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Sunday Thread: The Avalanche Goalie Situation

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Good morning all. Since the only real piece of news was the signing of Sami Aittokallio and no one posted any pictures of fish, we're going in a different direction this week. Let's take a look at the Avs netminder lineup as it stands right now.

With the Avs signing Sami, they now have 6 goalies signed to NHL contracts and 9 overall in the organization and affiliates. The depth chart now goes like this:

Colorado
Varlamov
Berra/Pickard

San Antonio
Pickard/Berra
Aittokallio?/Will

Fort Wayne
Pat Nagle*
Will/Martin
John McLean*

Finnish Liiga
Max Pajpach* (Tappara U20)
Sami Aittokallio? (Karpat)

* - not signed by Colorado

That's a whole lot of goalies for basically 6 spots. Pat Nagle is well-known in the AHL and spent quite a bit of time there last year when teams needed a quality backup, he will be in and out of Ft Wayne all year. John McLean is a rookie just out of college and would probably be farmed out somewhere in the SPHL when everyone's healthy and present. Neither of those situations matter much because the Avs and Komets seem to agree that just one goalie at a time will be sent to the ECHL.

So, why did the Avs spend their 45th contract space for next season (with 2 RFAs and possibly Rantanen left to add) on a 6th goaltender? For all intents and purposes it looked like the Avs were moving on from their 2010 4th round pick after a year that saw him everywhere from emergency backup in Colorado to getting shelled in Ft Wayne.

One of the goalies under contract won't be able to start the season. The obvious candidate is Spencer Martin who is only 8 months out from a bad knee injury and missed time at development camp for reasons unknown. Roman Will also had a knee injury at the end of the year and surgery was discussed but ended up not happening. Perhaps the training staff decided to go ahead with that after all. While either of these situations would be a bummer, they wouldn't affect the Avs or even the Rampage in a significant way.

The worst case scenario is that Varly's groin injury still hasn't healed and is questionable. Let's not think about that. And of course it's possible that Berra or Pickard have issues, I could see Berra but Pickard's been so durable I'd honestly be shocked if he developed something that threatened the season.

Whoever it is, the likely situation is that someone won't be ready for camp.

One of the goalies under contract has decided to leave the team. This is incredibly unlikely, for any reason you can think of. Much as some would like to hope a European team will drive a dumptruck full of money on Yogi's front lawn and clear the path for Calvin to be the backup this year, it's not happenin'. Varly's not going anywhere, Pickard just re-signed, Roman was just at Dev Camp and seemed happy to be there. This isn't a viable possibility.

Spencer Martin will return to Mississauga for his overage year. There have been rumors that Martin will return to the OHL instead of turning pro. Perhaps the Avs feel that playing against teenaged amateurs is better for his development than starting in the ECHL. I don't see why honestly. His contract won't slide or come out of the 50 so there's no benefit to the team. Say what you want about the ECHL, but it's still a league full of professional adults. Roman Will got a lot out of playing for the Komets last season, no reason to think Martin wouldn't either.

* * * * *

Now, let's go back to the 45th contract issue for a minute. Last year, we got the impression that the Avs disliked being hamstrung by having 49 contracts on the books. It limits your ability to pick up guys on waivers if there are injuries or make imbalanced trades. As I said above, this is the Avs 45th contract and Freddie Hamilton & Stefan Elliott are still looking to sign. Mikko Rantanen's deal isn't in force yet either. What does this say about the Avs strategy for the last few spots?

A late-summer signing or training camp invite is off the table, at least for right now. Unless another move is made there won't be room for Curtis Glencross...

The Avs aren't planning on Mikko playing in the NHL this year. Hard to make the call never having seen him play, but my feeling is that unless he's ready to play top-6 minutes and be effective there's no reason to burn a year of his ELC. Maybe the Avs feel the same way.

The Avs figure they will lose someone on waivers. Tough to bet on this but there will be some players like Elliott, Hishon, Street, Noreau and Clark that will have to pass through waivers on their way to San Antonio. Not something I would expect, but it happens.

* * * * *

Obviously, all of the above is a massive lot of speculation, what I'm trying to do here is break down possible reasons why the Avs made this move at this time, because it's a bit of a headscratcher given what little information is out there.

First of all, I'm glad the Avs retained Sami's services for the season. He's much better than the other options to play in San Antonio and, god forbid, play for Colorado if injuries decimate our goalie corps. I still think with some hard work he could end up in the NHL at some point in the future and training with a professional team this summer rather than playing roller hockey like he's done in the past might be a clue that he realizes what he needs to put into his career. Sami's still the club's 2nd best goalie prospect and could become an asset if he continues to develop.

That said, it's a little troubling to have to make a move like this late in the summer. Having 6 goalies under NHL contract is poor management and the fact that it makes bringing in an unsigned NHL player for a try-out, however unlikely that was in the first place, more difficult to manage isn't optimim - especially for what appears to be your backup AHL goaltender. It's always nice to have options and this limits some roster moves that could have improved the team.

Down the road we just have to hope all the questionable goalie moves work out. The panic trade for Berra and subsequent inexplicable extension. Clogging up the system with Roman Will for reasons I still don't understand. Seemingly abandoning Aittokallio and then re-signing him anyway. There are those that are very high on Spencer Martin, but I questioned signing him early even before his injury and it could easily turn out to be another bad move. Any one of these are moves that teams make regularly and are part of the development game, but put them all together and it's a big mess that didn't need to happen.