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MHH Roundtable: Grading the 2018 offseason for the Colorado Avalanche

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Taking stock of offseason moves the Colorado Avalanche have made and what work still needs to be completed

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Colorado Avalanche at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

*Now that the flurry of offseason activity has settled down for the Colorado Avalanche, the staff at Mile High Hockey took a look at where the team stands going into the rest of the summer.*

How would you grade the offseason moves the Avalanche have made thus far?

Jackie: The Avalanche offseason stands at about a C currently. The moves they made were about as expected, and thankfully no real bad moves have been made, but overpaying and even worse giving out two and three year deals to depth players is a concern that keeps happening. The move for Grubauer is to be determined if he becomes a long term starter or not but the value on the trade for him was fine. Signing Martin Kaut to his ELC early was nice to see and only a couple AHL veterans were added so the promise of the youth movement continuing seems to remain intact.

Tom: Things started off with an A+ being able to bring in Grubauer at a discounts by flexing financial muscle. It was a creative move that is going to pay huge dividends down the road.

I’d give the moves on July 1st a C+. I like both players a lot and while the contracts were too expensive, they’re not prohibitive and won’t hurt the team’s cap structure long-term.

Hayden: I’d give them a B- so far. They used their cap space as an asset to snag the goalie they wanted, and while they might have overpaid for a few UFAs, they can afford it, so no harm no foul. It’s the lack of movement for a top-six scorer that is holding back my grade - with some big names rumored to be available (cough Jeff Skinner cough), I want the Avs to seize the opportunity to add a bona-fide goal scorer to the youth movement.

Isaac: I’d give Sakic an A if he would’ve poached Mark Stone from the Senators (shoutout to SuckMyAvs). However, I’m not terribly upset. The Grubauer trade is something I am a huge fan of, especially because it was at a low cost. I’m fairly confident he could end up winning the starting job upon the inevitable Varlamov injury (or departure as a UFA), and be a solid goaltender at that.

As far as the free agency moves, I like them and I think the concerns about AAV are unwarranted given the massive amount of cap space. It’s the term that gives me a bit of pause, and I wonder a bit what the plan is here. But on the face of it, Matt Calvert and Ian Cole are both solid players that fill a need. Overall I’d say a B.

Hardev: Loved the Grubauer trade, hated the Cole signing, the rest has just been fluff so far. I really loved that Sakic took advantage of his cap space (and the knowledge that he will have space for a few more years) to acquire and retain assets.

I understand that the Avs don’t have much depth at defense, but Cole is not that player. I don’t think his skating ability is up to snuff, especially for a young and speedy team like Colorado. I don’t like what I heard out of Pittsburgh when it came to his response to sitting out. And on top of all that, the biggest knock against the player was his cap hit last season, well it just doubled for three of a hockey player’s post-prime seasons.

Sure, we have the space now so why not, but if things go wrong, that’s a costly contract to get rid of. I would’ve much preferred a higher-reward, lower-risk signing to try and create an asset out of nothing. That one move has me annoyed enough that I can only give the management group a B.

Skyler: B+. The trade to acquire Grubauer was wizardry. The Caps were desperate to free up cap space and the Avalanche were the ready suitor. From November 24 to the end of the year last season, Grubauer led all qualified NHL netminders with a .937 save percentage. For a month or so late in the season, he won the starting job from perennial Vezina contender Braden Holtby. Grubauer has all the makings of a starting goalie, and I expect he’ll win that job early next season.

I am not very ambivalent about the Cole and Calvert signings, nor the price for which they came, but the Avalanche can chew the price more than most teams. These are depth pieces and both should contribute on the penalty killing unit. Cole is a boring, defensive-minded defenseman who will slot in on the second or third pairing. Calvert is a boring, defensive-minded forward who will slot in on the third or fourth pairings. They’ll both likely be negative possession players. Let’s hope they minimize the extent to which they are.

Cat: In net, the team gets an A for the way they handled the offseason. They added Grubauer on a cost-friendly deal (and managed not to give up any considerable chunk of their future to do it), drafted a pair of goaltenders that coach Jussi Parkkila has to love, and managed to convince Joe Cannata to return as a free agent to really solidify their minor league depth. Add in the signing of Pavel Francouz to an incredibly cost-efficient deal that’s easy to keep in the minors if needed, and they went from marginal depth concerns at the end of the year to sitting fairly comfortably moving past July 1st.

