With the NHL draft behind us, it is now time to shift focus to free agency. The window to negotiate with unrestricted free agents has open and teams can start signing UFAs as early as next Monday.
Thanks to some incredible cap management over the last few years, Joe Sakic and the Colorado Avalanche are going to have a ton of money to spend this summer. Once you allocate the dollars for Mikko Rantanen and the other RFAs, it is expected tat the Avs will have between $15 and $20 million to play with on the free agent market.
With the announcement yesterday that the upper limit of the cap will be at $81.5m this season, things look even better for Colorado. The ceiling is lower than many teams thought it would be, so there is going to be a lot less flexibility around the league. Luckily, that isn’t an issue for the Avs.
Here is a look at how the Avalanche might be able to spend the money in an attempt to take the next step towards contention.
Everyone knows the rumors with this one. There is strong indication that Artemi Panarin wants to play in Florida and that the Panthers will move heaven and Earth to make it happen. That’s not going to stop Sakic from reaching out in an attempt to woo the 27-year-old winger.
Panarin is one of the best left-wingers in the NHL and is going to be looking to be paid as such. He can score, he drives possession and he would give the Avalanche a second elite scoring threat after Nathan MacKinnon.
Panarin won’t be cheap and if the Avalanche are going to talk him out of the sunshine, they’re likely going to outspend the competition by a wide margin.
Proposed contract: 7 years, $12.5m AAV
Chance of signing: Very low
Artemi Panarin: We are not worthy. #CBJ pic.twitter.com/CRx9XRYdbp— 1st Ohio Battery (@1stOhioBattery) January 12, 2018
Lee is set to be the second Islanders captain to leave Long Island in as many summers. He is a big step down from Panarin, but still a very good forward that would fit the Avalanche lineup really well.
Lee is a big body that does great work down low and in front of the net while providing the ability to score a lot of goals. Imagine having a second Gabriel Landeskog in the lineup.
At 28-years-old, this will be his one opportunity to maximize earning potential so Lee isn’t going to come cheap. He’ll likely be looking for something near what Kevin Hayes signed for last week. At the right price, Lee would be a tremendous fit for the Avs.
Proposed contract: 7 years, $7.15m AAV
Chance of signing: Low
More-so than the first two, Nyquist there is a legitimate chance we see Nyquist in an Avalanche jersey on opening night. Sakic tried to acquire him at the deadline this past February so it stands to reason that the Avs will make a second attempt at his services. Traded to San Jose in-season, the longtime Detroit Red Wing forward finished last season with 22 goals and 60 points.
At 29-years-old, he is a little older than the core in Colorado. Nyquist is projected to make north of $5m on his next contract, but if the Avalanche could sign him for a shorter term deal, he could be a perfect addition to the second line.
Proposed contract: 4 years, $6m AAV
Chance of signing: High
During this year’s playoffs, Avalanche fans saw first what Joe Pavelski brings to a lineup. He’s an unquestioned leader that teammates want to run through a wall for. More importantly he brings 60+ points to the score sheet year after year.
The big question is whether or not the Sharks captain would consider leaving San Jose.
At 34, you wouldn’t want to sign Pavelski for more than a few years but on the right contract, he would be a perfect mentor to lead an Avalanche team that is still very young.
Proposed contract: 2 years, $7m AAV
Chance of signing: Low to medium
Dzingel might not have the natural fire power of the other guys on this list but there’s an argument to be made that he’s a better fit for the Avalanche lineup. He is a great skater that plays at a high speed and will bring intensity to every shift. Think of him as a younger, more talented version of Matt Calvert.
Coming off a career high 26 goals, Dzingel playing style would make him a perfect compliment to pair with J.T. Compher on a middle-six “energy” line.
He’s 27-years-old so it’s easier to add an extra year to the end of his contract in order to seal the deal.
Proposed contract: 5 years, $4.5m AAV
Chance of signing: Medium
Not as big a splash as many fans would like, Brett Connolly would bring something to Colorado’s top nine that they desperately need - a right handed shot.
Withe the ability to play on both sides of the ice and a big body that helps to create space, Connolly would look pretty nice on the wing with Alex Kerfoot.
Like Dzingel, he’s also 27-years-old and is coming off a career high goal total (22).
Proposed contract: 3 years, $3.25m AAV
Chance of signing: High-ish
Other Possibilities: Mats Zuccarello, Alex Chiasson, Micheal Ferland, Joonas Donskoi