The 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs showcased one of the best times to be a Colorado Avalanche fan over the past decade. After a shaky campaign that saw the Avs clinch the playoffs as the second Wild Card team in the Western Conference with a 38-30-14 record, the Avalanche took the league by storm, easily handling the top-seeded Calgary Flames on their way to a 4-1 series victory. The Avalanche would follow this series up with a competitive 7 game series against the San Jose Sharks, which saw them fall short of the Western Conference Finals by one game.
Despite the loss, Avalanche faithful had a lot to look forward to with their team. The 2019 NCAA Hobey Baker Award winner, Cale Makar, joined the squad during the playoffs, posting a goal and six points in 10 games, as well as the Avs owning Ottawa Senators 2019 1st round pick, which was a guaranteed top-4 pick, while still owning their own 1st rounder. The Avalanche had a very successful draft, selecting another potential superstar defenseman Bowen Byram 4th overall, and Center Alex Newhook 16th overall - who would go on to win the NCAA rookie of the year. These picks in addition to the Avs playoff run, propelled the Avalanche from a fringe playoff team, into potential Stanley Cup contenders, and it was now time for General Manager Joe Sakic to bolster the team via trades and free agency.
Key Additions and Departures
- Nazem Kadri (F) (Acquired from TOR)
- Andre Burakovsky (F) (Acquired from WSH)
- Joonas Donskoi (F) (Signed)
- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (F) (Signed)
- Valeri Nichushkin (F) (Signed)
- Kevin Connauton (D) (Acquired from ARI)
- Calle Rosen (D) (Acquired from TOR)
- Tyson Barrie (D) (Traded to TOR)
- Semyon Varlamov (G) (Signed with NYI)
- Alexander Kerfoot (F) (Traded to TOR)
- Carl Soderberg (F) (Traded to ARI)
- Derick Brassard (F) (Signed with NYI)
- Sven Andrighetto (F) (Signed in KHL)
- Gabriel Bourque (F) (Signed with WPG)
Calle Rosen is a 26 year-old left-handed Defenseman from Växjö, Sweden. Acquired in the Tyson Barrie trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs on July 1st, 2019, Rosen was nothing more than a depth Defenseman for the Avalanche. In 8 games with the Avs, He posted 0 goals and 2 assists for 2 points, and 4 penalty minutes. Rosen’s tenure with the Avs was short, as he was shipped back to the Leafs at the 2020 Trade Deadline, in exchange for Goaltender Michael Hutchinson.
Kevin Connauton is a 30 year-old left-handed defenseman from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Connauton was acquired in a trade that sent Carl Soderberg to the Arizona Coyotes on June 25th, 2019. Like Rosen, Connauton was nothing more than a depth defenseman for the Avs. In 4 games with the team this season, he tallied 0 points, and a -2 rating. Connauton primarily serves as an AHL defenseman, and with guys like Bowen Byram and Conor Timmins coming up to the Avalanche as soon as next season, he will likely remain an AHL defenseman for his entire tenure. However, unlike Rosen, (who has 20 games of NHL experience), Connauton provides a good veteran presence for the young players of the Avs AHL affiliate, the Colorado Eagles, as he has 314 games of NHL experience.
