As we stumble towards early March and this year's trade deadline, I thought it might be a hoot to lay out what next year's team looks like from an organizational standpoint. Just to review, each NHL team is allowed to have only 50 contracts in force at any given time. Currently the beloved Avs have 49, which limits a lot of options like picking up guys on waivers and making trades involving more contracts coming than going. The good news is that 15 of this year's contracts end in the summer, barring trades, buyouts and whatnot, this is what the front office has to work with.
Using the 34 players signed for next year as a starting point, let's see how the rest of the spots might be filled.
Chris Bigras has a signed contract for next year and I can confidently expect him to be on the roster.
Spencer Martin also has a signed contract for next year, but there is an option to let it slide again and allow him to play an overage year in Juniors. Even with his recent major knee injury, I still think he'll turn pro.
Calvin Pickard is an RFA at season's end, pretty much a given that he re-signs. That makes 37 contracts.
I'm going to pick an arbitrary number of 48 contracts as a target because it makes the most sense for the Avs org at this point. How do we fill the last 11 spots?
There are 3 spots opening up on the NHL roster due to Jan Hejda, Danny Briere and Ryan Wilson's UFA status. I'd like to believe none will return and that Hejda & Briere will be traded for draft picks. Regardless, I believe that at least 2 of those spots will be filled by current guys and there's an excellent chance a free agent is brought in to take Hejda's spot. Obviously the rumored ROR-for-solid-defenseman trade could change that.
The rest of the spots will be filled by prospects.
Mason Geertsen is having an impressive season in the WHL and the Avs either sign him or lose him. They're going to sign him. He's pretty much it for unsigned prospects with expiring rights next year unless you want to count Jonas Holøs.
Now come the tough decisions, there's 14 prospects with expiring contracts, either NHL or AHL, looking to continue their Avalanche careers.
Karl Stollery - Has had 2 call-ups to the Avs and plays on the top pairing in Lake Erie. A good guy to keep around for leadership and solid defensive play.
Bruno Gervais - Anyone that reads the Monsters threads knows I'm pretty biased against this guy, so take this with a grain of salt. He's one of the worst professional defensemen I've ever seen and it will be a grave error to even considering re-signing him.
Tomas Vincour - I keep hoping to see the Vincour that came to LEM 2 years ago and put up 11 points in 6 games but he's been injured most of the season and unimpressive when healthy. Don't see him coming back.
Paul Carey - Never all that impressive with the Avs, Carey's been on LEM's 1st line for a large part of this year and played well. Too close to call.
Sami Aittokallio - Following the summer where he was a no-show at Francois Allaire's summer goalie camp in Switzerland, Sami had a pretty brutal start to the season but has been better lately. He'll probably end up a victim of numbers unless the Avs feel the need to have 6 goalies under contract.
Mike Sgarbossa - Has had a major resurgence after a brutal '13-'14 campaign. Top-line center and one of the best puck movers and setup players on the team. Good chance he's back next year.
Andrew Agozzino - A solid leader in Lake Erie and had an assist in his one-game callup to the Avs. Even though his size works against him, he's a fairly safe bet to be back.
Mitch Heard - The most hated draft pick in the current system has quietly put together a decent season after some time spent in Ft Wayne regaining confidence. He's gone from a slam dunk no chance to a maybe on getting a new contract.
Joey Hishon - We all want to see Joey succeed and finally become the gifted offensive player he's perceived to be. He's had stretches of good solid play this year but he's also disappeared for long stretches and been demoted to the 4th line. The 2nd half of the season will determine a lot, but right now I'd say it's a longshot he gets re-signed.
Stefan Elliott - The Monsters best defenseman for the last month or so, he's also their lone representative to the AHL All-Star game. The question is whether that trumps his disappointing training camp. I fear that unless he gets a late-season call up and impresses the staff, he's questionable to be re-signed.
Markus Lauridsen - Played better than expected this season up until a recent injury. Might become a victim of numbers with so many LHDs in the system.
Michael Schumacher - Schumi's exactly the kind of player the Avs seem to want more of. Big, gritty, defensively sound, decent offensively. Even though there are serious questions about whether he has the skating ability and talent to succeed at the NHL level, he has a better chance to stick around than a smaller guy with more skill.
Kenny Ryan - Wasn't offered a contract after Avs camp, he made the Monsters on an AHL deal and has been solid defensively and even led the team in goals at one point this year. Wouldn't be that surprised if he's offered a contract.
The Avs are still scouting in Europe and there always the chance of picking up an unsigned UFA from Juniors or the NCAA. I'd be very surprised if at least one of the remaining contract doesn't go to someone like that. Depending on how the rest of the season (and the lottery) goes in Colorado, the Avs 1st round pick could be playing pro next year.
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Obviously a trade or two will change the situation up, hopefully for the better! This is the stuff that the development staff is grinding through right now, desperately trying to gain some depth of talent and increase overall assets that can get the Avalanche in the game as far as being a true contending hockey club down the road.