The Colorado Avalanche might still make the playoffs this year, but no matter the result, they have a big free agent year this year, only having a whopping 6 players under contract next year, 2 of which are the goalies. Colorado will have many decisions to make.
Decision 1: To Trade or Not to Trade?
The draft will take place on June 22nd. The Avalanche will have two decisions to make on slumping players. Paul Stastny is the first. He reminds me of Tanguay, as he's always on the trading block. He does not nearly have enough goals to qualify a 6.6 million dollar cap hit. He's played better with McGinn and Jones, but the ultimate idea is that 2 Paul Stastny-led Avalanche teams have missed the playoffs, and maybe a 3rd this year.
Matt Duchene is surprisingly another. Duchene scored 51 goals in his first two years, but injuries and production issues have moved Duchene out of the hearts of many fans for Landeskog and Ryan O'Reilly. If Matt Duchene can't score, his defense certainly isn't worth enough to pay 3-4 million dollars a year for. But, since he was a #3 overall pick, some team will offer Duchene 5 million dollars, and the Avs will have to decide whether to match.
If I were GM, Stastny would be traded to a 2012 playoff team for their late 1st rounder. To me, the cap hit being lifted would be enough, despite losing value for Stastny. Tons of cap room will be big later in the process. With this late first rounder, the Avs should look at sniper Pontus Aberg from Djurgardens of the SEL. I'd hold onto Duchene for a little.
Decision 2: Who to Resign?
If Matt Duchene is not traded, he will be signed at least for two years, whether via matching an offer or straight up. Ryan O'Reilly shouldn't even hit the Free Agent Market, and that goes for Erik Johnson too. Peter Mueller, for a bargain, should be back, as will Steve Downie. Jamie McGinn, Cody McLeod, and Jay McClement should all return, as well as Mark Olver.
Now the tough part. Without Stastny, I think David Jones will be let go. I'd buy out Chuck Kobasew. Matt Hunwick's bobble in Vancouver really daggered Colorado's playoff hopes, so for his sake I'd hope he doesn't come back. Ryan Wilson should return as a RFA. Now here comes the bold part: I think Shane O'Brien is let walk. Cameron Gaunce, Stef Elliott, and Tyson Barrie all had fantastic AHL seasons and should all be on the roster. With O'Byrne, Hejda, Wilson and Johnson returning, that makes 7. I think O'Brien will be let go for a very cheap defensemen who will play in Lake Erie and be called up in emergency.
Summary of Returning Players: Duchene, Mueller, Downie, Landeskog, Olver, O'Reilly, McGinn, McLeod, McClement, Hishon, Johnson, Wilson, O'Byrne, Hejda, Barrie, Elliott, Gaunce, Varlamov, Giguere (10 forwards, 7 defensemen, 2 goalies)
Summary of Leaving: Hejduk (retire), Stastny (Trade), Jones, Kobasew, Hunwick, O'Brien, Porter, Stoa
Decision 3: Who To Pursue in Free Agency
So, thanks to my lovely friends at CapGeek.com, I have a visual now of what this looks like. The Avalanche need two more wingers, a backup center, and a defensemen. Rumors have Top Free Agents Ryan Suter and Zach Parise teaming up in the offseason, which will require $10 million plus in cap space, something the bigger markets severely lack. Colorado, even after resigning all their players with pay raises, will have about 25 million in cap space.
I honestly think Colorado could be the choice for these two. No team will have more talent on their roster than the Avs in 2012-2013. Siemens and Pickard will still be in the pipeline. Parise and Suter would love to team with Americans, and look no further than Peter Mueller and Erik Johnson. Colorado certainly is a better option than Florida, or New York Islanders, or any California team as far as fans goes. Diehard fanbases live in Colorado, Quebec, and Sweden for this team. So I will go ahead and throw my balls out there and say Parise and Suter will be Avs.
Also, the team needs another winger and backup center. To prevent rambling, I've just put Mikeal Samuelsson and David Van Der Gulik in as the two slots (I am aware VDG was an Av, but I forgot to mention him. He or resigning Kevin Porter makes sense).
When it's all said and done, my Colorado Avalanche look like this in 2012-2013:
So what do you think fellow Avangelicals? What's your plan for this offseason if you were Greg Sherman?