Colorado Avalanche Salary Cap and Free Agency - Looking to the Future

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Hi all. As mentioned on some of the threads, I find it amusing to play around with the roster and salary cap from time to time. I find that has clear and useful data for the NHL. It is also more accurate, at least in terms of UFA/RFA than some other sites. As such, a lot of the data used for this post has been sourced from there.

To get started, I am assuming a salary cap of $80 million next season. This was a projection from the aforementioned source, and it seems reasonable in my eyes. Thereafter, I am operating under the assumption that the cap increases by 2.5% each year. If anything, I feel as though this is a conservative estimate. I'm also assuming 23 players, which is consistent with what the Avs had during the current season. Ultimately, my goal was to see how much cap space was available to potentially sign free agents, while still having room available for the "important" players that are currently on the roster. I'm no expert, and there are likely mistakes/oversights. I thought this was fun though and wanted to share.

Any names highlighted are the players I consider to be part of the core going forward. All moves made were designed to allow these players to be extended at what I think might be fair value when the time comes. Obviously it's impossible to know the future, and there is always a chance that a player outperforms/underperforms my expectations. I did my best for the time being though.

The elephant in the room is the goaltending situation. The scenarios assume the total cost for starter and backup stay relatively stable, but who knows if this will actually be the case. For now, given the unpredictability, I have Varly staying at slightly more than his current salary. I feel this is at least somewhat reasonable due to his age and injury history, but by all means, feel free to disagree.

Without further ado, let's get started.


As much as I'd love to plug in Tavares, this scenario goes a different direction with James van Riemsdyk. The Leafs have Matthews for one more year on the cheap, and they have Marner for two more years before he gets a nice raise. They will need some serious cap space for those guys, so it's likely that JVR is available. He is a bit on the older side when compared to the Avs current roster, but he is still pretty young, and this seems like a reasonable possibility. Keep in mind that this is not necessarily my preferred scenario (that would be Tavares), but I do think it has the potential for a good outcome.

As for our own free agents, I have Comeau and Nieto being signed for 2 and 3 years, respectively. I think it might be too soon to disband what was one of the Avs better lines, and they have the cap space to do this. I am also strongly in favor of signing Nemeth or a similar replacement to a 3 year deal. This is not because I am in love with his game (I don't hate it either), but more because of the expansion draft. The rules require at least one defenseman that played a certain number of games during the prior two years to be exposed. Nemeth (or the replacement) becomes Captain Expendable. Siemens is also extended for depth and/or a defenseman is signed for the bottom pairing.

Yak, Barberio, and Borque can all go elsewhere, but it certainly doesn't cause any problems if they are given short-term extensions.

Finally, as much as we are all looking forward to seeing Timmins and/or Meloche with the club, allowing them to lay big minutes in the AHL all year benefits the team in the long run, as neither will need to be protected in the expansion draft. Otherwise, the Avs likely end up losing Z, Girard, Timmins, or Meloche.

Here is what the lineup looks like under this scenario:

Here is the cap situation:


The priority for this year will be to lock up Rantanen and Zadorov for a long time. In this scenario, I am assuming Rantanen is influenced by MacKinnon's deal and takes less that what he probably could receive if he pushed for it. I'm honestly not sure what Zadorov will command, but I eventually settled on $4.25 million per year for five years. I am also assuming that the Avs pick up Eberle in free agency. They could use another right-handed shot, so this might make sense.

Kerfoot, Kamenev, and Compher will all be RFAs and need new deals, but this shouldn't break the bank unless one of them breaks out in a serious way next season. I'm assuming three years for all of them at a reasonable cap hit. You will notice that these three all have the same cap hit in the table. I don't necessarily see this as likely, but I do think that the aggregate might be a reasonable estimate.

As for the goaltending situation, as mentioned above, I'm just assuming Varly gets a couple years at a modest raise.

Toninato, Greer, and Lindholm can be signed for depth or can be replaced. Wilson is onto another team, either via free agency or trade during the prior season.

Now for the painful news, Tyson Barrie is traded prior to the year for picks/prospects (perhaps a goaltending prospect). If he's on the roster, the Avs end up losing one of their top four in the expansion draft. Fortunately, the other guys are ready to step up. It might initially hurt to have such an inexperienced back end, but it's also a highly talented and capable one. EJ, Girard, and Z can carry much of the load, and Nemeth is still on the roster if needed.

