As the Colorado Avalanche head into the offseason, one very obvious weakness general manager Joe Sakic will need to address is his team’s depth in the bottom-six forward group — particularly on the fourth line.
Veterans Pierre-Edouard Bellmare, Matt Calvert and Carl Soderberg are all unrestricted free agents and it’s likely all three have played their last game in an Avalanche jersey. Soderberg has already signed to play in Sweden while Calvert is likely finished as an NHL player after battling through concussion issues over the past few years.
As a result, Sakic is going to be looking to rebuild the team’s fourth line and will likely be looking at a few veteran UFAs to fill those holes.
Here are a few players that could help the Avalanche bolster their bottom-six for next season.
Andrew Cogliano, 34, LW
Though not a splashy addition, Cogliano is the type of low maintenance forward a good team will sign to add depth to the lineup. At this point in his career, Coglinao is a defense-first winger that would help shore up the fourth line while contributing on the penalty kill.
Since being traded from the Anaheim Ducks, Cogliano has been one of the best defensive forwards in Dallas. He plays with a quickness that would appeal to the Avs and could provide the type of high-IQ defensive game great teams need.
The 34-year-old is coming off two big contracts and is the kind of cup-chasing veteran who will likely settle for a short term contract with a contender in the $1 million range.
Tyler Bozak, 35, C/RW
After years of rumors, could Bozak finally find his way back to Denver?
After three years — and a Stanley Cup — in St. Louis, Bozak will hit the open market this summer looking to add a couple years to his career. Now 35 years old, Bozak has turned himself into a defensively responsible third-line center who can take big faceoffs and kill penalties. He would fill a couple of different holes for the Avalanche.
The former Denver Pioneer would help strengthen the team’s depth down the middle and allow the Avs to either move J.T. Compher or play him in a lesser role.
Paul Stastny, 35, C/LW
A familiar face to Avalanche fans, there is a strong possibility that Stasnty could come back to finish his career in burgundy and blue. Like Bozak, he would bring a veteran presence to the 3C role, but instead of contributing to the penalty kill, Stastny would be able to help on the second power play unit.
Coach Jared Bednar would have to pair him with some defensively responsible wingers as he has been giving up a ton of scoring chances against over the last two seasons, but Stastny could provide the type of secondary scoring from the bottom six and PP2 that would take some pressure off the top line.
Casey Cizikas, 30, C
A fan favorite in Long Island, Casey Cizikas has spent the last few seasons dominating defensively at even strength while providing some of the best penalty killing in the NHL. He’s the kind of player everyone hates to play against but loves when he’s on your team. Cizikas would definitely make the Avalanche harder to play against.
A one-time 20-goal scorer, Cizikas can finish when he needs to, but physical play and defensive responsibility is his bread and butter. He has been an incredibly important part of the Barry Trotz system.
Cizikas is going to be in high demand so he might end up being a little too expensive for the Avalanche.
Darren Helm, 34, LW/C
A career Red Wing, it might be hard to picture Helm in an Avalanche jersey. Despite that, he is exactly the type of player that could help out on the fourth line. Able to play on all three forward positions, Helm has spent the last few seasons as one of the better defensive forwards on a terrible Detroit team.
He would be the perfect replacement for Calvert, as Helm provides a hard-forechecking and high-energy style of play. What makes him more valuable is that he’s able to play the “gritty” style without taking penalties. He’d be a low-maintenance veteran that can bounce around the bottom six while providing the coaches with an automatic go-to when down a man or defending a late lead.
Helm wouldn’t provide much in terms of offense, but he could bounce around on the fourth line and become the PK specialist the Avalanche desperately need.