As the Colorado Avalanche offseason rolls ahead to the July 13th opening of free agency, one under-the-radar yet important piece of business to conduct is the July 11th deadline for qualifying offers to get extended to Restricted Free Agents. These decisions impact not only the NHL roster but also the minor leagues as many players and prospects saw their Entry-Level Contracts end at the conclusion of the 2021-22 season.
With Artturi Lehkonen there is zero mystery if he will get a qualifying offer that would be equal to his 2021-22 season salary of $2.3M, but the question of what type of contract he receives from the Avalanche remains without an answer. Hopefully, a few years of a term can be negotiated and lock up the clutch-scoring Finn for several more years and shots at the Stanley Cup.
Newly acquired goaltender Alexandar Georgiev will receive his qualifying offer as a mere formality if he is not signed to a new contract by the deadline on the 11th. Joe Sakic indicated that both parties are excited about the trade and a deal should be done before the start of free agency.
It could go either way on Nicolas Aube-Kubel who was picked up on waivers from the Philadelphia Flyers in November and he fit in nicely in Colorado as a depth forward with some jam and scoring ability. While his $1.225M qualifying offer doesn’t seem too steep it might be more than Sakic has budgeted for his limited role in the lineup. Aube-Kubel did outscore the now-departed Tyson Jost with 22 points and 11 goals in 67 games since he became an Avalanche so perhaps there’s a way for the two parties to make it work.
In the minors, there is expected a lot of turnovers as forwards Andreas Wingerli, Nick Henry, and defenseman Keaton Middleton probably won’t be back with the organization but the option remains to extend their contracts one more year as AHL depth. Usually, the AHL veteran portion of the Colorado Eagles turns over quite frequently, however. Cal Burke was signed to his ELC just this spring so it is more likely he’s a player the organization wants to keep around despite a diminished role on the Eagles down the stretch.
Two of the largest decisions loom on the contract statuses of forwards Shane Bowers and Mikhail Maltsev who each were once considered future options for the Avalanche in the bottom six. The financial commitment isn’t the question, as with the aforementioned group of minor leaguers, as it only requires offers of less than a million dollars on a two-way deal to secure their rights for one more year. It is more about deciding if there is a future for either moving forward. Bowers, now 23 years old, never played in a single NHL game despite amassing 117 AHL games played over three seasons and was a 2017 first-round pick acquired in the Matt Duchene blockbuster. His waiver exemption has expired now and if there are no immediate plans for him at the NHL level then there’s little reason to continue the relationship especially when other veterans are preferred for the bigger roles on the Eagles.
Maltsev acquired from the New Jersey Devils last summer is in a similar situation despite only playing in the Avalanche organization for one year. His waiver exemption is also up but due to his age (24), Maltsev now has arbitration rights. Maltsev played 18 games in an Avs sweater but didn’t register a point. He was, however, an important player for the Eagles and one of their top producers. The delight of remaining in the AHL is probably not enough to bring Maltsev back as he has experience playing, and likely continuing options, with SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL but a qualifying offer could still get extended with exact plans sorted out later unless he’s already indicated his preference to stay home.