The rest of their offseason has been fairly lukewarm for me. I love the Martin Kaut selection, but don’t love their free agent signings all that much, and their decent extension for Matt Nieto was offset by my disappointment that they gave up on Nail Yakupov as a depth option. Ultimately, though, one of their largest concerns last year was that they didn’t have adequate depth to compensate for a pair of NHL starters that couldn’t stay healthy. By addressing that so thoroughly and not doing anything crazy with their first round pick, I can’t give them anything less than a B+ overall.

Nashville Predators v Colorado Avalanche - Game Four Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

What other moves should the Avalanche make before they reconvene for training camp?

Jackie: Realistically the Avalanche are just about done with their offseason work. Hopefully Patrik Nemeth is only given a one year term on his contract extension. Other than perhaps some AHL deals there really isn’t room to sign anyone else. It would be a fantastic surprise if the Avalanche extended one of their young players early, especially Mikko Rantanen, in order to give themselves some cost certainty heading into next summer. If getting rid of Colin Wilson without giving up assets to do so happens that would be a nice surprise too.

Tom: I’d like to see Sakic go out and try to poach an RFA from someone. Find a young guy that needs a new contract, but that might not fit in with his current team. Salary demands, team depth, whatever reason it is, there’s always a few players that get moved before signing their next contract - it’s a good way to buy low. Who much would Miles Woods cost in a trade from New Jersey? Or maybe you could snag a guy like Ryan Spooner from the Rangers.

Hayden: Hayden: I expect the Avs stay quiet for the rest of the summer. But like I mentioned above - I would love to see them add some scoring in the top-six so that MacKinnon and Rantanen don’t get back problems from carrying the team two years in a row.

Isaac: What if Tyson Barrie was traded? It’s probably an absolutely terrible idea given that a gaping hole would be left on the right side (plus there’s a power play problem now), but his contract currently only carries two years left and every future plan of the Avalanche roster I’ve seen leaves him out of it.

It’s also worth noting what kind of return the Avalanche could get: picks/prospects, or a top six winger? Would it be worth a massive blow to the right side of the blue line to get a player(s) that fits more with the direction of the team? I’m not saying I’m entirely for it, but maybe it’s something Sakic should quietly look at. Perhaps if a trade were to happen it would be next year when Timmins and Makar are more ready and there was an extension for Barrie involved.

Hardev: They should help out the Tampa Bay Lightning and take on either Bobby Ryan’s, Ryan Callahan’s, or another costly forward in the incoming Erik Karlsson deal. First, it keeps the best defenseman in the world out of the hands of the Dallas Stars. Second, the assets the Avalanche would be able to get as a sweetner would be inccredible. Third, Ryan, Callahan, Tyler Johnson, et al would be useful players to the forward group and the term is swallowable.

One of the issues that the Lightning seem to have is not being able to get their players to waive their No Trade Clauses. It may be a tough sell, but playing with Nathan MacKinnon on a team on the rise wouldn’t be the worst situation in the world. It’d be far and away better than going to a first-round pick-less Ottawa Senators tire fire, or a team like the New York Rangers who are in the early stages of a rebuild.

Do it, Joe! DO IT!!

Skyler: I’d like to see the Avalanche try to add another forward. Use the cap space as an asset and get into a bidding war for an RFA. You have one of the best young cores in the whole league, don’t blow it up for a trade (unless it’s Erik Karlsson; yes — it would be acceptable to trade the darling and future all-star Cale Makar if it’s for Karlsson).

Just sit tight and wait for the talent to mature. It’s possible the addition of another veteran could foster their growth, but I wouldn’t do anything radical to make it happen.

If Semyon Varlamov proves himself healthy, I wouldn’t be opposed to trading him midseason to a dysfunctional team that needs a goaltend—**cough cough cough** THE ISLANDERS **cough cough cough**—especially if Grubauer looks poised to be the goalie of the future and Pavel Francouz seems like an adequate NHL backup (I loved him at Dev Camp). But I’m not sure if the Avalanche can get much value from Varlamov with his current questionable injury status.

Cat: The best thing they can really do at this point is to solidify their roster at the AHL level. The team has struggled significantly with minor league depth since parting ways with the Hershey Bears as their affiliate; after winning the 1996 Calder Cup in Hershey and making the postseason with the Bears every year from 1996 to 2003, the Avalanche have only seen their AHL affiliate appear in postseason action twice from 2003 to the present. Not coincidentally, the team has also only seen NHL postseason action six times since 2003, only making it to the second round twice - in 2004 and 2006 - of those six appearances. If they can find a way to really fill out their roster in Colorado, that will be a huge step in the right direction.

2018 NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7 Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images