It is July 10th and the Colorado Avalanche still have $23.2 million burning a hole in their pocket. Sure, about half that is going to be spent on Mikko Rantanen, along with another little bit from contracts needed for JT Compher and Andre Burakovsky, but the Avalanche still have a need, and it’s on defense, and it’s in a couple of spots.
Yes, I know the Avs currently have nine defensemen on the current roster and it’s a lot and “we don’t need more defensemen.” But when you do the math that is reality, that number of NHL defensemen shrinks quite quickly.
First off, Erik Johnson and Ian Cole are out until at least December. That’s the two most veteran and reliable defensemen gone for half the season. The number is down to seven, including one of the two right-handers on the roster.
Next, Mark Barberio, Calle Rosen, and Ryan Graves all spent significant time not on an NHL lineup card. Barberio was the team’s resident healthy scratch, Rosen was one of the top defensemen in the AHL but is yet unproven, and Graves just signed a two-way deal after spending more than half the season last year with the Eagles. Only one of these guys is going to be in the top-six, so that scratches two more off the list of defensemen the Avalanche have. Five.
So, in the end, the defense corps for the first two months of the season is likely to include Sam Girard, Nikita Zadorov, Kevin Connauton, Cale Makar, and probably Calle Rosen. Four left shots and a righty, who is a rookie. Long story short, the Avalanche need defensemen who either shoot right or are right-handed.
Let’s see who’s still available.
Out of all the RHD on Cap Friendly’s free agents page, I narrowed the 39-player list all the way down to only two names: Chris Wideman and Alex Petrovic.
Wideman had a trash 2018-19 season. He started his year in the Ottawa Senators Uber video, desperately hoping to not be noticed while Matt Duchene dunked on his assistant coach. Wideman didn’t say a word in the video but was promptly kicked off the team as collateral damage from the mess it caused.
He then went to the Edmonton Oilers, got two assists in five games and put up positive shot numbers relative to the rest of the Oilers, but then in his last game for the team he was a -10 in 5v5 shot attempts against the San Jose Sharks in 12:22 playing with Kevin Gravel, who is a full-time AHLer. After that game, he was traded again this time to the Florida Panthers where he was sent pretty much straight to the AHL where he was traded once more to the Pittsburgh Penguins AHL team.
It was an awful season for him playing for three of the worst teams in the league. He was the scapegoat in the Uber video and he was victim to Peter Chiarelli’s desperate, final moves as GM of the Oilers. None of it was fair to him and it’s all but ruined a career for what was a very good third-pair right-handed defenseman who is a strong penalty killer.
Petrovic also fell victim to Chiarelli’s final acts as GM of the Oilers. He hit his prime (24, 25) with the Florida Panthers and had two really good seasons with them posting strong shot metrics and good production numbers. His problem was the fact that Florida’s goaltending was atrocious along with their team shooting percentage with him on the ice.
Near the end of December of last year, he was traded to Edmonton for Wideman and a third-round pick. Chiarelli hoped he would be a heavy-minute top-four defenseman for the desperate Oilers, even though he was just a bottom-pair guy on the Panthers. Petrovic played 20+ minutes in his first two games for the Oilers and they went about as bad as they could go. He was a -31 in shot attempts and -22 in shots over two games. Somehow he was only a -2 in goals.
After that brief moment of insanity, Petrovic’s role was reduced back to something he’s capable of playing and he did relatively well for the rest of the season.
Petrovic is definitely someone I would take a chance on for the same reasons as Wideman. They’re both good third-pairing defensemen who both had to play through situations that were not their faults. If there’s any definition for undervalued assets, it’s players that the Oilers ruined by misplaying them.
If you’re going to go after *another* left-handed defenseman, make it a guy who can play top-four to top-pair minutes for your team. Jake Gardiner is that in spades and if he’s going to remain under market value as a result of missing out on a July 1st deal, the Avalanche would be foolish to not take him on a short-term deal. We’ve talked about Gardiner at length on this site, including his merits and fall-backs.
Some other players on my list for left-handed defensemen were Michael Del Zotto, Joe Morrow, Fredrik Claesson, and Luca Sbisa, but they’re all tweeners and not anyone who is a massive upgrade over a player like Rosen.
I feel like for Wideman and Petrovic that their seasons last year were so stained by the Oilers that they will have to settle for professional tryouts (PTOs) during training camp and hope they can impress enough to get a proper contract after that.
I mean, just look at their charts above that have their time in Ottawa and Florida, then look at their season with Edmonton and all the chaos surrounding it. It’s just gross.