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The Colorado Avalanche should throw a big offer sheet at Mark Stone

It would be a gutsy move, but Joe Sakic should explore the idea of offering Mark Stone an offer sheet

NHL: Ottawa Senators at Toronto Maple Leafs Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

It’s the time of year when fans of the 29 NHL teams not playing in the Stanley Cup Final start to look towards the summer with naive optimism. It’s all about hope for next year’s roster. The prospect they hope their team will pick in the draft, the contract extensions they want their players to sign, and most importantly, the new additions to the roster, whether it be through trade of free agency. It’s time to build your team’s fantasy lineup for next season and since free agents can’t be signed until July 1st, we are free to do all the speculating we like for now.

Thanks to a number of high-end restricted free agents, this year, there has been a lot of speculation about offer sheets. The rarely-used vehicle to force opposing teams into a corner. Even though no NHL player has signed an offer sheet since February 2013, it doesn’t stop wide-eyed armchair GMs from talking about the desire to see one.

“This will be the year.”

Yeah, sure it will.

It has become futile to discuss the possibility that we will actually see a restricted free agent signed to an offer sheet. General Managers have decided that it is not a tactic they want to use and the collusion has made it silly to even discuss the possibility of an offer sheet being signed.

With that said, let’s talk about the possibility of an offer sheet being signed.

Late last month, I suggested that the Colorado Avalanche would do well to sign Ottawa Senators right-winger Mark Stone to an offer sheet. The 26-year old, who finished last season with 62 points in only 58 games would be the perfect fit for an Avalanche team that desperately needs help in their top-6. He’s young, he can score, he shoots right, and he plays a two-way game that makes him an undoubted top-6 forward on any team in the NHL.

I’m not the only one to have this idea. Hockey minds greater than my own have suggested the same thing since I first mentioned the idea of a Mark Stone offer sheet.

According to Matt’s model, Mark Stone's expected contract should be around $8.78m as season over the next four years. That’s a pretty impressive contract - because Mark Stone is a pretty impressive player. I don’t think Stone will get a contract quite that big. It’s east to bring the AAV down a little if you offer him a longer term.

That’s what an offer sheet would have to look like in order to make this idea work. This offseason, the compensation for an offer sheet between $6,088,981 and $8,118,641 is a first, second and third round draft pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. That’s the range in which Stone would fall.

If the Avalanche were to offer Stone a 5 year, $40.5m contract, it’s hard to believe that he wouldn’t sign it and even harder to believe that the Senators would match it.

Salary Cap Implications

The one thing the Colorado Avalanche have going for them more than just about any other team is salary cap flexibility. The Avs have more than $27 million in salary cap space available to them this summer. All that cap space with 12 forwards, 8 defensemen and two goalies signed to NHL deals. That’s two roster spots to fill and $27 million to do it with.

Going forward, the team’s cap flexibility isn’t as great but it’s nothing to be concerned about. Next offseason, Mikko Rantanen is going to need a raise - and it’s going to be a big one. He’s going to get $7-8m a season.

Nikita Zadorov is going to need an extension. He’ll probably get in the range of $4m a season long-term. Guys like Alex Kerfoot, Samuel Girard, and J. T. Compher will all need new contracts - none of them should be expected to break the bank. All these new contracts are easily affordable given that the Avalanche have anywhere from $47-$57 million in cap space, depending on how high the cap goes.

Initial estimates are that it will be close to $85m for the 2019-2020 season. There is an argument among some fans that a big contract - for Stone, John Carlson, John Tavares, or any other newcomer - would hurt the Avalanche moving forward. That simply isn’t the case. Until Nathan MacKinnon’s contract expires in the summer of 2023, the Avalanche are not going to see anything close to a cap crunch - and by then we will have had another lockout, so salary structure in the NHL is bound to look drastically different anyway.

The Draft Pick Compensation

If the Avalanche were to sign Mark Stone to a contract in the $8m range, it’s easy to assume that Ottawa’s penny-pinching owner Eugene Melnyk would accept the draft pick compensation rather than letting the new contract screw up his budget.

The move would cost the Avalanche their first, second and third round picks in the 2019 draft. This thought is going to make some fans grimace. It’s a tough pill to swallow for a team that has a long history of giving away draft picks. For those who aren’t familiar with how good Mark Stone is, the price of those three picks might seem steep. It’s not. If you were trying to trade for him, it would cost you a lot more. The Avs got a heck of a lot more for Matt Duchene and Stone is the better player of the two.

What makes moving draft picks especially palatable right now, is the fact that the Avalanche have a surplus over the next two summers. The Avs already own a first and third from the Senators as well as a second this year from Nashville thanks to the Matt Duchene deal.

It’s a tough price to pay, but one that is definitely worth the value.

How It Helps the Avalanche

The biggest weakness on this Avalanche team is secondary scoring and a need for a legitimate top-6 winger - preferably a young one. That is exactly what Mark Stone is.

While an improvement in the on-ice product is the main goal of this acquisition, there is another benefit to trying to pry Stone out of Ottawa. By making the Senators worse, you’re making the picks they’ve traded you significantly more valuable.

The Sens have a choice as to which of their next two first round picks they give to Colorado. Thanks to their awful season, they plan to keep the 4th overall pick this year and hand over their 2019 first - a pick that is already expected to be in the lottery given how bad Ottawa stands to be next season. By removing their best forward, the Avs would be drastically weakening the Senators, thus making that pick in 2019 even more valuable. Owning this pick makes giving away their own first in 2019 a legitimate option for Joe Sakic and his team.

Whether it be for Stone or anyone else, Colorado's 2019 first round pick becomes a legitimate trade chip if Sakic wants to do something bold this summer. It opens a ton of doors and will help improve a lineup that is turning good, but still needs a big boost.

Using the strength gained from the Duchene trade to further weaken his new team would be some delicious irony, and something that the Avalanche should strongly consider this summer.


Should the Avalanche attempt to aquire Mark Stone this summer?

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