Here is what the lineup looks like under this scenario:

Here is the cap situation:


There is a method to the madness, and here is where things get interesting. If both JVR and Eberle (or similar top six guys) are signed, they will need to be protected in the expansion draft. Others forwards that must be protected include MacKinnon, Landeskog, Rantanen, Jost, and either Kerfoot, Kamenev, or Compher. Nemeth will be the only defenseman exposed, as the team can also protect EJ, Girard, and Z (Makar, Timmins and Meloche have less than 2 years of NHL experience and are therefore not exposed).

I am assuming Kerfoot is the guy that gets the protection and Kamenev is sipping on a Starbucks by the Space Needle. Not ideal, but better than losing one of the promising young defensemen, in my opinion. Of course if only one free agent is signed, it allows the Avs to protect Kamenev or Compher as well. Regardless, I think the most likely outcome that is currently foreseeable is that one of these three guys is lost.

Jost, Girard, and Meloche are all extended. The terms may or may not be realistic, and in this scenario Kamenev is lost, so here is where the debate about whether to sign two high end UFAs really comes into play. Would we be better off signing only one guy? If it's Tavares then yes! Otherwise, I think it's debatable. *On a side note, I did a scenario in which Tavares and Mark Stone came to Denver next year. It's doable, but the cost is losing Landeskog. There are always difficult decisions to make, but there are definitely a lot of options.*

I also have Nieto signing for a couple more years here, but it could be best to part ways at this point in favor of a less expensive option. I kept him in to avoid placeholders and for a little veteran leadership on the fourth line. I'm assuming Bowers and Barron can fill a couple roles with Comeau and Soderberg now gone. Finally, based on the awesome articles for this year's draft crop, I slid Barrett Hayton into the lineup (feel free to imagine another draft pick if you wish).

Here is what the lineup looks like under this scenario:

Here is the cap situation:


At this point, aside from any improvements via the Avalanche system, the lineup stabilizes. I'm certainly hoping that at least the Ottawa pick brings a shiny new player that can improve the lineup, but with so much uncertainty with respect to draft position, etc., I left this out. However, I did want to keep going in order to see if the team could extend guys like Landy, Makar, Timmins, etc. based on the cap situation.

In 2021, Landy, Makar and Timmins are all extended. Again, are contracts reasonable? It's difficult to project, so this is open for debate. Again, keep in mind that it's the aggregate increase that really matters and not so much shifting the total from one extension to the next.

Varly will also need to be extended again. Alternatively, someone else is ready to take over the #1 job. In the scenario, I'm again assuming a modest salary increase either way though.

The only other guys are Toninato and Nemeth. The former may be extended or not, while the latter is likely gone.

The lineup is the same as the prior year, and here is the cap situation:


Kerfoot and Compher are up again in this simulation. If Kerfoot plays really well and shows that he is a guy that deserves a big contract, it's possible that he won't be around any longer (if the cap doesn't increase more than 2.5% each year, it gets tough to keep so many veteran players at this point). Alternatively, Jost could be lost the following year. On the other hand, if they both play well but not incredible, it may be possible to keep them, as both are still RFAs.

In this scenario, I do have both Kerfoot and Compher being extended, but it's very possible that some difficult decisions will need to be made. Bowers is the only other guy up for a new contract, and this should be pretty easy for a guy I'm assuming is on the fourth line.

The lineup remains the same, and here is the cap situation:

Additional Notes and Conclusions

If you're an astute observer, you will see that the following year MacKinnon is up for a big raise. EJ, Jost, Meloche, and Varly are also in the mix for 2023. As mentioned, it's possible that one or more of Jost, Kerfoot, and Compher may not be around at this time. Also, I am going under the assumption that EJ either takes a huge pay cut or moves on after his contract is up. This is how the Avs pay MacKinnon.

Feel free to tear this apart, but also keep in mind that it's just a rough simulation that helps illustrate what might be possible in free agency. There are many ways to modify this (e.g. replacing JVR and Eberle with other UFAs, trading EJ instead of Barrie, trading EJ/Barrie for a forward instead of picks/prospects, letting some of our current guys go, such as in the Tavares/Stone situation mentioned above, etc.). Really I think this provides a decent illustration that, assuming Barrie or EJ are traded, the Avs could spend $12-15 million in free agency and still not lose any of their key players down the line.

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