For a team that lacks a ton of depth at the NHL level, the one thing the Colorado Avalanche have an abundance of is bottom-pair defensemen.
Going into the summer, the Avalanche had a very distinct top four in Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, Nikita Zadorov and Sam Girard. Beyond that, we saw a jumble of players that were all expected to fight for the final three spots on the roster. Patrik Nemeth, Mark Barberio,, Anton Lindholm, Mark Alt, David Warsofsky, even youngsters like Nicolas Meloche and Sergei Boikov were all seen as guys that could fill out the blueline for the Avs.
Then things got even more murky.
The team didn’t make many additions this offseason, but one player they did bring in was Ian Cole. A steady but unspectacular defender, Cole is expected to see a lot of ice time in the team’s bottom-4 this season, leaving fewer minutes for the fringe guys like Lindholm, Nemeth, Barberio, Warsofsky and Alt.
Of those five, it would seem that Barberio and Nemeth would have the inside track on filling the 6/7D roles on the team to start the season. Both of them were re-signed this summer, so it’s safe to assume they factor into the team’s plans for 2018-19.
Warsofsky and Alt can easy be put through waivers and assigned to the Eagles - and if someone decides to claim them, it’s no big loss.
That leaves Anton Lindholm.
The 23-year old made the team out of training camp last year, only to have his season derailed when he broke his jaw in early November.
Through the rest of the season, Lindholm found himself in and out of the lineup as injuries dictated, but by the end of the season, he was lost in the shuffle and seemed like the odd man out.
With the addition of Cole, Lindholm has been bumped down the depth chart even further, leaving some around the team to believe that he could decide to head back to Sweden if the Avs try to send him back to the AHL.
The fact that he is waiver exempt makes it all the more likely that Lindholm would be one of the odd men out when training camp ends.
Could he pull and Andrei Mironov if this happens?
With one year left on his entry level contract, it wouldn’t be overly surprising if Lindholm asked to be bought out in order to return to his hometown team of Skellefteå AIK in the SHL,
It would be nice for Lindholm to stick around because as we saw last year, NHL teams often need upwards of 12 defenders to make it through a season. Stashing the young Swede with the Eagles in case of injury would be ideal, but it’s not the end of the world if he decides he doesn’t want to report to the minors.
Thanks to some mismanagement this summer, the Avalanche are closer to the limit of 50 contracts than they would like to be. The team is currently at 47 and they would like to save two in case they want to sign Cale Makar and Shane Bowers at the end of their NCAA seasons.
Allowing Lindholm to return to Sweden and eliminating his contract would give the team a little more wiggle room.
The numbers show that Anton Lindholm was the worst defender on the Avalanche at even strength last season. He definitely isn’t in the team’s top-6 and likely isn’t one of the first eight on the depth chart.
He would make the Eagles better, but if he doesn’t want to be there, is he the kind of player you want around the organization’s top prospects?
He’ll have September to prove himself. This year’s training camp is going to be huge for Lindholm - his NHL career likely lies in the balance. Maybe he is able to outplay a guy like Patrik Nemeth to claim the last roster spot going into the season, but if not, we likely won’t see him around much longer.
Where do you think Anton Lindholm fits into the organization? Do you think he will be a member of the Avalanche much longer?