As free agency kicks off tomorrow, Cole and I sat down for a bit on Sunday afternoon and batted the conversation tennis ball back and forth as we answered some of the big questions coming into free agency, both with the Avalanche and league-wide. We'll start with the obvious and proceed from there.
What happens with Paul Stastny?
Cole: As of tonight, Sunday June 29th I'm gonna say 80% chance that the Avalanche and Paul Stastny find a way to make this thing work. Let's forget about the #SalaryStructure for a second. Joe Sakic is not a stupid man. He's just not. I cannot imagine a world in which Sakic or any other Avalanche representative sits across the table from Stastny in the next 2 days and says "Yeah, I'd rather give you to a division rival for nothing than give a few extra $100k".
AJ: I've maintained all along the team and the player would find a way to make it work because each side has a vested interest in continuing the relationship. Players grow up wanting a chance to fall in love with a city and for a city to love them. With all the history and family legacies on the line, both the Avalanche and Paul have a chance to continue this unlikely but lovable relationship. Paul justifiably wants to get paid in what will likely be the final big contract of his career and the Avs certainly have a need for a player of his acumen because while despite being talented, they still need a skilled possession player who can matchup against opposing teams best players and still be productive offensively. With the cap being lower than expected and the market being flush with centers of varying ability, I think Stastny ultimately stays in Denver. It's where he belongs and I believe both he and the team will agree.
Cole: And besides, if you were Paul Stastny would you really want the first few months of your new marriage to be "Hey honey... umm we're moving"
AJ: ...to Dallas.
Christian Ehrhoff was bought out today by Buffalo because they're completely incompetent. Does he land in Colorado? Do you even want him to?
Cole: Is there a more perfect marriage in this year's free agency? I don't think so. There's been a lot of speculation around these parts about trading for Ehrhoff and yesterday David Pagnotta reported that the Avalanche have called and inquired about him this past year. He's a left side d-man, he's experienced and has good size, and he's a legitimate top pairing dude. Ehrhoff is everything we speculate the Avalanche trading for, only now we can get him for cash alone? Yes please. I hope Joe Sakic was the first name on his agent's caller ID after the buyout yesterday. This guy would immediately be one of, if not the best defenseman on the Avalanche roster and would give us a top four that wouldn't look out of place in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Busted Twigg linked this article in the thread yesterday, and it's worth a read, but if you don't have the time take this one stat: The godawful Buffalo Sabres had a CF% of 51.5% and a Fenwick Close of 51.4% when Ehrhoff was on the ice. When he wasnt? CF of 41.3% and Fenwick Close of 38.6% TELL ME THAT GUY WOULDNT HELP US!!!
He put in some astonishing work in Buffalo this year with no supporting cast and at 31 he's got plenty of years left to eat big minutes in Colorado. There will surely be a number of teams interested in Ehrhoff on Tuesday, but few will be as good of a mutual fit. We've got the money, the cap space, a spot in the lineup, and an improving roster where he could have a chance to win. Show me another team who can offer all that and I'll show you a liar. Christian Ehrhoff is my outbid at all costs UFA for this season, he's the guy the FO should make every attempt to romance into an Avalanche uniform.
AJ: One of the big downsides of the UFA D class this year is the dearth of quality left-handed players. The addition of Ehrhoff instantly changes that. The Avalanche should change whatever plans they had outside of re-signing Stastny and bring in Ehrhoff immediately. He should be non-Av target #1. Also, uhhh, yeah, I'll go with the rest of what you said because that summed it up nicely, sir.
Cole: You forgot your favorite part, AJ.
Cole: "A Christian Ehrhoff signing would likely push Nate Guenin out of the lineup. So that's a plus."
AJ: /AGREEMENT INTENSIFIES
So with the two big fish out of the way, what other UFA could you see the Avalanche targeting on Tuesday?
AJ: In the dream land of the Avs bringing in both Stastny and Ehrhoff, the Avs would really be left with shoring up depth as their primary focus. Their failure to move on from PA during the draft hamstrings the team in a way I don't think they were planning for and coupled with the O'Reilly business to attend to, doesn't leave an abundance of room for movement if you assume Stastny/Ehrhoff/O'Reilly will combine for $18M.
If the team doesn't land all of those guys, I think the guys we've been targeting via the Window Shopping articles are still likely the targets (Vanek/Moulson/Iginla/Fayne/Boyle/Stralman).
Cole: I think the team finds a way to deal P.A. Parenteau on July 1st or shortly after. Questions around Paul Stastny and Jason Spezza hating Nashville have kind of stalled out the whole trade market and I think there will still be a good bit of movement before training camp opens. One guy we didn't cover who I could really see the Avalanche signing is David Booth. He's had a few bad and injury riddled seasons now, but once upon a time this guy was a 30 goal scorer. If Parenteau is gone Booth might be a better option on the third line wing, and he could still rediscover that scoring touch in the event that he's moved up the lineup as an injury replacement. Otherwise, Ryan O'Reilly presents the club with too many questions to really move forward on something else.
