Remaining Free Agents the Avalanche Should Consider Signing

Now almost a month removed from the start of the 2020-21 free agency period many players have either re-signed with their current teams or found a home elsewhere. Teams have made the necessary roster moves in order to free up space to land their targets while others may have decided not to dip into the free-agent market.

The Colorado Avalanche have made a few big acquisitions, but those did not come through signings. General manager Joe Sakic came out publically stating that the team would not be big spenders in free agency. However, with some cap space remaining it may be time to see what players can be signed without exceeding the cap.

Current Cap Situation

The team has managed to come to terms with all their free agents that were up for new deals this offseason. The only player remaining without a deal is Vladislav Kamenev who decided to continue his career in the KHL.

Related: Avalanche Sign Toews to Four-Year Deal

The team still currently has $1,823,614 in cap space remaining after locking up newcomer Devon Toews. This still leaves some flexibility to bring depth pieces on good value contracts with low financial risk to add to their depth for this upcoming season.

Current Roster Construction

The Avalanche have seven blueliners under contract that will make up the team’s defensive corps. Although Conor Timmins was the projected sixth defenseman heading into the season, the Toews acquisition will likely push him to be the team’s seventh defenseman which speaks to the depth the Avs have at that position.

Table 1: Projected Avalanche defensive pairing to begin the 2020-21 season.

Left DefenseRight Defense
Ryan GravesCale Makar
Samuel GirardErik Johnson
Devon ToewsIan Cole
Extra DefensemanConor Timmins
The projected defense pairings are under the assumption the Avalanche will re-sign Devon Toews.

The team has also rounded out its forward group which does look very similar to last season besides the team moving on from Colin Wilson and bringing in Brandon Saad.

Table 2: Projected Avalanche forward lines to begin the 2020-21 Season

Left WingCenterRight Wing
Brandon SaadNathan MacKinnonMikko Rantanen
Gabriel LandeskogNazem KadriAndre Burakovsky
Tyson JostJ.T. CompherJoonas Donskoi
Matt CalvertPierre-Edouard BellmareValeri Nichushkin
Extra ForwardsMartin Kaut (RW), Logan O’Connor (RW),
Shane Bowers (C)
The projected lineups shown are under the assumption there are no new signings prior to the start of the 2020-21 season.

Unfortunately for the Avalanche, there is not much depth at the forward position past these 12 skaters and the team would need to rely on their prospects to fill holes that appear when injuries occur. After seeing how the injuries piled up in the playoffs costing the team a second-round exit, Sakic will need to take extra measures to provide his team with enough depth to ensure his team does not suffer the same fate.

Potential Free Agent Defense Acquisitions

In last year’s playoff run the team lost both Erik Johnson and his replacement Conor Timmins in their second-round series against the Dallas Stars forcing the team to turn to Kevin Connauton to fill in on the blue line.

With this in mind, the importance to find serviceable players to fill in when injuries occur is heightened. The following free agent defensemen could be options for Sakic to sign to bolster the blueline so the organization does not have to rush the development of its prospects.

Michael Del Zotto, Left Defense

Del Zotto put up 15 points in 49 games as a member of the Anaheim Ducks organization last season. He has a lot to offer offensively and has become more reliable defensively as he has matured. He is still a strong skater and will be looking to make another run at the Cup after winning one with the St. Louis Blues in 2019.

St. Louis Blues Michael Del Zotto
Former St. Louis Blues defenceman Michael Del Zotto (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Now at 30 years of age and knowing his best years are a thing of the past, Del Zotto’s market may be limited. His last contract was a one-year deal worth $750,000 which should fit nicely within the Avs cap constraints with virtually zero financial repercussions. He can provide the Avalanche a capable fallback option for offensive production on the blue line should something happen to Makar or Girard.

Karl Alzner, Left Defense

The Montreal Canadiens signed Alzner to a five-year deal worth $23.125 million back in 2017, which featured a modified no-trade clause. After appearing in 82 games in the first year of his deal, Alzner would go on to play only 13 NHL games over the next two seasons, playing mainly in the AHL.

