Between the highs of the Entry Draft and the lows of Free Agent frenzy there’s one day that can shape a team’s immediate picture more than either. Today at 5pm ET is the deadline for restricted free agent qualifying offers, if none is made then that player becomes unrestricted on July 1st. A qualifying offer is generally the same as the expiring contract, for one year only, with some escalators for players making less than a million at the NHL level. The player can sign it, in which case it becomes a binding contract, hold out for better/different terms or if eligible opt for arbitration.
The Avs have a whopping 15 RFAs looking for new deals at various levels of the organization, 10 of them are arbitration eligible. A 16th, Scott Kosmachuk, didn’t reach a certain number of NHL games so he becomes an unrestricted free agent (group VI) automatically. In general the Avs like to keep system guys around but a larger than usual development camp roster might indicate they would welcome some more turnover. Let’s break it down by level:
NHL Only Players
Mikko Rantanen – This is the most important of the RFA deals by far. He’s put up 171 points in 155 games over the past 2 years for the low low price of $894k per season. His qualifying offer is $874k, one-way, and I don’t think that’s going to get it done. He is not eligible for arbitration which limits the options to sign or hold out. From all reports the dialogue has been progressing and a deal will be signed by the time it needs to be. Let’s hope so.
Alexander Kerfoot – This is also an important one to get done and I think that Kerf will be looking for a little term. His qualifying offer will be the same as Mikko’s, $874k, but two-way. He is eligible for arbitration and I assume he will file, which isn’t a bad thing. It just sets a deadline for everyone to get business done.
JT Compher – Will get the same QO as Kerf and also has arbitration rights. More than likely he will file, with less leverage than Kerf I think he will have more urgency to sign but you never know. Not looking for any issues here either.
Sven Andrighetto – Here we have a different situation. Andrighetto has been linked to the KHL several times and it’s fair to say his time with the Avs could be coming to a close. His QO is $1.55M and misses the one-way cutoff by just 9 games so it only needs to be a two-way deal. He is arbitration eligible. One option the Avs have is to qualify him and off he goes to Europe while they retain his rights. This rarely happens but if both parties are interested why not. That said, he probably won’t receive a QO.
Nikita Zadorov – This could get interesting. Difficulties with his former agent caused a bit of a problem two years ago with his last contract negotiation. His QO is $2.2M, one-way, and he’s eligible for arbitration but looking for a longer-term deal at a higher number. Out of all these fellows this one has the best chance to actually make it to a hearing.
yay – 4, iffy – 1, nay – 0
Sheldon Dries – Played slightly less than half the season in the NHL but did not end up there. His QO is $874k, two-way, and he’s arb-eligible. The Avs could use him as an internal AHL vet next year but I think his NHL time is done with the org and he honestly wasn’t very good in Loveland. I would pass here but the player personnel dept might feel otherwise. He does have 20 more games of waiver exemption so there’s that.
Vlad Kamenev – Two years in the org and two devastating injuries haven’t allowed him to show what he’s got at the NHL level and I’d really like to know. His QO is the same as Dries at $874k, two-way, but he’s not eligible for arbitration. I think that Sakic and the rest of the org want to know what he’s got and a one year show-me contract would work well for both sides.
AJ Greer – A $708k two way qualifying offer for a guy that was close but not close enough last season. He’s out of waiver exemption so unless they make a bit of a bet on him like a two-year contract then other clubs could be tempted to take him on waivers if he’s not full-time NHL. He does not have arb rights so if they can’t get together on a deal there’s nothing to force it. This should be a no-brainer but I see a small possibility of letting him walk.
Dominic Toninato – Only played in 2 NHL games last year after 37 in his rookie campaign. Not a great sign but he did show much improved offense at the AHL level. His QO is the standard $874k two-way deal and he has arb rights. He also has 21 games left in his waiver exemption so that’s a plus. If both sides are comfortable with him in a system role then this is easy but if not then I can see the Avs not tendering a qualifying offer.
Ryan Graves – Graves ended up the best of the rest last season when Alt and Lindholm were ineffective in the NHL and Mark Barberio’s injury issues kept him out of the lineup permanently. He showed well as a 7th defenseman and the spot is his again for the taking as it stands now. His QO is $715k and two-way with arb rights. I think the Avs are willing to sweeten that a bit and this should get done quick.
