One of the first things fans look at as soon as the season comes to a close is what the next year’s lineup will look like in training camp. Speculation turns to who goes, who stays and who might be acquired for upgrades. Proper speculation is grounded in reality so in this series we’re going to examine who is definitely in as the coming weeks go by.
The important dates over the next few months:
Rights expire for CHL/Euros – June 1st (N/A for Avs)
NHL Entry Draft – June 22-23 (New guys perhaps, lots of trades)
RFA Qualifying Offers due – June 25th
Free Agent Tampering Period – June 25-30
Development Camp – Somewhere in here, invitees will be there looking for invites to rookie & main camp
Free Agent Signing Period Begins – July 1st
Rights Expire for NCAA Draftees – August 15th
Early September – Rookie Camp leading into Main Camp
Anytime – Amateur Free Agent signings, including Avs signing their own fellows
Depth Chart as of right now:
* – UFA Signing
RFA rights held
The tale of the tape right now is that they have 33 players signed to NHL contracts – 19 Forwards, 12 Defensemen and a pair of goalies. I’m going to largely ignore AHL contracted players but there will be several of those and some will play an organizational role. Here is what’s going on by position.
There are 19 guys, a great majority are left-handed which isn’t helped with the possible losses of Blake Comeau and Reid Petryk at right wing. Left-shooting right wings aren’t a problem and the Avs do have a few RH centers with Mack, Compher and Beaudin but RW and right-shooting forwards in general is an area the org needs to look at with the 5 or 6 forwards they have left to sign before next year. Alex Belzile and Shawn St-Amant are rightys that were on AHL deals last year who could help balance that out for the Eagles at least. The Avs definitely need help at RW and how that is addressed should be interesting. Right now there are 9 forwards that spent the whole year with the Avs so where the other 3 plus extras come from is a big point of speculation. They could get by with what’s on the list now but that’s not going to happen.
Needs as of now:
NHL starters – 3
Total signings – 5+
With Mark Barberio signing there are 5 returning D’s signed and ready to go. Given that Patrik Nemeth is an RFA and was 3rd in TOI/game it looks like 6 spots are filled. After that it gets murky. Mark Alt was just signed to a 2-year deal with a handsome AHL salary component so he joins David Warsofsky as the veteran tweeners. There are 4 prospects, Meloche, Boikov, Timmins, Anderson, that need the opportunity for time from day 1 with the Eagles although traditionally we see vet-prospect pairs there which leaves someone in the press box or in the ECHL.
The major questions here are whether the Avs are ready to move on from Tyson Barrie with 2 years left on his contract and who of the remaining RFAs gets qualified. The Barrie thing is an issue unto itself and would require some fairly broad changes. Out of the RFAs besides Nemeth, only Duncan Siemens played games in the NHL last year. Geertsen had a fine year and is the only one of the 4 that’s on an expiring ELC. Graves was the return from Chris Bigras and besides being tall showed little at the AHL level. Jesse Graham was productive for the Rampage but doesn’t have NHL upside. With the 12 D’s currently signed plus Nemeth, there’s only room for 2 more on NHL contracts.
Needs as of now:
NHL starters – 1
Total signings – 4
Semyon Varlamov is the only goalie signed that played in the NHL last year and finding a backup is a tricky proposition. Pavel Francouz was a cunning pickup but even he admits it’s going to take some time in the AHL to shift his game to fit North American rink size. He’s on a one-year contract so the plan has to be to get him NHL starts by some point. The qualifications for backup seem to be something like can win games for you but won’t get all mopey if sent to the AHL. Either that or someone that’s tradeable if Francouz can handle the duty but the Avs never make moves predicated on trading later so that’s out. Like I said, it’s tricky.
Spencer Martin’s ELC expires this summer and while he hasn’t made an open-and-shut case for a new contract he’s been good enough in my eyes to get another year. He’s had terrible teams in front of him all three of his pro seasons and while it’s unclear if the Avs AHL affiliate will be any different than they have for the last decade at least on paper they seem to be more promising. He would start the season as the nominal #4 and backup/tandem with the Eagles. That leaves a #5 for the as yet unnamed ECHL affiliate which could be anything from another vet like Joe Cannata to a drafted European youngster. Lots of work to be done here.
Needs as of now:
NHL Backup, AHL Backup, ECHL Starter, might consider an NHL #3 stashed elsewhere
It’s actually been a pretty active offseason for the Avs so far. Usually, this is when they have their organizational meetings and make plans to go from there. Taking out Conor Timmins and Ty Lewis, who were signed in the Fall, the Avs have signed 4 others to Entry-Level Contracts – Barron, Anderson, Shvyrev, and Dickinson. Two Unrestricted Free Agents have been signed, Alt and Barberio, which is a pretty new thing for the org. Pavel Francouz was signed away from the KHL as a 28 year old, also something that’s out of the ordinary.
Instead of a Summer trying to figure who to trade away or buy out we’re looking at ways to upgrade the team and make the fairly solid group we saw this season better. Instead of ameliorating mistakes we’re looking at building on success. Looking back at where we were a year ago and what we had just experienced, it’s pretty incredible really.
Look for updates in this series over the summer as changes occur.