One of the key components of player development and running an NHL franchise in general is managing the 50 contract limit that is imposed on all clubs. It would be wonderful if the Avs could just sign whoever they please and fill their roster plus Lake Erie's and Denver's with anyone who has the slightest chance of helping out either now or the future. Unfortunately they can't.
At any given time, only 50 players may be signed to NHL SPCs, or the very rare PTOs & ATOs, that are in force. So, for instance, Chris Bigras signed contract does not count yet, guys like Luke Walker and our beloved Denis Parshin where rights are still held but no deal is in place don't count, and drafted but yet unsigned prospects don't count of course. Players that are signed to AHL contracts with the Monsters don't count, neither do CHL contracts with the Cutthroats. Every other contract in the organization does count.
How do clubs mange this?
First and foremost the parent club is taken care of with the 23 roster players plus any on LTIR, which thankfully the Avs have none of. That leaves 27 spots for prospects and callups playing in the minors. But teams need to leave some wiggle room, there should always be one spot for a catastrophic emergency goalie and another one in case someone either too good to pass up or too badly needed flows through the waiver wire. So, more like 25 spots left.
The Avs' Situation right now:
I'm going to take as a given that the Avs unsigned roster players will either be re-signed or replaced. There are a couple of unsigned tweeners like Elliott and Carey and the Wilson situation which are up in the air but for counting prospects let's say the 23 are set up there and there's 25 development contracts to be had.
There are 14 prospects already signed for next year. Siemens, Heard, Pickard, Sami, Smitty, Meurs, Corbett, Cheek, Beaupre, Agozzino, Lauridsen, Sgarbossa, Everberg and Henley.
11 contracts left, here are 28 guys that would love to have them:
UFAs: Lerg, Wyman, Van der Gulik, Desbiens, Hunwick, Malone
I wouldn't be surprised to see all these guys let go. I think upgrading the bottom-6 and vet callups will be a priority for the Avs this summer. I do think there's a chance Lerg returns to Lake Erie as the captain, perhaps on an AHL deal. niwot will hate this, but I think Malone is done with the Avs (and you're welcome Cheryl & Scyllai!).
RFAs: Elliott, Carey, Hishon, Stollery, Olver, Patterson, Millan
Elliott and Hish are almost definite re-signs and are possibilities for the Avs roster so they may or may not count here. Stollery probably gets signed and becomes the senior defenseman on LEM. Carey's a tossup, he's not at his ceiling yet but who knows what the Avs think. Patterson & Millan are gone unless maybe one returns on an AHL deal, not that tempting for them tho'. I don't see Olver back at all.
Prospects whose rights expire and CHL/College careers are done: Bourke, Condon, Young, Moffatt, Blandisi, Clarke
Bourke played 15 games for LEM and showed some very good skills and speed. He's another tiny guy so you never know, but he does rodeo in the offseason so he's pretty damn tough. I'd say he's in. Condon & Young seem to deserve contracts after their college careers. Moffatt spent a week with LEM on an ATO but never played, maybe on him. The other two might get try-outs.
Players who had late-season try-outs with LEM: Matt Pufahl, Kyle Hope, Johnny McInnis, Max Iafrate
Pufahl played 5 games and got a lot of PT for the Monsters and looked good, he's a big puck-moving defenseman and definitely has potential, also played with Duncan in Saskatoon and was captain of the Silvertips this year. I'd like to see him signed. The other guys didn't see much action, Hope looked decent as a 4th line banger from what I saw. Iafrate would have to be drafted and has a year of CHL eligibility left.
Players on AHL contracts this year: Michael Schumacher, Dan Maggio, Vincent Arseneau, Mikael Tam, Gabe Desjardins, Lee Moffie
I'm a huge Schumacher fanboi so I'd say sign him immediately. 45 games in LE, 12G/7A and really came on at the end of the year. If he continues to improve his fitness and skating, he'll be in the NHL in a couple years. It sounds like Dan Maggio will be back with the Monsters on an AHL deal next year, he switched from D to forward in the middle of the season and wasn't bad at all. The rest I could take or leave, mostly leave.
Other Options: Draft players ready for the Pros, more College/CHL/Euro free agents, prospects abandoned by other clubs by June 1st
That's a lot of competition for just a few spots, which is good. There's always the possibility of trades and whatnot opening up some more spots or perhaps taking some up. The way things are shaping up, LEM would look bigger, younger and more skilled which should lead to fewer injuries, a better record and quicker development.
Now that the season is over, we should start to see some contracts signed in the coming weeks. Generally, AHL players and young Free Agents will sign in May and CHL prospects have until June 1st. Our own UFA/RFAs have until July 1st to sign, vet FAs sign in early July and the 3 college prospects have until August 15th before their rights expire.