Anton Lindholm – Went from 48 games in 17-18 to just 2 last year and again that’s not a great sign. QO is $715k and two-way with arb rights. I would prefer they not qualify him and would be surprised if they did.
yay – 3, iffy – 2, nay – 1
Mason Geertsen – Spent his 4th pro year in the Avs org this season. He’s a good leader and for my money was consistently the 2nd best defensive defenseman on the Eagles last year. As a system player or AHL vet you could hardly do better so there’s value in having him mentor young guys and play a solid role. The key for the Avs staff is looking at he and Mark Alt and saying that’s plenty, let’s fill the rest of the D with young players to be mentored. I think if he wants to stay then the Avs will give him a QO, which stands at $715k/two-way with arb rights.
Sergei Boikov – Came off missing an entire season with double shoulder surgeries and just wasn’t the same. He’s been linked to KHL rumors for a while so I don’t think he’s sticking around. QO is $715k/two-way with no arb rights but I don’t see the Avs making an offer.
Julien Nantel – Was part of both Kelly Cups with the ECHL Eagles but hasn’t found a way to stick at the AHL level over his 3-year ELC. This season he had 4 points in 45 games and no matter how much you love his game, that’s just not enough. QO is $715k/2-way with no arbitration and I’d be very surprised if he gets one.
Spencer Martin – Got a show-me contract last summer and after a poor autumn turned his season around in December. Played 3 games for the worst NHL hockey team ever in 2016-17 but hasn’t gotten a look since, although he spent a lot of time on the bench in 17-18. Until I see a better option then there’s no reason to move on but that may be coming next Monday. His QO is $715k/two-way with arb rights. It’s more likely than not he goes unqualified.
yay – 0, iffy – 2, nay – 2
By the power of total guesswork that makes 7 players looking good to stick around, 5 with various degrees of doubt and 3 that we’ll probably be saying our goodbyes to. That sets the Avs up fairly well for unrestricted free agent frenzy. Most of their shopping list will be depth/system guys, which will allow them the latitude to skew a bit younger in the minors if they want to.
There will be a lot of angst about signing Mikko Rantanen until it actually gets done. The mainstream hockey media will put out articles about offer sheets that will never happen and fans will become anxious. I’m not worried about it. They can’t mess around like what the rumors are about Carolina offering no more than $6M/yr for his buddy Sebastian Aho but by all accounts Mikko knows he’s got a good thing going in Colorado and the Avs feel the same way. I think it will end up being shorter term than we’d all like and expensive but worth it. My main worry is that it drags on a bit and he misses some captain’s practice time or even a little bit of camp in September.
The only others that will take real negotiating are Kerfoot, Compher and Zadorov. Kerf has the most leverage of the three, from what I’ve heard he loves it in Colorado and might want a long term contract if there’s a way to make that happen. He’s chronically underrated by lots of folks and if management is comfortable with term I’d pounce on the chance. Compher is more of a question mark and I can’t see anything more than 2 years satisfying either side. Zadorov is going to be very interesting and the most contentious of this group. I don’t think he and the team are very close on a contract and this might actually end up in front of an arbitrator.
The rest are going to be using whatever leverage they can to bump up the AHL salary component. In AJ Greer’s case if the Avs are serious about keeping him around but aren’t all that sure he’ll make the NHL then they need to craft a deal that would be a deterrent to another club claiming him on waivers. A second year or one-way salary could do that, what he ends up with will be an indicator of how they feel about him right now. Ryan Graves is a candidate for more than a show-me contract but that might depend heavily on how the player personnel department projects the d-corps in the next couple of seasons.
Thanks especially to this year’s draft there’s depth in the organization we’ve really never seen. The worry about keeping underperforming RFAs for lack of options isn’t there like it has been and that’s a great feeling. If you’re an Avalanche or Eagles fan there are plenty of interesting and exciting players to follow. I dredged up a rookie camp roster from 2014 yesterday and the contrast between then and now is drastic.
— AJ Haefele (@AJHaefele) June 24, 2019
There’s still plenty of work to be done but at least we aren’t choosing the lesser of many evils like 5 years ago.