Rookie camp starts later this week! That means Colorado Avalanche hockey is just around the corner and the MHH is ready for it.
Joe Sakic was a busy man this offseason reshaping an already strong team. What were your three favorite moves among the four trades, eight draft selections, 17 contract signings or any other business conducted by the front office this summer?
Luke: 1) Tyson Barrie trade: A solid trade for both parties. Getting a player in Kadri, with 3 years left on a good contract, in return is aces by Joe and his staff. Rosen I feel will be a good contributor as well, not sure what he will fully bring but a solid player nonetheless. 2) Girard extension: Getting a head of the curve with sign players isn't something Joe has really done, but locking up Sam till hes 29 is another ace move by the organization. 3) Bellemare: You needed a 4C. You got one. Knowing that, that will be his spot and what his job will be. I like the move to sure up a weakness of the team last year. It's a big upgrade over Dries and having Bourque on that line. The fourth line now can be used as a fourth line and not the 5 minutes per night it has been for the past few seasons.
Tom: Can the Nazem Kadri acquisition be my answer for all three?
Avalanche fans are in for a treat when they see Naz play in burgundy and blue for the first time. For all his faults, Kadri is a very well rounded player that brings a legitimate second line center to the lineup while playing a brand of hockey that is very fun to watch.
After that I’ll go with the Donskoi signing - he’s going to fit into the Avs offsense perfectly - as well as the Alex Newhook selection at 16th overall.
Chris: When I saw the headline that Sam Girard inked a new extension I got the giddy fan face. I think Joe had the same mindset with this deal like he did with Nathan MacKinnon. I’m nowhere near saying Girard is in the same stature as Mack, but having the vision to sign a guy before he really hits his prime at a killer price just like they did with the bargain deal they gave MacKinnon was a great move. We’ve only seen the beginning of what Girard has to offer the Avs so it’s a great deal all around.
Picking Byram at #4 solidified this team as a force for the foreseeable future. I think even if the Avs were picking at #3 Byram would have been their pick and you could even argue if they were #2 they might have taken him as well. It wasn’t very long ago we were talking about how suspect the Avs defense was, but now those conversations seem like they have come to a grinding halt with the addition of Bowen Byram.
Last, I’ll go with a subtraction. Granted he was a free-agent, but not bringing back Semyon Varlamov I don’t think made many Avs fan shed any tears. I appreciate what he did for the franchise for the eight years he was in Colorado but, like any sport, this is a what have you done for me lately league and what he has (or hasn’t) done lately didn’t earn him a new contract. It was time to move on.
Jackie: We all seem mostly in agreement that the best moves were a) drafting Bowen Byram and making the defense a strength for the foreseeable future. Then b) executing the long anticipated Tyson Barrie trade while they were still able to get assets to help now in return. Finally c) locking up Sam Girard long term one year before his ELC expires. It was a smart bet on an important piece of the defense but also critical to gain some cost certainty for the future. All three moves will help position the Avalanche well in the future as they build toward contention.
Hardev: Nazem Kadri, Andre Burakovsky, and Joonas Donskoi. Kadri is so so so damn good. He’s talented, aggressive, and he’s a possession monster. One thing he needs is a linemate or two that he can work off and build some chemistry with. I think the Avalanche gave him that this summer with the acquisitions of Burakovsky and Donskoi among others. I’ve spoken about Burakovsky before — he’s good in his own zone and is just waiting to break out offensively in a bigger role. I think Donskoi was one of the most underrated signings of the summer. No one is talking about him as a signing that cost less than four million over four years. He has a history of making the absolute most out of the icetime he’s given. Those 37 points of his last season were all from the fourth line.
The one massive item remaining on the to-do-list however is Mikko Rantanen’s contract. (let’s jinx them into getting it done this week!) Final prediction time, when does Rantanen sign and for how much? Is there any time frame when you officially start to get worried?
Jackie: As a European more time is needed to get a US work Visa and travel to North America so I really would like to see Rantanen sign before main camp begins. My official prediction is that Rantanen signs for $9M over 6 years but have a hunch that the Avalanche can get a longer deal and a hair under nine.
Luke: I fully believe it gets done before the veterans have to report. I'm also optimist the deal is announced right before the rookie showcase, so Sakic doesn't have to deal with the 20 questions on why it's not done. Contract prediction: 7 years at 9.2m
Tom: On Twitter I gave the same prediction Jackie has above, so for the sake of variety, I’ll go with six years, and an AAV of $9.6m.
Chris: What everyone above me said. Everyone seems to think he will get something in the $9-10 million range and I’m no different. The difference seems to be the number of years and I would like to believe the Avs will attempt to max this as well. Make it simple. 7 years $10 million per. Hoist the cup.
Hardev: Well, considering Rantanen is better than Marner and more valuable, I’d say he’s going to make around $14 million on a three-year bridge. That seems reasonable, right?
Who or what will be the biggest surprise in camp?
Luke: I think how close some of our prospects are to the NHL. I believe Timmins, Kaut and Bowers are going to make it tough for the coaching staff to send them down. But I also believe that if they perform well, all 3 by the trade deadline will have seen or be NHL regulars on the Avs. I also think the Calle Rosen will impress people at camp and remind people of the "forgotten" piece of the Barrie deal and how good Rosen is.
Tom: Luke stole my thunder, it’s going to be Calle Rosen. An afterthought in the Tyson Barrie trade, Rosen is going to prove that he was more than a throw in and give the Avs coaching staff every reason to put him in the opening night lineup - despite being waiver exempt.
Chris: I think how ready the youth movement will be. The team overall is very young but we are finally going to see some of these guys from previous drafts (Timmins, Kaut) and trades (Rosen, Bowers) finally get their opportunity and I think most will impress. There is no guarantee on who makes the team with all the young talent but they will make the decision for the coaching staff a tough one.
Jackie: I’m going with a prospect that many don't consider a strong contender to make the roster even if there are injuries but I believe everyone will be surprised at how high the organization is on Logan O’Connor once preseason has concluded.
Hardev: “Luke stole my thunder” YOU ALL STOLE MY THUNDER. Anyway, Calle Rosen.
What question would you like to see answered during training camp?
Jackie: With new weapons at head coach Jared Bednar’s disposal I’d like to see any signs of more offensive creativity and in particular on the power play. I also hope to see a formidable second line that finds some chemistry early on. There are a lot of new faces on this team and getting everyone on the same page early will be key to having a good start to the season.
Luke: Seeing how the defense shakes out and who's healthy and who's not will be the main thing I keep an eye on. They have a lot of bodies to find homes for and a few will have to pass waivers. Will there be trades made to free up space? Will be lose someone on waivers? Is EJ healthy? Timmins healthy enough to play games? It's going to be fascinating to watch it unfold.
Tom: Will Bednar play the big-3 together or not? We all know how good MacKinnon, Rantanen and Landeskog are together, but at times last season Mikko was able to drive a second line on his own. Will the coaches load up the top line or will be see someone like Donskoi or Burakovsky get time on MacKinnon’s wing?
Chris: I would combine Tom and Luke’s responses. There is so much talent from top to bottom on this roster it will be its own reality show as to who goes where, who matches up with who and who doesn’t make the cut.
Hardev: Do we have a capable backup goalie?