- Though this week it was reported that the Colorado Avalanche had requested and been given permission to talk to Toronto Maple Leafs Assistant General Manager Kyle Dubas it seems as though a hiring is off the table. Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet was on the Boomer & Warrener radio show this morning, and said that “that window is closed” and that “it’s over”. Friedman specifies that he thinks that it was Toronto who “closed the window” not letting Dubas follow through with the process. Dubas is an up-and-coming GM candidate in Toronto, and is part of a crowded front office with Lou Lamoriello and Mark Hunter. It was surprising in the first place that Toronto would let him interview for what would likely be a lateral move, seeing as Joe Sakic seems safe for now in Colorado.
- The Colorado Avalanche made changes to their coaching staff yesterday when they announced that Francois Allaire, Dave Farrish and Tim Army would not return for 2017-18. Friedman is hearing that Finnish goalie coach Jussi Parkilla is in the mix to replace him, while Michael Russo of the Star Tribune heard yesterday that former NHL goaltender Dwayne Roloson has already interviewed for the position. Should the team bring in Parkilla, it would be a clear sign that Semyon Varlamov is the choice in net going forward for the Avs, as Friedman reports the two are close. As we discussed on Monday, exposing Calvin Pickard is one of the decisions the team has to face going into the expansion draft.
Last night during Ottawa’s miraculous 2-1 victory to force game seven with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Elliotte Freidman of Sportsnet dropped a bomb on another Ontario town. Friedman reported that the Colorado Avalanche had asked for permission to speak with Maple Leafs Assistant General Manager Kyle Dubas for a position in Denver. Friedman continued on Twitter, explaining that he’s not sure where the interaction sits now, but that it very much did happen.
Like John Chayka in Arizona, Dubas is Toronto’s whiz-kid executive who was hired by the team at the age of 28. He had been successfully running the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League since he was 24, and is considered one of the top young minds in hockey. Still just 31, his current role includes GM of the Toronto Marlies of the AHL, usually a stepping stone to the big chair in an NHL front office one day. There has been much speculation that Dubas was being groomed as the next GM of the Maple Leafs when Lou Lamoriello eventually retires, but with a successful candidate in Mark Hunter also present that has never been confirmed.
It’s not clear what Dubas’ new role would be with the Avalanche, as Joe Sakic currently sits firmly in the GM chair—though it might be getting a little warm—and it’s unlikely that the Maple Leafs would want him to move laterally to another AGM position. The Avalanche are working hard to fix their organizational structure, also firing three coaches yesterday to allow Jared Bednar to have a team of his own creation.
The Colorado Avalanche will stick with Jared Bednar as their head coach for next season, but he’ll be surrounded by a different group. Francois Allaire, Tim Army and Dave Farrish will not return for 2017-18. The Avalanche obviously wanted to shake up at least part of the staff after the complete disaster that was the past season. Bednar will now be able to be part of the hiring process to try and build a cohesive team.
Allaire had been the team’s goalie coach for four seasons, hired by the team after an explosive exit from the Maple Leafs in which he was criticized for his performance. Allaire claimed that he had been micro-managed, with his coaching being interfered with by the front office. Known for his butterfly style that created a Conn Smythe winner in Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Allaire faced criticism from Brian Burke on his exit from Toronto. Semyon Varlamov, Calvin Pickard and Giguere himself had found great success in Allaire’s first three years with the team, though the club finished second last in save percentage this season.
Farrish also spent time with the Maple Leafs, but was similarly let go while Randy Carlyle remained the head coach after a disappointing season. The former NHL defenseman has been coaching professional hockey since 1989 when he took over as head coach of the Moncton Hawks of the AHL. He had been with Colorado for two seasons and will likely find another landing spot around the league in no time.
Army had been with the Avalanche for six seasons and is a long-time assistant coach in the league. Between stints as the head coach for his alma mater Providence College he has served on the benches of Anaheim and Washington. He also spent three seasons as the head coach of the AHL’s Portland Pirates (now the Springfield Thunderbirds).
Over the next few weeks we will be breaking down each team’s situation as it pertains to the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft. Which players are eligible, and which will likely warrant protection or may be on the block. Each team is required to submit their protection lists by 4pm CDT on June 17th. The full rules on eligibility can be found here, and CapFriendly has provided a handy expansion tool to make your own lists.
The Colorado Avalanche finished the 2016-17 with one of the worst records in recent memory, winning just 22 games and seeing just a single player reach the 20-goal mark. As if their year could get any worse, they fell three spots in the draft lottery and will be required like everyone else to give up a player to the incoming Vegas Golden Knights.
