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2011 UFA Forwards

As July 1 draws nearer, I'll be taking a look at who the Avs might sign in order to reach the cap floor. Yesterday, I took a look at potential UFA Defensemen (and posted it later in the afternoon - so here's a link for all of you who didn't see it). Today, I'll be looking at forwards.

Just like with the Defensemen, the mantra is "Draft for Skill, Trade/Sign for Need", so let's take a quick look at what the Avs already have.

(No stars = bottom 6, one star = top 9, two stars = top 6, Parentheses = prospect/newly signed)

Center: Duchene**, Stastny**, O'Reilly*, McClement (Hishon)

Left Wing: Fleischmann?, Galiardi*, Porter, McLeod, (Hishon, Lindstrom, Landeskog, Olver, Mauldin, Malone, Bordeleau)

Right Wing: Hejduk**, Mueller**, Jones*, Yip, Winnik

Basically, we're ok with centers. We seem to be alright on right wingers too, but this could be the Duke's last year, and we still don't know if Mueller will ever be unconcussed enough to play a full season of hockey again. And left wing has so many questionmarks attached to it that we won't know what we have until training camp. Is Landeskog ready for top 6 duty, or will he be on the third line? Where does Lindstrom fit? Will Flash be resigned? Is Hishon going to make the jump to left wing, and will he make the roster? Will Olver be a dark horse and claim his spot on Duchene's wing?

So, what do we need? A bit more depth and certainty at both wings. But more importantly, we need Top 6 wingers - guys that can flat out put the puck in the net. Both Dutch and Stazz are great set-up guys, but they need good linemates to help them. Plus, since the move to the Pacific Division (or something like it) seems fairly inevitable at this point, a bit of physicality would be nice.

So, to summarize, the Avs need:

A) A hefty (above $1 mil) contract to help them reach the cap floor

B) A left or right winger that can play top 6 minutes and likes to score

C) Someone that can provide some veteran leadership to our young team

D) Optional: A bit of a physical presence


Simon Gagne

Former Team: TBL

Age: 31

Height: 6'-1"

Weight: 193

'10-‘11 Cap Hit: $5.25 mil

'10-'11 Stats: 63GP / 17G / 23A / 40pts / -12 / 20PIM / .635PPG / 16:53ATOI

What others are saying:

Paul's Coffey made a case for Gagne yesterday. It's worth a read.

LW, Simon Gagne -- It feels like he's been in the League forever, but Gagne is just 31. He's had his share of injury problems the past two years, but he closed strong with Tampa last season. He had 7 goals and 11 assists in his final 13 regular-season games and had 5 goals and 7 assists in 15 playoff games. Tampa always felt like a one-and-done situation for Gagne, so expect him to sign elsewhere and provide and offensive boost. Best guess: He signs in Los Angeles. (

Gagne has averaged just 56 games a year in the past four seasons, being labeled concussion prone while entering the latter part of his 11-year career. Gagne was shipped to Tampa Bay last season. However, after the injuries continued throughout the 2011 campaign, it has been suggested that the Lighting will not retain Gagne’s services.

The first half of the season was rough on Gagne, who had 13 points in 33 games with a -19 rating and battled a neck injury. However, after the holidays he had 27 points in 30 games and a +7 rating. (

Fun Facts: He was Foppa's left winger in Philly on the productive "Deuces Wild" line. He also has a daughter born on a day that does not exist (Feb. 14, 2011).

Does he fit criteria:

A) Yes - $5.25 mil will definitely help get us to the floor.

B) Yes - His numbers may not be incredibly impressive this year, but he still managed .63PPG and has had much better seasons in the past. If he is healthy, he could be a very productive member of our top 6.

C) Yes - He's been in the league for 11 seasons and made it to the Stanley Cup finals. He might be looking to spend some time with a Cup competitor, but since he's only 31, he should still be around when the Avs get good again in a few years.

D) Not so much - He's 6'-1, but only 193lbs. But that's ok. He's basically the same size as Fleischmann, and that seemed to work out alright on our top line.

