Don’t expect any impending unrestricted free agents out of Denver to re-sign prior to next Friday. The Athletic’s Ryan Clark reports that all of the Colorado Avalanche’s current UFA’s are expected to test the market. Not all of group have been ruled out from re-signing with the club, but they will all at least take the chance to talk to other teams.
Among the group still negotiating with the Avalanche are forwards Vladislav Namestnikov and Matt Nieto. Namestnikov is coming off of a strong season, especially considering he played for three different teams. It was with Colorado that he found the most per-game success, recording four goals and six points in nine regular season games and another four goals and five points in a dozen playoff games. It makes sense that the Avs would like to bring the talented two-way forward back, but Namestnikov could command a significant salary and is likely looking for some long-term security as well. With Colorado hoping to improve their roster from the one that fell short in the postseason, they will likely let Namestnikov discover his market value before deciding what the best use of their cap space is. Nieto is a different case. The experienced role player has been a solid contributor for the Avalanche for the past four seasons, but still has not established himself as a player worthy of a high-value contract. Colorado could re-sign the bottom-six forward without much of a hit to their salary cap status, but will likely weigh their roster space and needs versus the market value of extending Nieto.
Those who will not be returning to Denver next season? Clark states that forward Colin Wilson, defensemen Kevin Connauton and Mark Barberio, and goaltender Michael Hutchinson will not be re-signed by the Avalanche. Barberio has in fact already signed in Switzerland for next season. Wilson and Connauton are both veteran, experienced NHLers, but played very limited roles for Colorado this season, combining for just nine games played. The pair should be able to find new homes where the potential for NHL ice time is higher than it was with the Avs. Hutchinson is one of the best veteran No. 3 goalies in the NHL and played well for the Avs this year when pressed into action in the regular season and postseason. However, with the talk being that Colorado could look at bringing in a third goalie to challenge Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz, combined with a couple of young pros in the system, Hutchinson appears to have lost his role. He will surely find work given the need for depth in net ahead of a condensed 2020-21 season.
With all of these players potentially moving out, the Avalanche have plenty of room to make some additions this off-season. While Clark warns that the team is keeping future extensions in mind when evaluating their salary cap flexibility, it still seems likely that Colorado could make a major splash or two this summer to improve a roster that is already very close to being a top Stanley Cup contender.