Eligible Players (Non-UFA)
Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Carl Soderberg, Joe Colborne, Blake Comeau, Troy Bourke, Mikhail Grigorenko, Samuel Henley, Sven Andrighetto, Matthew Nieto, Rocco Grimaldi, Felix Girard, Mike Sislo, Turner Elson
The Avalanche are in an enviable position when it comes to forwards, where many of their core pieces are still exempt due to the rebuilding nature of the club. It’s not so rosy on defence though, as both Johnson and Beauchemin hold no-movement clauses and thus require protection. Should the team be able to convince one of them—namely Beauchemin, since Johnson still at least represents some trade value—to waive their clause, they could use the 7-3-1 protection format. Otherwise they’ll likely have to go with the eight skater route or risk losing one of Zadorov or Barrie.
That would leave them with just four slots up front which isn’t ideal, but at least could protect the future and biggest trade pieces. That is assuming they don’t move Duchene or Landeskog before the draft, which would open up another spot for a younger player like Grimaldi or Andrighetto. Another option would be a buyout once the first window opens on June 15th, though Beauchemin—the most likely recipient—signed his latest contract after he turned 35 and thus the Avalanche would incur the whole $4.5MM cap hit next season regardless.
In net there sits the team’s most important decision. Whether or not to protect Varlamov or Pickard has been much debated, with reports coming out previously that the team will keep the former. After two solid seasons backing up, Pickard struggled at times in the increased role this year when Varlamov went down to injury. That’s not to say the young goaltender doesn’t have a bright future as he recently showed, backstopping Team Canada to a silver medal in the recent World Championships. He was given player of the game honors for Canada in their 2-1 shootout loss to Team Sweden in the gold medal game, and recorded a .938 save percentage in the tournament.
From each team, Vegas is also given the opportunity to talk to pending free agents before the draft. If they should come to an agreement with one, they would forfeit their selection from his former team. The Avalanche don’t really have any UFA targets that would be of much interest, though perhaps 25-year old Brendan Ranford provides some. The Group VI free agent has only played a single game in the NHL, but has proven to be a successful AHL scorer. If for some reason the Golden Knights believe they won’t be able to sign him—or any of the Avalanche UFAs—after July 1st, they could forego their selection entirely.
Projected Protection List
F Nathan MacKinnon
F Matt Duchene
F Gabriel Landeskog
F Mikhail Grigorenko
D Erik Johnson (NMC)
D Francois Beauchemin (NMC)
D Tyson Barrie
D Nikita Zadorov
G Semyon Varlamov
While Colorado is one of the most likely teams to make a move before the deadline, this is how the protection list currently projects for them. The Avalanche could also make a deal with the Golden Knights to take a player like Soderberg off their hands, who suffered an inexplicable drop-off in effectiveness this season. With three more seasons on his current contract, his $4.75MM cap hit is certainly one the Avalanche would love to rid themselves of as they continue their rebuild.
In all, Pickard looks like the worst loss the Avalanche could incur at this point and with several weeks still before the draft they may be able to solve that issue. The Golden Knights should have their fair share of goaltenders available to them, many of which they may feel more comfortable drafting. The Avalanche will continue to look forward with their group of “untouchables” which includes MacKinnon, Rantanen and Jost, each of whom are at no risk of being selected.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
The Florida Panthers were expected to do far better this past season than they ultimately did. Not unlike their Floridian rivals, the Tampa Bay Lightning, many were looking to this franchise to dominate a week Atlantic division. Looking back on a season with a coaching change, losing streaks, an lots of turmoil, how does the team recover and adjust their roster going forward?
Florida’s offensive core as of this moment consists of Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Vincent Trocheck, with Nick Bjugstad, Reilly Smith, and the surprising Jonathan Marchessault feeling content in their roles. Their defensive core is essentially just Aaron Ekblad, with a decent if unremarkable group surrounding him. Keith Yandle has looked adequate but nowhere near worth his $6.35 MM contract, locked in until 2023. Unfortunately, that contract looks like an albatross that is there to stay. Jason Demers was solid if unremarkable, and the group as a whole struggled with consistency. With Thomas Vanek likely to look for a payday elsewhere, a declining Jaromir Jagr, and a brutal internal cap, it bodes questioning whether Florida will be able to compete for a playoff spot next season. Their youngsters performed above offensive expectations, with the notable exception of Huberdeau. Barkov, Trocheck, and Marchessault all broke 50 points. Yet the team still finished 14 points out of the playoffs, giving up .46 more goals than they scored in an average 60 minute game.
