With the first official week of the NHL offseason behind us, most teams have done the heavy lifting towards building their teams for the 2021 season. With rosters filling up and salary caps getting tight, most teams simply don’t have the ability to make many more additions. That said, there are a number of unrestricted free agents still on the market that would not only be able to make an impact next season but could come at a discount.
As cap flexibility disappears, a number of these players are going to have to take a smaller contract than would have otherwise been expected. That leaves open the door for smart teams to maximize their cap and improve their lineup.
With nearly $7m of cap space remaining, the Colorado Avalanche are one of the few teams that have any money left. If Joe Sakic allocates $3.5-4m of that to sign RFAs Tyson Jost and Devon Toews, the team could make one more depth signing if they wish to spend right up to the salary cap.
Here are some of the remaining free agents who could be of interest to the Avalanche.
The Florida Panthers Trio
Mike Hoffman, LW/RW
At this point, Hoffman is likely looking at a contract along the lines of what Tyler Toffoli got from the Montreal Canadiens. He’s probably too expensive for the Avalanche at this point, but if Sakic wants to bring in some more scoring, Hoffman would be the best option. After trading for a better option in Brandon Saad, Hoffman isn’t exactly what the Avalanche need right now. Add to that the talk that he’s never the most popular teammate in the room and Hoffman seems like a player that the Avalanche were smart not to spend their money on
Evgenii Dadonov, RW
Like Hoffman, Dadonov is likely looking for a contract that is too rich for the Avalanche. That said, the Toffoli deal has shown that these type of players are going to need to adjust their expectations. Dadonov has scored 28 goals in back to back seasons with the Panthers, putting up 65 and 70 points each time. He is one of the league’s most underrated sharpshooters. A short-term deal feels like the most logical outcome for the 30-year old so maybe the Avalanche could talk him into taking a discount for the chance to win a Stanley Cup.
Erik Haula, C/LW
Haula is likely to sign a cheap, short term contract and that’s exactly what the Avs would be looking for. He is a quick, defensively responsible center that would fit perfectly onto Colorado’s 3rd line. He has a reputation of being a great teammate and would fill one of the few roles where the Avs could use an upgrade. A one or two year deal near $2m is right about where Haula is expected to sign - something that would be a great way for Sakic to spend his remaining cap space.
Carl Soderberg, C
Bringing back a familiar face to fill out the bottom-6ix might be something the Avalanche look at. After being traded to the Arizona Coyotes last season, Big Ol’ Carl might be looking to return to Denver in the hopes of winning a cup with his old teammates. A big body who can play 10-12 minutes a night and kill penalties, Soderberg would be able to fit right back into the Avs lineup. He’d have to take a big pay cut from the $4.75m he made last year but that’s going to be the case wherever he signs.
One Year “Show Me”
Alex Galchenyuk, C
Injuries and inconsistencies saw Galchenyuk struggle last season - and for most of his career. The raw skill is there and in the right situation, he could have a big impact. Once a 50 point player, Galchenyuk is going to need to take a short term - and cheap - contract in an attempt to rehabilitate his career. He could follow the lead of his former junior teammate and roommate Nail Yakupov and do it with the Avalanche.
Conor Sheary, LW/RW
After a couple of down seasons in Buffalo, Sheary will be looking for a short term contract in an attempt to re-establish his value. A small, speedy winger, Sheary would be a decent option to fill the hole created by the departure of Matt Nieto. He is a cup winner that could bring a level of depth that would be greatly beneficial when injuries inevitably occur.
Sami Vatanen, D
His long injury history is likely why he’s still available. He could take a one year deal to prove to the league that he’s healthy before jumping to a long-term deal next offseason. If healthy, the smooth-skating rearguard could serve as a replacement for Ian Cole while making an already great blue line even better.
Joe Thornton, C
Well past his prime, the future Hall of Famer looks to be ready to move on from the San Jose Sharks in an attempt to win a Stanley Cup. He could be a decent fit for the Avalanche in the bottom-6 and being a playmaker on the powerplay. He would also bring a veteran presence that could help lead an Avs team that is still very young. Signing Thornton to a Jason Spezza-like league minimum deal would be a low risk move that could be worth taking.
Zdeno Chara, D
The leader of the Boston Bruins Stanley Cup teams, it seems as though both Chara and the Bruins are set to move on. Like Thornton, Chara is well past his prime but on a cheap contract, he would be a decent fit as a depth option on a blue line that is set to be pretty young next season. Having Chara and Ian Cole cycle in as the team’s 6th defender might be an option to maximize performance in what is set to be a condensed season.
Corey Perry, RW
One thing that the Avalanche could stand to improve is being harder to play against. That’s what Corey Perry brings to the table. The one time Hart Trophy winner is at the point in his career where he is searching for another Cup and willing to being a veteran presence to a lineup without demanding big minutes. The Avs saw up close how impactful he can be in the playoffs as he was a key part of the second round loss to the Dallas Stars.