The news of Matt Hunwick's signing sparked a lot of mixed opinions about the reasons for the transaction, as well as the way it will affect the team next season. Does bringing back Hunwick mean the younger guys like Tyson Barrie and Stefan Elliott are slotted for more AHL work? Does it mean the Avalanche organization is happy with the status quo? Yes, he's a stand-up guy and works his butt off, but will his play be good enough to help the team? While all those questions—and answers to them—are important, there's a larger question looming: which defenseman from 2011-2012, if any, isn't coming back?
Let's face it. The way the assumed roster is set up, it was possible—if not likely—that one of Hunwick, Ryan Wilson and Shane O`Brien wouldn't be back in the burgundy and blue. This is what we know:
Erik Johnson - ?
Ryan O`Byrne - Jan Hejda
Matt Hunwick - ?
If the team goes with the traditional 7 d-man roster, we have three spots available. If the team chooses to skirt free agency, there's room for both Wilson and O`Brien, as well as one of the three AHL guys (Cameron Gaunce being the third option). From what we saw last year of Barrie and Elliott, both seem to need a bit more seasoning in the A, although a strong training camp may prove otherwise. Gaunce had a career year last season in his young pilgrimage in pro hockey, and his 11 games in 2010-2011 showed that he clearly had the skills to hang in the NHL, especially with that year with the Monsters under his belt. Thus, it's certainly not unreasonable to believe he will secure a roster spot in September.
So what does this all mean? It means the Avs have some options when it comes to the 2012-2013 blueline:
- The Status Quo Option: Sign both O'Brien and Wilson and bring one of the AHLers to the big leagues as a regular (this could also be a rotation of sorts)
- The Let the Kids Marinate Option: Sign both O'Brien and Wilson and sign an FA
- The Overestimating the Kids Option: Sign one of O'Brien and Wilson and bring two of the AHLers to the big leagues
- The Three-Pronged Attack Option: Sign one of O'Brien and Wilson and sign an FA and bring one AHLer to the big leagues
- The You're Dreaming Option: Sign one of O'Brien and Wilson and sign TWO FAs (/snicker)
- The You Need to Stop Drinking the Kool Aid Option: Sign THREE FAs (/bwahahahahahahaha)
- The Oilers Ain't Getting That First Pick Again Option: Don't sign anybody and use Barrie, Elliott and Gaunce, making every team in the league shout with glee, "WE SCORE GOALS ON AVALANCHES!" (No offense intended, boys.)
What's it gonna be folks?