The 2015-16 season was a very disappointing step backwards for the Colorado Avalanche, who finished up 39-39-4 and missed the playoffs by 5 points. For a team that just two years prior had won the Central division with 112 points, it’s a steep two year decline. With a trio of elite forwards in Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon, the team should never be that far removed from another excellent season. With rumors swirling around their defense corps, it should be an interesting offseason.
Key RFAs: D Tyson Barrie and MacKinnon – One of the most discussed players already this summer, Barrie has been rumored to be on the block after another excellent offensive season which saw him put up 49 points from the back end.
Barrie was a third round pick out of Kelowna in 2009 and has quietly become one of the better point producers in the league from the blueline. With 140, he ranks 11th in the NHL over the last three years in points from defensemen, ahead of players like Drew Doughty, Ryan Suter and Alex Pietrangelo. Those rankings are going to make him awfully expensive as he comes off a two-year $5.2MM deal that he signed when he was just 22.
If they do re-sign him long-term, Colorado will be committing a lot of money to two defensemen as they already have Erik Johnson signed at $6MM/year until 2022-23.
With MacKinnon, Colorado basically is going to pay whatever it takes. The former first overall pick has put up exceptional numbers from the moment he stepped into the NHL as an 18 year old, netting 153 points (59-94) in 218 games, all before his 21st birthday.
If the Avalanche can’t get him signed to a long-term deal that buys out a few free agent seasons, look for him to sign a deal similar to the one Duchene signed coming out of his entry-level contract. After putting up three seasons that look eerily similar to MacKinnon’s (150 points in 219 games), he inked a two-year $7MM deal before the 2012-13 season.
Colorado might play it the same way, as Duchene eventually re-signed for five more seasons at $6MM/year buying out a couple years of free agency along the way. Having MacKinnon and Duchene for under $15MM together in a few years would be an ideal situation for the Avs as they continue to play at an all-star level.
Key UFA: W Mikkel Boedker – GM Joe Sakic is on record as saying the trade deadline acquisition will be allowed to test free agency come July 1, but the 26-year-old Dane has not ruled out a return to the Mile High City. Despite Boedker never having reached the 20-goal plateau, it’s expected his ask will be around the $5-6MM mark.
Outlook: The Avalanche will look to improve their defence core this summer. However, Sakic will need to think twice about any defensive help, as the team must protect Johnson and 35-year-old Francois Beauchemin in the expansion draft. Tyson Barrie will also need to be protected, meaning as it is hulking prospect Nikita Zadorov will likely be exposed. Also interesting will be the Avalanche’s goalie situation, with both Semyon Varlamov and goalie-of-the-future Pickard needing to be protected.
Despite Barrie’s success and Sakic’s insistence otherwise, it’s widely believed that Barrie will be on the move soon. With many buyers and fewer sellers, the market for defensemen will certainly be interesting to watch.