Karl Alzner
Former Montreal Canadien, Karl Alzner had 13 points in 95 games with the team. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Canadiens have since bought out the remainder of Alzner’s contract making him a free agent. After missing out on a Stanley Cup in Washington the stay-at-home defenseman should be hungrier than ever to get a chance at the Cup. The Avalanche signing the 31-year-old blueliner could provide him that opportunity while providing the team with a player with 64 games of playoff experience on likely a league-minimum deal.

Ben Hutton, Left Defense

The former Los Angeles King spent most of last season playing in a top-four role. He signed a one-year deal with the Kings worth $1.5 million playing in 65 games for the club. He is not a flashy player but he can play in all situations and had a plus-five rating on a Kings team that was at the bottom of the standings.

Ben Hutton Los Angeles Kings
Former Los Angeles Kings defenseman Ben Hutton, scored 16 points last season. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It would not cost the Avalanche a lot to acquire his services and would be a significant upgrade from Connauton, whom they used in their previous playoff run. Hutton is still only 27 years old and although he has no playoff experience to date, would be a reliable option should he be thrust into the lineup.

Potential Free Agent Forward Acquisitions

The Avalanche are already a very deep team up-front but also lost some of their depth in the offseason with Vladislav Namestnikov, Matt Nieto and Colin Wilson not being re-signed.

Related: 2020 NHL Free Agent Signing Tracker

The forward group also suffered a similar fate as the Avs blue line losing several players from their forward group during the playoffs. They still need to have some depth added to it prior to the season starting and some of these players may fit the bill.

Michael Grabner, Left Wing /Right Wing

The Austrian forward missed parts of the last two seasons with the Arizona Coyotes. Due to injuries, he only appeared in 41 games in 2018-19 and 46 in 2019-20. He signed a three year deal with the Coyotes back in 2018-19 with an average annual value of $3.5 million. He was bought out of the final year of his contract allowing him to hit the free-agent market.

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Grabner is a veteran in this league who has appeared in 40 playoff games throughout his career. He would fit in nicely in this Avalanche offense because of his speed and scoring touch. The Avs also do not have many trustworthy penalty-killing forwards and Grabner is one of the best, scoring seven shorthanded goals over the past two seasons.

Brian Boyle Left Wing/ Center/ Right Wing

With 118 games of playoff experience under his belt, the 35-year-old forward has bounced around to a few teams in recent years. His 6-foot-6 frame makes him a popular deadline acquisition for teams looking to contend for a Cup. He signed with the Florida Panthers last season with a cap hit below the $1 million mark.

Brian Boyle #11, New Jersey Devils
Former New Jersey Devil, Brian Boyle won 52.4% of faceoffs with the Florida Panthers last season.. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Boyle can bring toughness and a physical presence to any lineup and is known as a faceoff specialist. His ability to kill penalties and play multiple forward positions make him a great addition to the bottom six. His versatility and skill set would make him an intriguing extra forward for the Avalanche who has strong Stanley Cup aspirations this season.

Corey Perry, Right Wing

The Avalanche should be fairly familiar with what a guy like Perry can bring to a team, after seeing the veteran winger first hand in their second-round series against the Stars. On a healthy Stars team, he was limited to a bottom-six forward role putting up 21 points in 57 appearances in 2019-20.

Corey Perry Dallas Stars
Corey Perry of the Dallas Stars last season, has 98 points in 145 career playoff appearances. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Perry is a tough competitor and plays with an edge and could be a welcomed addition to the Avs on a veteran minimum deal. The Avalanche does not have much physicality in their forward group and Perry’s playing style could give them that aspect. His ability to play up and down the lineup in times of need and leadership experience is what makes him more valuable to a team like the Avalanche.

The Deeper the Better

With the team having filled all their starting roster spots there will be opportunities given to players in training camp to seize the roles of depth players. While in-house development is always good, there is no such thing as having too much depth.

Related: NHL Players Set to Have Bounce Back 2020-21 Seasons in New Cities

The Avalanche knows first hand how important viable depth options are in a playoff run when injuries occur. Each of these players provides safer replacement options and should come at a relatively low cost and low financial risk for the long term future of the team.

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