As the NHL regular season approaches, rosters are pretty much set - aside from a handful of teams that are still working on re-signing their restricted free agents. The Colorado Avalanche are among the teams working to finalize their roster and despite reports all summer that a deal was close, Nikita Zadorov still doesn’t have a contract. The bright side to the Zadorov saga is that the Avs have plenty of space to fit him under the salary cap. The same can’t be said for a few other teams - one in particular.
Andreas Athanasiou in ongoing discussions with KHL teams. Unless something shifts in Detroit, indications are Athanasiou will jump to KHL.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) September 5, 2017
Andreas Athanasiou is one of Detroit’s best young players, and due to some terrible cap management, it looks like they could lose him to the KHL - at least for this season. Thanks to horrible contracts for Frans Nielsen, Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader plus the buyout of Stephen Weiss, the Red Wings are likely to start training camp $3 million over the salary cap - and that’s only counting 10 forwards. Sure, they can put Johan Franzen on LTIR, but that only gets them to the cap, there’s still no room for Athanasiou.
Enter the Avalanche. If Joe Sakic isn’t on the phone with Detroit trying to get draft picks in exchange for a bad contract, then he’s missing an opportunity.
The blueprint is there. A couple years ago, when they were in the height of their re-build, the Toronto Maple Leafs took advantage of cap space by buying bad contracts in order to acquire assets. They took on Brooks Laich in order to get Connor Carrick, they traded for old guys like Olli Jokinen and Erik Brewer in order to get more draft picks. The Arizona Coyotes did the same when they ate David Bolland’s cap hit in order to acquire Lawson Crouse. It’s been done before and Colorado should be doing it now.
The Avs are currently sitting with about $11.6 million of free cap space. If you factor in a Zadorov contract of $2.5-ish million, you’re still left with more than $9 million to work with. The cap picture gets even more adventageuous next offseason when the Avs have nearly $27 million to work with and no significant extensions to worry about.
So call Detroit, call Chicago, call the teams that are right up against - or over - the cap and see what can be done. The Red Wings have two second round picks - their own and Ottawa’s - it would be a no brainer for them to package one with a guy like Riley Sheahan in order to fit Athanasiou onto the team.
The Avalanche haven’t done a whole lot this offseason, but if Sakic & Co are able to get creative, they could definitely still make a positive impact on the future of the team before the season starts.