March 20 2012; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche right wing Milan Hejduk (23) controls the puck during the first period of the game against the Calgary Flames at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE
With the playoffs all but officially off the table for the Avalanche, the final two games this year take on a slightly different feel. Both home games, they are potentially the last time to see a few players in an Avalanche unipron (oh, those hideous unirprons).
Six players on the Avalanche roster now are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents this summer, three of whom have been an Av their entire career. Most notable, of course, is Milan Hejduk. The longtime veteran has said he might consider retiring this summer (warning - DP link, with annoying autoplay video). It would certainly not be a huge surprise for one of the Avs' all-time greats to hang them up, but I have a long-standing policy against lending any opinion of whether or not it is time for a player to retire. Hejduk is currently 11 games short of 1,000 in his career.
David Jones has scored 66 goals in a Colorado Avalanche uniform, 15th on the Avs' list, 2 goals behind John-Michael Liles. Jones is a goal shy of his second straight 20-goal season and four points shy of consecutive 40-point seasons. Perhaps more importantly, he's avoided serious injury for two years in a row, helping him shed that injury prone label he wore earlier in his career. We'll be discussing the Avs' offseason plan once we're officially in the offseason, but suffice to say there are potential question marks over Jones' return. He's always been one of my favorites, so hopefully these last two games are not the last time to see #54 on the ice for the Avs.
Only Adam Foote has spent more time in a penalty box wearing an Avalanche uniform than Cody McLeod (768). And yes, no one has a worse career +/- for the Avs than Cody Mac's -37. The Highlander has been a staple of the Avs' 4th line since 2007. As a UFA, could he and his endearing "toofless" grin be moving on this summer?
Jay McClement recently played in his 100th game with the Avalanche since coming over in the Erik Johnson trade. As a first-time UFA on a team with a lot of centers, there's a definite possibility that Silent Jay's short tenure with the Avs will be ending after this week's games.
The polarizing Matt Hunwick is a UFA this summer. Three months ago, he was a certain departure but a recent strong surge has perhaps put a dent in that certainty. I'm pretty sure he'll be moving on regardless, so Hunwick fans wanting a last chance to see him with the Avs' should take note. Fun fact: Hunwick's 3 goals matches the 3 scored by Colby Cohen in the AHL this year.
Finally, Shane O'Brien's 1-year deal expires this summer. I am pretty sure that SOB will be back, unless his solid play and veteran leadership have priced him out of the Avs' budget. You never know, though.
If you are the nostalgic type, you might want to make sure you're tuning in on Thursday and especially on Saturday to see what may be the final Avalanche game for at least some of the players on this list. Better yet, grab a ticket and see them in person (as always, MHH has a link on the front page bringing you some great ticket deals via TiqIQ). If these Avs are departing after this year, hopefully they can be sent off with a couple of wins...meaningless or not.