Florida needs to spend a moderate amount of money to acquire solid 3rd-line point producers. Minor league callups can fill the gaps on the fourth line to an extent, but rolling with only two viable offensive forward groups is a recipe for disaster in today’s NHL. They absolutely need a game-changer up front to provide run support for the young core. They might also look to bolster their D. Here are some potential targets the Panthers should consider for 2017-18, instead of spending precious dollars on the fading Jagr:
F – Ilya Kovalchuk – UFA/KHL
As mentioned by colleague Holger Stolzenberg, Ilya Kovalchuk is a definite possibility for Florida. They have the cap space to accomodate the sort of money he will be looking for, and they have a talented young group that could easily compete for a playoff run given the right moves. There are few players more dynamic with the puck on their stick than Kovalchuk. His savvy and remarkably consistent point production would be tailor made for the Panthers team in need of a true #1 threat as Barkov continues to progress. Jagr is that no longer, but replacing his insight and experience would be difficult to do. Kovalchuk hits all the checks in terms of need for Florida, and would help launch them back into the playoff conversation single-handedly.
D – Dmitry Kulikov – UFA
Kulikov had an absolutely awful season for the Buffalo Sabres, but he would be a very cheap reclamation project for his old stomping ground. He didn’t exit the Panthers with a good performance, either, posting only 17 points in 2015-16 and a terrible 46.8 Corsi For Percentage. Kulikov had one year remaining with the Sabres at $4.3 MMl, and posted a 5 points and a -26 through 47 games. And yet, he was part of the group that propelled the team into the post-season and a Game 7 that could’ve gone either way. He’s a smooth skating 26 year-old defenseman who moves the puck with a decent offensive hockey IQ. He makes mistakes in his own zone, but he pushed the pace of the game in a way that is difficult to replace. His contract would be dirt-cheap and there is always the possibility he finds his groove back in the Sunshine State.
F – Matt Duchene – Colorado Avalanche
Matt Duchene is another talented player who had a truly down year. Duchene was rumored to be moved for months, but come deadline, GM Joe Sakic didn’t find the pieces he was looking for. In Florida, there is a definite fit if the Panthers are willing to take the risk. They have the defensive pieces the Avalanche would want in return, and Duchene would provide another dynamic offensive force to a struggling offense. Sakic is almost certain to pull the trigger eventually, so the Panthers GM will simply need to be persistent. Duchene can set up plays with the best of them when he is on his game. His speed and infectious energy would also fit in well with the group of youngsters down south.
F – Justin WIlliams – UFA
WIlliams is almost certain to be a top commodity in a weak UFA class. However, his wealth of playoff experience would come in quite handy for this team and hasn’t showed signs of slowing down. He would add an element of grit to the lineup, as well, rounding out their offense. He would be a wonderful mentor for the likes of Barkov, Trochec, and oothers. He can slot up and down the roster and is practically a lock to score at least 20 goals as a 35 year-old. If the Panthers find their way into the first round, a player of his mold would be certainly welcome in close contests. The main obstacle to this getting done is of course the price, which may prove too steep for a team in rebuild, low-cost mode. He also could want term at this stage of his playing career, and that could be a risky proposal if longer than 2 or 3 years.
Friday: The Avalanche have officially announced the contract, signing Mironov to a two-year entry-level deal.
Thursday: According to agent Dan Milstein of Gold Star Hockey, Andrei Mironov has been officially granted release from his KHL contract. Mironov will sign a two-year entry-level contract shortly with the Colorado Avalanche. GM Joe Sakic was confident that the signing would go through, but still hesitated to call it completed until the official release came down.
Mironov is a 6’2″ defender who has played the last five seasons in the KHL, despite still only being 22. Selected in the fourth round in 2015, his physical style and general nastiness will give the Colorado blueline another facet in the future. The left-handed shot was recently compared to Darius Kasparaitis, the long-time NHL defender who was one of the best at getting under opponent’s skin.
While the Colorado blueline needs a lot of work, Mironov and Nikita Zadorov would be a tough duo to play against (though they both play the same side) down the line, though each of their offensive abilities are still in question. Mironov doesn’t move the puck as well as you would hope, and will need to improve that aspect of his game before really being an impact player at the NHL level.
The Pittsburgh Penguins will decide their Stanley Cup playoff fate tonight against the Washington Capitals, and John Vogl of the Buffalo News believes the Sabres’ future may be along for the ride. Vogl writes that the hiring announcement of Jason Botterill, associate General Manager of the Penguins and leading candidate to take over as GM of the Sabres was likely delayed due to the ongoing series. The Sabres haven’t interviewed anyone since their second meeting with Botterill, and need to get someone in place with enough time to prepare for the expansion and entry drafts.
