After looking at Restricted Free Agents last week in Part I now we turn to the balance of the remaining types contracts the Colorado Avalanche may execute in the coming offseason. Those include Unrestricted Free Agents, primarily AHL players on NHL contracts and early extensions for those on the NHL roster.
Section B: Unrestricted Free Agents
Many of these names likely won’t be back in an Avalanche uniform but those that are will shape next year’s roster. The grab bag of candidates are veterans with expiring deals after the conclusion of the 2019-20 season: Matt Nieto, Colin Wilson, Vladislav Namestnikov, Mark Barberio, Kevin Connauton, Michael Hutchinson.
earl: Out of Nieto, Willie, Barbs and Connauton maybe one or two come back and it won’t be Willie. This will depend on other things not yet in evidence. The interesting names are Hutch and Namestnikov. Given how the Avs botched this year’s goalie situation they might consider bringing a vet like Hutch back. Namestnikov is a guy that fits well with the club in every aspect except projected salary. There’s also the question of where he fits when everyone is healthy, which we never got to see. Given the money they’re committed to paying Compher and Donskoi already it’s tough to see yet another guy in a fairly high dollar mid-lineup role. They could make it work but it’s dependent on making another move so probably best to call it a rental and go forward without him.
Jackie: Nobody on this list should return. The Avs are entering an era where they need to watch their budget closer and craft their roster with careful purpose. Some of these veterans such as Nieto hold sentimental value because they were good role players but the organization needs to let go. Giving out extensions to veterans is where maturing teams get into trouble. Namestnikov was a nice fit but his price point is too high and he will likely have options. If he is a plan B sort of signing I wouldn’t mind him back but the Avs can’t have another off season of collecting middle six players. This is an area where the organization still needs to show they are learning.
Section C: Primarily AHL players
Interest in this group is expectedly lighter but still decisions will be made and the Avalanche have already tackled this area with a couple quick signings in TJ Tynan and Jacob MacDonald. Candidates for RFA contracts are AJ Greer, Logan O’Connor, Sheldon Dries, Hunter Miska and UFA contracts for Jayson Megna, Mark Alt, Antoine Bibeau.
Jackie: Retaining AHL UFAs usually proves difficult and perhaps the Avs already made their choice in Tynan and MacDonald with the very early (and generous) extensions. Therefore it’s probably goodbye to Alt and Megna. They should also part ways with Dries since he was already expensive after filing for arbitration last year and it’s clear he does not have favor with Jared Bednar.
It’s also clear the Avs don’t have much use for Greer and if a prospect swap was in the cards it would have happened by now (and before he hit waivers) so sadly he probably won’t even get qualified unless it’s to retain his rights as he heads to Europe. Greer has enough of a resume with some NHL experience and good production in the AHL he might even get a NHL deal and another opportunity elsewhere. Conversely, O’Connor seems to have found that niche that Greer never did and he’s an easy player to bring back as a RFA even with arbitration rights likely won’t have much trouble getting under contract.
The organizational goaltending situation is still a mess and is therefore tougher to predict. Bibeau is a Group VI UFA and removes the temptation to qualify him to keep the charade going. Miska made a solid tandem with Adam Werner and should be brought back with just a qualifying offer. Again, the Avs will need to come terms with the notion that their AHL goaltenders have to be able to make some sort of NHL contribution in a pinch or else carry a third goalie in the NHL. An older veteran type AHL/NHL backup might have to take that slot but the Avs haven’t been keen to build their goaltending depth chart as such.
earl: O’Connor is the only easy pick here. He’s demonstrated ability at the NHL level for what it’s worth. Maybe he gets a two-year deal even. I still don’t like the idea of Miska in an NHL game, nor do the Avs apparently, which is why it makes more sense to keep Hutch over him as the #3 until Werner gains the consistency needed. Greer’s off-ice issues and on-ice inconsistency make him a candidate for no qualifying offer. They half-heartedly tried to make him into a defensive forward this year and it didn’t take so he’s got no future in the org. Dries’ contract last summer was dumb and he didn’t live up to it but some faction in the Avs likes him so I wouldn’t be surprised if he sticks around.
Alt is the captain and locally popular so he’ll probably get another contract. The question with him is what would they replace him with and that’s scary so I’ll take another year thanks. Doesn’t have to be an NHL deal really. It’s up to Megna whether he returns, might not be a great choice for him. Bibeau, bye-bye.
Section D: Early extensions
Extensions for Avalanche players are possible this offseason for players such as Gabe Landeskog, Cale Makar and Philipp Grubauer will be eligible. You can throw one to Matt Calvert, Ian Cole or P-E Bellemare if you wish too as they are up after the 2020-21 season as well.
earl: Landy is the only one that makes sense here and I think it’s probably a good time for the Avs to get it done. They love to procrastinate though. Can’t imagine what it looks like at this point. If he hit UFA he would be highly sought after.
Jackie: Obviously the timing and landscape of the 2020 offseason will present more challenges and difficulties in making predictions I’m sure the Avs would love to make as few monetary commitments as possible so they may hold off on any extensions they don’t have to execute this year. Still, letting your captain begin the season as a pending unrestricted free agent is never a good look and they should work to get Landeskog squared away while they have time this summer. Perhaps a raise to somewhere in the $7 plus million neighborhood.
Makar should be someone the Avs approach but if he prefers to wait then that’s his choice. I would make an aggressive eight-year offer in the $8-9M range though. I could see the Avs have interest in bringing Matt Calvert back but it’s not something that needs done now.