AJ: All this Nashville hate in recent years (Suter leaving, Weber trying to leave, FAs and trade targets saying "lol nope") makes it comforting that they're in our division now. Never change, Nashville and Winnipeg!
Cole: It's nice to see those two teams riding the struggle bus all the way to Oilers town, especially since all the others are trending up. Everything we've said in here they are probably saying over in Dallas too. Can you imagine this division if they land Ehrhoff and Stastny on the Stars? Ugly, ugly, ugly.
AJ: The best division in hockey just gets tougher nbd. At least division titles don't mean anything, right Wild fans?
Back to Parenteau. What's the best landing spot for him and what kind of return would you be okay with?
Cole: I've been wrestling with this one a lot, and while I was sure he'd be traded at the draft, in retrospect I can see why he wasnt. Do you want a 3rd line forward/cap dump for him? Might depend on what happens with Stastny. Do you want an left handed 2nd/3rd pairing D for him? Depends on if the Avs can land Ehrhoff. If everything works out with Stastny and the Avs land Ehrhoff then maybe the best option is dumping his cap and getting futures?
Now if we're going to try and pin down some specifics.... Parenteau has been linked with Montreal before, and I could certainly see him winding up there for any of the aforementioned returns. Dave "Win Now" Tallon could also have some interest in Parenteau for the Panther's top 6, so I could see him landing there. One team I might keep an eye on here is the Ducks, they got Kesler but with Teemu's retirement he doesn't have much to work with on Anaheim's 2nd line.
AJ: We were thisclose to trading him to Pittsburgh in a package for James Neal over the weekend. At this point, would you allow FA to play out before trading him? Keep in mind, if we sign several key guys, teams will know we have to trade PA to slide in under the cap and likely obliterate what "meh" value he already currently has.
Cole: I still think we'll get pretty decent return for Parenteau. When you look at the winger market this summer it's pretty slim. Add to that, the fact that Vanek and Iginla are most likely only interested in playing for a contender and you have a bunch of bottom feeders/ middle of the road teams squabbling over Matt Moulson. Id be calling those teams in the first 15 minutes after Moulson signs somewhere.
AJ: I think you're on the right track with how we proceed with PA. There's been so many quality top 6 forwards either on the move or made available by teams. In regards to Montreal, I think PA might be a solid backup plan for them if they lose both Gionta and Vanek but expanded roles for Gallagher and Galchenyuk is probably the best route for them. If we do revisit Montreal, I love the idea of bringing in Josh Gorges, assuming he's waive his NTC to come to Colorado (it's a limited NTC but I don't know the specifics of it). I think the team should also call Garth Snow (I know, I do this every year) and see which of the plethora of young defensemen he would be willing to part with to bring PA back to the Island. They need help all over and their lack of first round pick next year has switched them into "WIN NOW" mode. They're going to be very aggressive and if the Avs could pry a guy like Calvin de Haan away from them for Parenteau and other assets, I think both teams would benefit greatly.
AJ: I do but it was just an example. They have a host of defenders both in the system and on the NHL team. It just looks like a good fit to me.
Cole: So about those "other assets" AJ...
We know O'Reilly Stastny and Parenteau have questions about their future in Colorado. What other players could you see Avalanche shopping around? Who else is on their way out?
AJ: Ohhh man. That's tough. I think the Avs are willing to part with draft picks. I'd hope, in lieu of their recent commitment to Varly and Reto Berra, the team would be willing to discuss moving Picks or Sami, too. I dunno, man. Not a lot of our lower assets are going to be worth a whole lot. I think Talbot would hold some value depending on who the team is trading with. That kind of veteran playoff moxie/penalty killer with some offensive punch on a cheap contract is always valuable in trade talks. Man, I really don't know lolol
Cole: I think you're right about Talbot, except he fit's all the Roy requirements (aka not Steve Downie, speaks french). That's why I think this is McLeod's last season in an Avalanche uniform. He's exactly the type of "grinding" "heart" player that cup contenders get their panties in a bunch over come trade deadline time.
Otherwise, the club's recent commitments to McGinn and Mitchell seem to suggest they'll be around a while longer (not that either is untouchable)
AJ: I think we're pretty much in agreement here. The team doesn't have a lot of great trade assets that likely won't set us back in a significant way and the team's recent commitments suggest they aren't looking at major upheaval overall.
Now, in a totally non-Avs related question...
Some reports today that the Maple Leafs are interested in Marty Brodeur. Your thoughts?
AJ: hahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Is there anything more Maple Leafs than having two legitimately talented goalies in Reimer and Bernier and kicking the tires on the baddie Brodeur? Honestly. That's a talented goalie tandem and they're going to screw it up because it's what Toronto does.