Andrew Brunette

Former Team: MIN

Age: 37

Height: 6'-1"

Weight: 210

'10-‘11 Cap Hit: $2.333 mil

'10-'11 Stats: 82GP / 18G / 28A / 46pts / -7 / 16PIM / .561PPG / 16:47ATOI

What others are saying:

The Wild mantra throughout the draft was youth, a fact that makes re-signing Brunette, Madden or Miettinen seem unlikely and that signals that adding a veteran defenseman likely would be for only a year or two. (

LW, Andrew Brunette -- At 37, he likely doesn't fit into the Wild's plans of getting younger. Then again, he's not exactly breaking down physically, as evidenced by the fact he's missed just three games since 2001-02. Last season was his worst offensively since 2002-03, but his 18 goals on a team that struggled to score aren't too shabby. He likely realizes he's running out of time, so how about a reunion with coach Joel Quenneville, who teamed with Brunette for three seasons in Colorado? If money isn't important to Brunette, maybe he and the Blackhawks will work out a deal for him to serve as a role player on a Stanley Cup contender. Best guess: He signs in Chicago. (

Does he fit criteria:

A) Yes - $2.33 mil may not get us to the floor alone, but with the addition of two goalies and all our RFA/UFAs, it will certainly help.

B) Yes - his numbers slipped a little this year, but we're talking about Andrew Brunette. I don't need to tell you what sort of player he is when he's on his game.

C) Yes - next year will be his 16th season.

D) Somewhat - he doesn't hit all that much, but he's a bit bigger than Stastny. He should be fine.

All that leaves is the big question: Will he sign with his former team, or were too many bridges burned?

Jussi Jokinen

Former Team: CAR

Age: 28

Height: 5'-11"

Weight: 198

'10-‘11 Cap Hit: $1.7 mil

'10-'11 Stats: 70GP / 19G / 33A / 52pts / +3 / 24PIM / .743PPG / 17:13ATOI

What others are saying:

LW, Jussi Jokinen -- After 30 goals two seasons ago, the 28-year-old fell to 18 last season. He works well with captain Eric Staal and is one of the game's best in the shootout. The Hurricanes have a lot of free agents, but it sounds if Jokinen will be one who they retain. Best guess: He stays in Carolina. (

As the draft came to an end Saturday in St. Paul, Minn., Rutherford said he was hopeful of re-signing defenseman Joni Pitkanen and forwards Jussi Jokinen, Erik Cole and Chad LaRose. (

But Jussi Jokinen is quite a bit different Olli… as a 30-goal scorer a season ago, and at 27, he is in the prime of his career. He will be one of a handful of productive free agents available at a reasonable price. Another element of Jokinen, he’s a gamer. After missing six games in January he returned to the lineup with six goals and six assists in his next nine games, then Jussi missed another six games in February, only to score four more goals in the next six.

He is also a bit of a shootout specialist (

Does he fit criteria:

A) Yes - $1.7 won't push us over the cap by itself, but in combination with the other salaries, it should help.

B) Yes - He had .74ppg and 19 goals last season, so he brings the scoring.

C) Somewhat - He's only 28, so he's not exactly a hardened veteran even though he's been with the league for 8 years. However, this also means he could be brought in as a part of the rebuild.

D) Somewhat - He's 5'-11, 198lbs which is just a bit smaller than Duchene. He's not a perfect choice for physicality, but .74ppg is hard to say no to.


Michael Ryder

Former Team: BOS

Age: 31

Height: 6'-0"

Weight: 186

'10-‘11 Cap Hit: $4 mil

'10-'11 Stats: 79GP / 18G / 23A / 41pts / -1 / 26PIM / .519PPG / 14:29ATOI

What others are saying:

Spin: Ryder and Tomas Kaberle are a pair of players the Bruins would like to bring back, but likely for less than they made in 2010-11. "I said to Mike that we continue to plan right now," said Chiarelli. "I told him, 'You're a player that came to play every game in the playoffs.' I told him I'd speak with his agent this week or next." The unstated subtext of that comment is that Ryder often disappeared for stretches during the regular season, but when he's on he can be a very effective player, as he displayed during the just-completed playoffs.

ESPN Fantasy Projection: Ryder had just 33 points in 2009-10, and there's a chance that he'll start this season in the AHL. Even if he sticks with the Bruins, his inconsistency makes him nearly unbearable to own in fantasy. However, Ryder fit in so perfectly on the Bruins' best line with David Krejci and Blake Wheeler in 2008-09 that he still has to be in the conversation when looking at bench players. If there is any talk of reuniting this trio for the coming season, Ryder is worth a gamble. If that doesn't happen, he isn't worthy of any consideration. (

Does he meet criteria:

A) Yes - $4 mil will put a dent in our cap situation - and it might even go up if he hits the market. He did just win the Cup after all.

