We’ve gone through the draft and free agent frenzy and it’s a safe bet that the Avs are close to being done crafting the org for next year. The count is now at 24 forwards, 16 defensemen and 5 goalies signed to NHL contracts, leaving 5 spots to use as they please.
Legend – * – new contract, blue text – 1st year pro, red text – RFA
The next bit of business is signing the RFA’s. Nemeth and Nieto are eligible to elect arbitration, which I expect them to do by the deadline of 5pm this afternoon. Arbitration hearings will then be set sometime in late July into August and that will give both sides a fairly hard date to get a deal done. Before Ian Cole was signed I think Nemeth could have gotten a multi-year contract but now I’m not so sure. Nieto might get something like his contract last year with a small raise and perhaps 2 years.
Martin, Geertsen and Graves are not eligible for arbitration and their qualifying offers will expire on July 15th. They pretty much have until then to negotiate what they can or sign the QO as is. Here are their calculated offers as per the CBA:
Martin: $787k, 2-way
Geertsen: $715k, 2-way
Graves: $715k, 2-way
Graves and Geertsen have yet to make their NHL debuts so they will be negotiating for a bump on their AHL salaries while the NHL component really doesn’t matter. Spencer Martin is in a different situation, he has played NHL games and spent time on the NHL roster last year, even at 4th on the depth chart. Despite still being in that 4th spot and in a definite show-me contract year, he will want to see a bump in AHL salary but the NHL component will come into play.
Avs 1st round pick this year Martin Kaut seems a safe bet to be the 46th NHL contract. Depending on how things go he should spend the year in Loveland with the Eagles and the contract will slide to next year, like what the Avs did with Mikko Rantanen in his rookie season. He could still play as many as 9 games with the Avs and still slide.
The remaining 4 contract spots are where it could get interesting. Several years ago the Avs ended up in a contract crunch, sitting at 49 for most of the season which limits flexibility in several ways. The goal is not to have a bunch of dead contracts for players with limited or no NHL upside and they don’t have that going this year. Still, they are at the point where the can’t just sign someone for the hell of it. Any signing has to be carefully considered.
If all goes well in Amherst this year then Cale Makar should sign his ELC when the Minutemen are done for the season sometime in March. That’s going to be one of those contract spots and management has to keep room for it whether he actually signs or not. Consider that contract #47 even if it’s virtual at this point.
The Avs will have at least 20 expiring contracts next summer and probably more like 23 or 24 so they should be comfortable entering the year with 47 signed players plus Makar. Leaving two spots open for emergencies and trade flexibility is generally the smart way to go so there’s one contract left they can use before the season if they wish. The candidates right now are:
- Brandon Saigeon – Avs 5th round pick could sign and play in the AHL this season or go back to Hamilton for his overage year.
- Vladislav Kotkov – Dev Camp invite that was looking for an NHL contract. He’s 18 so he could be signed and sent back to the QMJHL but you get the feeling he wanted to turn pro. He moved on to San Jose’s Dev Camp after Colorado’s so they are competition as far as offering the contract and playing time.
- NCAA amateur free agent – Like Kerfoot and Toninato last August there will be players looking for jobs once their draft rights expire.
- Training Camp Invite – Depending on whether this is a young player needing a fresh start or an aging vet giving it one more try, signing a camp invitee can be a smart investment or an extremely poor use of a contract spot.
- Waiver Wire pickup – One of the Avs favorites, you have to feel that it’s always on the table
The Avs roster is pretty clear now and there won’t be many spots in play during training camp. There are 7 returning defensemen from last year’s team that spent the whole season in the NHL plus Cole who is guaranteed a spot. Warsofsky and Alt are the depth vets for the AHL so that’s your top 10 going into camp. Despite the optimistic outlooks fans hear from Joe Sakic and many in the Denver media there’s little chance that Conor Timmins passes 6 guys and makes the opening night roster. I look for him to make his debut later in the season perhaps. Nic Meloche is further along and has a better shot at being an injury callup earlier in the year, I would put him at the #11 spot until Thanksgiving or so. There are plenty of things that can accelerate these two moving up like Anton Lindholm returning to Sweden or Zadorov/Nemeth having setbacks after off-season shoulder surgeries or a trade but right now the numbers are against them.
For forwards, barring any more NHL signings or trades there seems to be a spot or two open for competition. Vladislav Kamenev’s devastating forearm injury meant that last season was a throwaway basically. I fully expect him to compete for the 12th forward job in camp with a good chance of winning it. Dom Toninato is in the mix and while AJ Greer has fallen out of favor with fans he’s still a solid possibility either out of camp or more likely after some time with real coaching for a change in Loveland. If he learns the ways of a bottom 6er on the PK and defensive zone rapidly then he’s back on track. While the tragic Matt Calvert signing makes life tough for the youngsters, opportunities will still be there.
The goalie position is a total gong show all year long. Varly is playing for a contract in Colorado or elsewhere, Grubauer is the heir apparent and Francouz has an eye on next year’s NHL backup spot. Spencer Martin is also playing for a contract in Colorado or elsewhere. After a great start last season he fell to 4th on the depth chart and the Avs staff bent over backwards not to get him into a game when he was there. Safe to say the next 9 months will make or break his future.
Stay tuned, the roster is always an evolving document.