When the free agent period rolled around last year, Colorado Avalanche GM Joe Sakic was coming off a year in which his team had over-performed. After finishing dead last in the NHL during the 2016-17 season with a dreadful 22-56-4 record, things turned around for them and the team rode an MVP-type season from Nathan MacKinnon all the way to the playoffs. While they were knocked out by the Nashville Predators in six games, it was a successful year overall and one that must have had Sakic thinking about bigger things.
Instead of going hard after some of the top names in free agency however, Sakic instead worked out some smaller deals with Ian Cole and Matt Calvert to bring in some veteran players, insulating his young group. Both contracts were for three seasons, not giving away too much length in case the 2017-18 team was a fluke. This season however the Avalanche proved it wasn’t, and now Sakic is getting ready for an even busier summer. When asked today at his season-ending media availability about the upcoming free agent period, the Colorado legend immediately seemed excited:
It’s a pretty good class this year. I already have targeted players in mind, if they become available, that we’re going to want to talk to about joining our club. You know we see positions of need, what we’re looking to do, and there are a few guys that we’re going to want to talk to if they become available. We’ll be more aggressive this year with that. Keeping in mind that if it doesn’t work out for the players that we want to talk to we’re not just going to go spend on anybody. We want the right players and the right fit.
This could end up being quite the offseason for Sakic to make his mark—or perhaps just another mark, given his legendary playing status—on the franchise. The team has a huge contract negotiation upcoming with restricted free agent forward Mikko Rantanen, but also with depth players like Alexander Kerfoot, J.T. Compher and Nikita Zadorov. The Avalanche also have two picks in the first round including the fourth-overall selection thanks to a trade with the Ottawa Senators, and a huge amount of cap space to go out and get a big name if they so choose. All of that after two straight playoff appearances, this season’s lasting more than just one round, and the Avalanche are in great shape moving forward.
That doesn’t mean there can’t be mistakes though. Sakic admitted that he would rather work on a long-term contract with Rantanen, but would concede to a short-term deal if he must. Thinking like that has likely spread throughout the entire league after teams watched a William Nylander negotiation come down right to the wire this year, only for the Toronto Maple Leafs forward to struggle all season after missing so much time. Getting Rantanen under contract before training camp would obviously be a positive, though Sakic wouldn’t expand on any potential time frame.