Valeri Nichushkin is a 25 year-old left-handed winger from Chelyabinsk, Russia. This past season was a very important one for his career as an NHL player. A former 10th overall pick of the Dallas Stars in the 2013 NHL Draft, Nichushkin had a disappointing tenure in Dallas. After a solid rookie season that saw him notch 14 goals and 20 assists for 34 points, Val was unable to expand on his successful rookie season. He would play in only 8 games his sophomore season, and notch 9 goals and 20 assists on the final year of his entry level contract. After his ELC expired, he would flee to the KHL for two seasons, before returning to Dallas for one more season, where he scored 0 goals and 10 points in 57 games. The Avalanche would sign Nichushkin to a one-year, $850,000 deal on August 19th, 2019. This would be a “prove-it” deal for the big young winger, and it’s safe to say that he proved himself as a capable NHL player. Val redefined his game to stick with the Avs, and he notched 13 goals and 14 assists for 27 points in 65 games, while posting a +26 rating and being one of the teams top defensive forwards. Nichushkin will be an RFA this coming off-season, and hopefully he can return to the Avs as a solid bottom-six forward with a nice little pay raise.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare is a 35 year-old left-handed center, from Le Blanc-Mesnil, France. Entering his 6th season in the NHL, Bellemare was formerly a member of the Philadelphia Flyers, before being taking by the Vegas Golden Knights in their expansion draft in June 2017. The Avalanche signed him to a two-year, $1.8 million contract on July 1st, 2019, giving the Avalanche a solidified bottom-six center. Belly was the oldest member of a young Avs team this past season, and part of his role was to be a veteran that the younger guys can look up to, as well as providing playoff experience, most notably a Stanley Cup Finals appearance with Vegas in the 2018 postseason. In 69 games this season, he had a career year for his standards, setting a career high in goals, assists, and points, tallying 9 goals, and 13 assists for 22 points, while also being a penalty killer for the squad. Bellemare will enter the second season of his two-year deal next season, where he will likely take on the exact same role as he did this season.
Joonas Donskoi is a 28 year-old right-handed winger, from Raahe, Finland. Donskoi, (who had spent his entire four year NHL career with the San Jose Sharks), signed a four-year, $15.6 million contract worth an annual cap hit of $3.9 million. Donskoi was brought in to serve as the right winger on a revamped 2nd line. He would break his career high for goals scored in a season with 16, while also adding 17 assists for 33 points in 65 games. He also tends to score some very clutch playoff goals, and will be a great piece for the Avs upcoming playoff run. With this he is forgiven for scoring the game winning goal against the Avalanche in Game 7 for the Sharks last playoffs.
Andre Burakovsky is a 25 year-old left-handed winger, from Klagenfurt, Austria. Burakovsky was acquired from the Washington Capitals On June 28th, 2019 in exchange for, Scott Kosmachuk, a 2020 2nd round pick, and a 2020 3rd round pick they received from the Arizona Coyotes in the Carl Soderberg trade. Sakic would sign Burakovsky to a one-year, $3.25 million deal on July 15th, 2019, and locked up the final piece of the new second line. Burky had a few disappointing seasons in the nations capitol production wise. Despite winning the Stanley Cup with the Caps in 2018, he failed to live up to the hype in Washington. However, he would prove all the doubters wrong in a new system in Colorado, eclipsing his career highs in goals, assists, and points, putting up 20 goals, 25 assists, for 45 points in 58 games. While injuries decimated the Avs roster all season, when he was healthy in the absence of Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog, he shined alongside Nathan MacKinnon, and created great chemistry with the superstar center. Burakovsky was arguably the best new acquisition for the Avs this season, and it would be huge to the Avs to bring him back on a bridge deal.
Nazem Kadri is a 29 year-old left-handed center, from London, Ontario, Canada. Kadri was the Avs centerpiece in the Kadri-Barrie trade, as the Avs were looking for a solidified 2nd line center to bulster the forward depth. Having spent his first nine seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, he became known around the league as a pest on the ice, who also possessed a lot of skill and grit. The grit he provided was a huge selling point for Colorado, as the roster didn’t possess much of it before his arrival. He formed a great 2nd line in his first season in Colorado, primarily centering Andre Burakovsky, and Joonas Donskoi, as well as playing on the powerplay. Naz tallied 19 goals and 17 assists for 36 points, and also posted a career high in penalty minutes, with 97 in 51 games. Despite dealing with a few injuries this season, (something nearly the entire roster dealt with all season), Kadri gave the Avs everything he had to offer every time he stepped out on the ice. Putting his body on the line every time he played the puck, as well as putting his face on the line in a few fights, he brought a great energy to the team.
It’s safe to say that Super Joe had a very successful off-season last summer. Every move Sakic made last summer he struck gold on. For the guys who were brought in on multi-year deals, they will hopefully be great for the team in the Stanley Cup window which is wide open. As for the guys on one year deals, Sakic hopefully has some more magic in his wand to keep them around. These moves and the future moves that have yet to be seen have set the Avalanche up to be a Stanley Cup contender for years to come.