As the NHL offseason gets closer and closer to its end, there are a number of restricted free agents that are still looking for contracts. Some big names, some undervalued players and some that are coming off of rough seasons. This Colorado Avalanche team is one that has the resources - and roster spots - to take a risk on one of two of these RFAs that could likely be had for very cheap.
Of course, the Avs have their own big-name RFA that they need to get signed before camp, but all indications are that Nikita Zadorov’s new deal will be finalized sooner than later.
Though Zadorov is a pretty big name that still doesn’t have a contract, he’s not close to the biggest RFA out there. David Pastrnak, Bo Horvat and Alex Wennberg are still without contracts, but for the sake of this exercise, I’m going to ignore them since the odds of them actually being available is slim to none.
Here are a couple RFAs that still need contracts, and for one reason or another, the Avs might be able to wrestle them away from their current team.
Anthony Duclair - W - Arizona Coyotes
Duclair is coming off of a very tough season that saw him spend nearly two months in the AHL with the Tucson Roadrunners. He seems to be at a bit of a career crossroads, and contract negotiations with the Coyotes might be difficult as a result. Does the team view him as a core piece that put up 44 points as a 20-year old, or are they put off by last season that saw his production take a huge hit and stories emerge about sulking through cut ice time and an AHL demotion?
One thing is certain, Anthony Duclair is a very talented hockey player. He can play on both sides of the ice and would be an ideal fit for the middle-6 on the Avs. He’s already scored 20 goals in the NHL, he’s been one of Arizona’s best possession forwards for two straight seasons and he only turns 22 next week so he fits in perfectly with the core of this team.
With so much young talent up front for the Coyotes, it’s not hard to envision a scenario where they would let the RFA go for a 2nd or third round pick. If nothing else, Joe Sakic should be on the phone with Chayka seeing if he can save Duclair from the desert.
Andreas Athanasiou - C - Detroit Red Wings
It’s hard to see a world in which the Red Wings want to let Athanasiou go. The problem is, they might not have a choice. Detroit is a bad team, they have very few young assets, and the future does not look great. The problem is that they’re also a team that is currently above the salary cap without Athanasiou having a contract.
The Red Wings are in cap hell and need to give a raise to both Anthony Mantha and Dylan Larkin next summer. Athanasiou can be had - and likely for very cheap, especially if the Avs were willing to use their cap space to take on another bad contract.
Athanasiou is a player that was on pace for 23 goals last season. He’s one of the fastest skaters in the league and brings the type of aggressive forecheck you want from an elite third line center.
Brett Kulak - LD - Calgary Flames
Who? Exactly. Kulak is a guy that would fit into the ever-growing group of Avs defenders that may or may not be NHLers. The thing is, he’s probably better equipped to be a full-time NHLer than guys like Duncan Siemans, Chris Bigras and Anton Lindholm.
Last season Kulak had a very decent showing in his 21 games with the Flames. He is decent in his own zone but more importantly, he was one of their better defenders when it came to helping to generate offense.
Thanks to the new-found depth of the Flames blue line, Kulak is the kind of guy that can likely be had for as little as a conditional 2019 6th round pick - a price well worth paying.
Sam Bennett - F - Calgary Flames
This one might be a pipe dream, but Sam Bennett is a player that is far too talented to continue to struggle the way he has. Bennett had a very rough season offensively last season. He was one of the Flames’ worst shot generators and saw his point total drop significantly from his rookie year. He fell down the team’s depth chart and might be a guy that benefits from a change of scenery.
It would be silly for the Flames to give up on a player as talented as Bennett right now, but it’s worth a call. Calgary took steps this offseason that makes it clear they want to compete now. Add that to the fact that the Flames were one of the teams mentioned as a suitor for Duchene and maybe there is a scenario in which Sam Bennett is a key piece in a much bigger Matt Duchene trade. You never know.