The Colorado Avalanche had a somewhat busy offseason. But did they do enough to bolster their roster to stay competitive?
The Colorado Avalanche made some prudent moves in free agency and via trades. They didn’t make a big splash in free agency, as was hoped. However, they didn’t make any mistakes, and they didn’t stand pat.
Going into the offseason, the Avalanche had some issues they needed to address:
Second line construction
Size and experience
So, let’s look at those four issues and what, if anything, the team did to address them.
The top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog did the lion’s share of scoring last season, with a side of Tyson Barrie. Obviously, that’s not a sustainable model, and the Avs looked to address it in the offseason.
They went after a big-name scorer, Aretemi Panarin. However, he ultimately signed with the New York Rangers. So, since the Avs couldn’t get a big name, they settled on a couple smaller names.
One was free agency pick up Joonas Donskoi. He’d spent his entire NHL career with the Sharks up to that time and put up respectable numbers as a third-liner. His 37 points (14 goals, 23 assists) are better than either Matt Calvert (26) or Matthew Nieto (23) put up on the top line last season.
Colorado also traded a couple draft picks for Andre Burakovsky, the quintessential reclamation project who recorded 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists) on the Washington Capitals’ third line last year. Ostensibly, he should do better if given second line minutes.
Which brings us to the second point.
Second Line Construction
Last year, the second line was a revolving door of whomever was in or out of Jared Bednar’s doghouse with the occasional appearance from the captain to spread out the scoring. That approach didn’t lead to a ton of success.
This season, Colorado looks to have better options for the second line. As noted, Burakovsky is meant to play wing on that line. (According to his Instagram, he just arrived in Denver.)
The lynchpin of the second line is meant to be center Nazem Kadri. The Colorado Avalanche made a big trade on July 1st to bring him here. Unfortunately, we had to give up a couple of our main secondary scorers — Alexander Kerfoot (42 points) and, more daunting, Tyson Barrie (59 points).
Kadri scored 44 points (16 goals, 28 assists) on the third line in Toronto last season. The hope is that he can get back up to the 50- to 60-point range with second-line minutes.
The Colorado Avalanche promoted Philipp Grubauer to the permanent starting goalie by letting Semyon Varlamov walk in free agency. They then signed rookie Pavel Francouz to a one-year deal, ostensibly to be Grubauer’s backup.
After that, they have just one other goalie — Adam Werner, the 22-year-old rookie on his entry-level contract. Then… nothing.
It’s worrisome. They need more goalies just to populate both the NHL and AHL teams. And, while I really want to give Francouz his shot, Grubauer is also a rookie of sorts — he’s only ever been a backup. This is his “rookie year” as a starter.
I’d feel a lot more comfortable if they had another NHL-seasoned goalie in their pocket. Unfortunately, only three of those guys are really available — Scott Darling, Michal Neuvirth, and Chad Johnson.
I’m going to guess they pick up someone on a paid tryout or quickly sign another AHL option. They do have one of their own goalie draftees, Trent Miner, appearing in the Rookie Faceoff, but he was just drafted this season.
Size and Experience
The Colorado Avalanche have been running the last couple years as a small, young team. Well, they got a taste of making a run in the playoffs, and they realized they needed a little more size and experience to add to the mix.
Kadri and Burakovsky do address that need somewhat. Kadri is a sturdy 6-foot, 192 pounds, but what he brings most is extensive NHL experience. He has 561 regular season and 19 playoff games of experience. The second line was lacking that kind of experience last season.
Burakovsky also brings regular season NHL experience in the form of 328 games. However, he shines in the playoffs department — 56 games, including a Stanley Cup win. Additionally, he brings the size — 6-foot-3, 201 pounds.
Donskoi isn’t big. But he does have 283 regular season and 50 playoff games worth of experience.
Note, all three of those players are under 30 (28, 24, and 27 respectively.)
One player who is not under 30 is Pierre-Edouard Bellemare — he’s 34. However, he brings a similar size to Kadri and 385 regular season with 31 playoff games of experience.
One more acquisition was defenseman Kevin Connauton, whom the Avalanche traded Carl Soderberg for. He’s big — 6-foot2, 205 pounds. He’s pretty experienced, too — 310 regular season, 4 playoff games. That’s not stellar, though, for a 29-year-old.
Additions and Subtractions
So, let’s look at everyone the Colorado Avalanche acquired in the offseason, not counting entry-level signings:
Nazem Kadri (trade)
Joonas Donskoi (free agency)
Andre Burakovsky (trade)
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (free agency)
Valeri Nichushkin (free agency)
Kevin Connauton (trade)
Calle Rosen (trade)
I didn’t talk about Nichushkin or Rosen because I don’t expect either one to make the team regularly. So, their impact will be minimal.
Now, let’s see whom the Avs lost in the offseason:
Tyson Barrie (trade)
Carl Soderberg (trade)
Alexander Kerfoot (trade)
Sven Andrighetto (free agency)
Patrik Nemeth (free agency)
Gabriel Bourque (free agency)
Derick Brassard (free agency)
Those top three are the killers because they were numbers four, five, and six (in order) for scoring last season. And, I don’t know that we got enough in return.
NEXT: 3 Players Who Need Breakout Seasons
So, did the Colorado Avalanche do enough in the offseason to bolster their roster? On paper (or, in this case, a computer screen), it’s not evident that the team got significantly better.
However, some of the moves they made were for intangibles, while others were a gamble. So, whether this offseason was a successful one is a question we’ll have to leave for a couple months or so, once we see how the new guys are panning out.