Avalanche: 3 Likely Free Agent Destinations for J.T. Compher

J.T. Compher will become an unrestricted free agent (UFA) this summer, giving the Colorado Avalanche some tough decisions to make. They are in desperate need of a second-line center, with few available on the market. The Avalanche also don’t have a ton of cap space to work with, but with Gabriel Landeskog’s injury that will keep him out for the entire 2023-24 season, they now have some relief for the short-term. A problem that will arise is term and cap hit.

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Compher really stepped up this season, proving he is versatile and can handle top-six minutes. He can slot in at both center and on the wing, but if 2022-23 showed us anything, he plays his best in the middle. Here are a few destinations where he might land this summer.

Columbus Blue Jackets

The Columbus Blue Jackets are still trying to build a roster that can contend. They’ve drafted some good young players in the past few seasons, but are still waiting for them to develop. But I don’t think they are willing to be too patient with Johnny Gaudreau and Patrick Laine’s contracts winding down. The team would like to compete while they are still in their prime and producing.

J.T. Compher Colorado Avalanche
J.T. Compher, Colorado Avalanche (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Blue Jackets have Boone Jenner, Jack Roslovic, and Cole Sillinger as their top three centers, but Compher had a better year and is arguably better than all of them, and there won’t be any elite free-agent centers available on the market this summer to upgrade. While Sillinger regressed from his first season, the other two could be on the trade block due to their cap hits and contracts. With that in mind, Compher would be a great fit.

Minnesota Wild

The Minnesota Wild have needed a center for a while now, and although they won’t necessarily be able to bring in an elite one, they can upgrade. While Joel Eriksson Ek has been great as the second-line center, Ryan Hartman has been inconsistent and played up and down the lineup when healthy. The team also has no other options, as Sam Steel isn’t top-six calibre, and Marco Rossi hasn’t developed as the team had hoped yet.

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Compher can play big minutes and be used in all situations, which makes him valuable and a player who can help at center in the top-six while the Wild deal with their cap issues or rotate onto the wing. It’s never a bad idea to have center depth, and most of the team’s stars seem to be wingers. If the Wild can find a solid addition like Compher this offseason, they should be more confident that they can advance further in the postseason sooner than later.

Colorado Avalanche

The more time that passes without a new contract, the more likely it is that Comphere will talk to other teams about signing elsewhere when July 1 rolls around. This doesn’t mean that the Avalanche won’t be able to keep him, though, as some players like to see what’s out there in terms of term and money being offered. He could get the best offer, and the best chance to win, with the Avs.

Alex Newhook Colorado Avalanche
Alex Newhook, Colorado Avalanche (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Compher was very valuable to an injury-riddled Avalanche team this season and averaged 20:32 of ice time per game. Heading into the campaign it was uncertain who would fill Nazem Kadri’s shoes, and he stepped up. He may not have averaged over a point per game, but that was an outlier season for Kadri (2021-22) anyway. This season, Compher provided what Kadri had in his first two seasons with the team, stayed healthy, and played in all situations. With little available on the market, the Avalanche’s best option might be to stick with a familiar face. If not, they will have to risk overpaying in free agency or trust Alex Newhook to make a big jump.

Related: 3 Centers the Avalanche Should Target This Offseason

Compher will be a sought-after player this summer if a contract with the Avalanche isn’t signed soon. He outperformed expectations in a contract year, and he can do it all, which might get him a bigger payday and more years on his next deal. I wouldn’t bet against him this offseason, and he might have an even better season in 2023-24, wherever he lands.