joey Hishon

My dark horse. He'll get called up and be awesome when Hejduk gets injured (Oh, it's gonna happen). The kid has character and grit to compliment his offensive skills. He will play 15 games, score 13 points and break his wrist or get a concussion or stick his hand in a snow blower.


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