Though it was previously reported that Jeff Crisp, the Sabres head scout would handle the entry draft this season, it’s obviously important for the incoming GM to be involved in the operation. Botterill has a background in scouting, and will have been kept abreast of the incoming draft class during his Pittsburgh tenure. Whether the Penguins move on or not, Vogl expects the decision to come down before the beginning of the next series, perhaps even as early as Thursday. On Friday, owner Terry Pegula has a press conference scheduled to introduce Brandon Beane, the new GM of the Buffalo Bills.
- P.K. Subban has been fined $2,000 for embellishment after being assessed a penalty on May 2nd. It was the second citation he had received from the league, following one given on January 22nd. Subban was unable to serve the penalty as he was being treated in the Nashville dressing room for an apparent injury, but it isn’t the first time he’s been hit with a fine for diving. In 2015, he received two fines from the league for a combined three embellishment citations. Fines for diving escalate on each occasion, capping at a $5,000 penalty for the player and head coach should a player be cited eight times in a single season.
- Adrian Dater of BSN Denver reports that the Colorado Eagles are working to become a future AHL affiliate of the Avalanche. The Eagles are currently the team’s ECHL affiliate, but with some shuffling coming in the AHL due to Vegas entering the league they will try to gain standing in the next few years. According to Dater, the Eagles have plans to expand their current ~5,000-seat arena to try and accommodate the increased attendance that would come with a promotion to the AHL. This is the latest in a long line of teams that have worked to get their affiliates geographically closer to them, in order to move players back and forth quickly. It can also obviously provide fans that want to see the next generation of stars for their club before they graduate to the NHL, and the ticket prices that come with it.
Changes are coming in Colorado, according to Joe Sakic. The Avalanche GM was on Altitude Sports 950 yesterday (h/t Sportsnet) and was quite clear with his plans for this summer. Sakic said there will be a “lot of turnover” this offseason, and that the team is going to get younger. When Sakic named his untouchables earlier in the season, he only listed Nathan MacKinnon, Tyson Jost, and Mikko Rantanen, three of the youngest players on the team.
While there were many rumors of Matt Duchene potentially being moved at the deadline, it seems an inevitability that the young center—if he is indeed considered a center around the league still—is moved before the 2017-18 season begins. Sakic mentioned Jost and J.T. Compher in particular as future centers for the Avalanche, which wouldn’t leave much room for Duchene in the future.
- Sakic also confirmed that the team has reached an agreement with Andrei Mironov, but is just waiting for the official KHL release before announcing the contract. The GM did caution though that anything can happen before the release is announced, though he certainly hopes it will come through in the next few days. Mironov is currently playing in the World Championships with Russia.
- Vladimir Sobotka will be skating against Mironov, as the Blues’ forward is heading to the World Championships for the Czech Republic. Sobotka finally returned from the KHL to help the Blues in the playoffs, who held onto him despite the interest over the years from teams around the league. Sobotka will be a big part of the Blues going forward as he starts in on a three-year contract extension next season. Able to play both center and the wing, he’ll fit in somewhere on a team that will have their sights set on the playoffs once again.
- Matt Murray won’t start game 7 for the Penguins tonight, but he will be in uniform. The goaltender has recovered enough to backup Marc-Andre Fleury, posing a bit of a dilemma for the next series should Pittsburgh defeat the Capitals and move on. After injuring himself in warm up during the first game of the first round, Murray hasn’t played a single minute of these playoffs. The 22-year old led the Penguins to the Stanley Cup last spring, but will now wait for the veteran Fleury to falter in order to get back into the lineup.
Colorado Avalanche fans that are hoping for a certain NCAA prospect to sign will have to wait a little longer, but may have something to cheer them up. According to Darren Dreger of TSN, Andrei Mironov has been given a verbal release from his KHL club and will sign with the Avalanche in the next few days.
Mironov was selected in the fourth round of the 2015 draft, and has shown the potential to be an NHL defender capable of doing several different things on the ice. His offensive game is improving, but it’s his ability to get under opponents’ skin and play on (or sometimes over) the edge. Adrian Dater of BSN Denver says that he models his game after former NHL veteran Darius Kasparaitis. He can sometimes cross the line into dangerous territory, but is effective all the same.
Mironov is currently playing in the World Championships with Russia, and has a chance to continue to play against NHL talent as soon as next season. The 22-year old shoots left, and could slide in behind Nikita Zadorov and Francois Beauchemin next season.