The dust has mostly settled after a sometimes-frenzied week of NHL free agency. Avalanche GM Francois Giguere was his usual frugal self, adding Darcy Tucker, Andrew Raycroft, Daniel Tjarnqvist and Per Ledin to cap-friendly deals. Leaving the team were Jose Theodore, Jeff Finger, Kurt Sauer and Andrew Brunette.
On the surface, trading the latter group for the former doesn't make the team better. But, this is the salary cap era and you have to look at the financial side of things. Our 4 new players will make $4.4 million next year - less than Theodore alone. Finger and Sauer both left to get more playing time. Theodore, to my great relief, turned down a lesser offer from the Avs. The one head-scratcher for me is Brunette. He signed a $2.33 million deal with the Wild after reportedly receiving the cold shoulder from Giguere this summer. Instead, Giguere went with Tucker for almost the same amount ($2.25). While I'm warming up to Tucker, I had assumed that Giguere was letting Bruno walk either to upgrade the team's speed or because he couldn't afford Brunette. Tucker's essentially the same cost as Brunette and probably isn't going to be amazing us with his blinding speed. Odd.
Right now, the Avalanche are at $43 million in cap room, $13 below the cap. That's a significant amount. However, the Avalanche still need to sign 2 restricted free agents - Cody McLeod and Cody McCormick. That's a shade over one million assuming they sign their qualifying offers. Marek Svatos is going to arbitration. Reportedly, he's looking for about $2.5 million. Since I'm looking for round numbers, let's say he ends up a $2 million. That means the Avs have about $10 million still to spend in free agency.
The BIG question mark is Joe Sakic. If he returns, the team looks okay for next year. If he doesn't, the team is looking at Wojtek Wolski as our #2 center and a whole bunch of useless cap space. I do think he's coming back. In fact, I think I think the Super Top Secret Plan is to bring back Sakic and Forsberg next year. And I don't think Forsberg is going to repeat last year's late-season start - I truly believe that double-digit cap room is earmarked for Sakic and Forsberg to be in the lineup together from opening night on. I think the almost-healthy team we had in the first round of the playoffs was a team capable of making a Cup run. Unfortunately, we ran into a juggernaut Detroit team and a rash of injuries at the same time, but it makes some sense to put that same team together again for another run.
I assume that's what's in the works this summer. If that's not the plan, it's going to be a long year.