B) Somewhat - Last season he had a good year, but he was also playing with some pretty talented players. Like it or not - Colorado isn't Cup caliber yet. I don't think we can expect the same numbers from him if he comes here.

C) Yes - He's only been in the NHL 7 years, but he just hoisted the Stanley Cup. That has to count for something.

D) Yes - He's smaller than Porter, but he played for a team known for it's physical play. He'll probably be okay.

Radim Vrabata

Former Team: PHO

Age: 30

Height: 6'-1"

Weight: 197

'10-‘11 Cap Hit: $3 mil

'10-'11 Stats: 79GP / 19G / 29A / 48pts / +5 / 20PIM / .608PPG / 16:22ATOI

What others are saying:

Vrbata certainly seems at home with the Coyotes. After a troubled year in Tampa Bay, he returned to the desert last season and fell just shy of another 25-goal campaign. Vrbata offers what you would expect from a fairly one-dimensional scorer: Goals and shots on goal. If you do decide to consider him for your fantasy squad as a No. 4/bench winger, make sure you have someone to pair with him that is more of a playmaker. It's worth pointing out that the wealth of young talent that continues to develop for the Coyotes could also take away some of Vrbata's power-play minutes. (

Fun Fact: He was drafted by the Avs in the 7th Round (212 overall) in '99 and played with us for two seasons ('02-'03). We traded him to the Canes. Will he come back?

Does he meet criteria:

A) Yes - $3 mil will help.

B) Yes - He's never had less than a 30pt. season when he's played at least half of the 82 games. And even if he is one dimensional... well, we have a couple playmaking centers he might get on with quite well.

C) Yes - He's played over 600 games in 9 seasons. It's not as many as some of the UFAs, but it will help.

D) Yes - Vrbata isn't the most physical of players, but he does already play in the Pacific Division and still managed to post 48 points.

Erik Cole

Former Team: CAR

Age: 32

Height: 6'-2"

Weight: 205

'10-‘11 Cap Hit: $2.9

'10-'11 Stats: 82GP / 26G / 26A / 52pts / -1 / 49PIM / .634PPG / 18:27ATOI

What others are saying:

RW, Erik Cole -- Perhaps it's posturing, perhaps it's genuine, but GM Jim Rutherford has said it will be tough to re-sign Cole. The 32-year-old is coming off a 26-goal season, his best output since he scored 29 in 2006-07. He's spent nearly his entire career with Carolina, save for 63 games with the Oilers in 2008-09. Rutherford let Cole get away once before re-acquiring him. He won't send him away for a second time, not after a solid season in 2010-11. Best guess: He stays in Carolina. (

We know Cole can average pretty close to a point per game when he's healthy and has Eric Staal as a linemate. Luckily, the two are mutually inclusive, as a healthy Cole will surely flank Staal on the Hurricanes' top line. Still, injuries are starting to take their toll and it's difficult to project Cole for any more than 50 games played as a result. (

Does he fit Criteria:

A) Yes - $2.9 mil is nothing to sneeze at, and he had a pretty solid season last year. This number will probably go up.

B) Yes - His scoring over the course of his career is a bit hit and miss, but he did manage 52 points last season. He strikes me as a David Jones type player that likes to hit more.

C) Yes - 9 seasons, 620 games. He also helped win the Cup in '06 although injury limited him to 2 games.

D) Yes - He hits everything that moves. 225 hits over 82 games is a pretty solid number to say the least.

Also of note:

Tyler Kennedy of the Pens was not given a qualifying offer. The right handed center put up 45 pts in 80 games last season and had 95 hits. The 5'11, 183lb, 24 year-old could be an interesting pick-up for the Avs if he switches to wing.

Also, we could have another Stewart on the team. Not Chris - Anthony, his older brother. The 26-year-old also was not given a qualifying offer by the Jets. He had 39 points playing as a Right Winger last year. He doesn't score as much as CGDS, but he hits more. He'll probably not be a top winger if we sign him, but he would possibly be an upgrade over Yip if Mueller can't play.