Let me start by saying I don’t want, or even think, Gabriel Landeskog and the Colorado Avalanche are heading towards a messy divorce. Business in the NHL can be difficult, and the team has enough to juggle right now that it’s difficult for them to give Landeskog whatever he wants. It is still likely in my eyes that the two parties find a compromise that keeps Colorado’s captain on the team for years to come.
But, free agency is looming, now less than a week away. The team already left the Swedish winger unprotected in the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft, giving Kraken general manager (GM) Ron Francis days to try and entice Landeskog to join the northwestern neophytes.
The Avalanche could lose their captain, the soul of their team, in a matter of weeks. Seattle, the St. Louis Blues, and the Tampa Bay Lightning all could be appealing options for Landeskog. With this being the case, the Avs and GM Joe Sakic have to prepare for the worst and be ready to take action as necessary. Here are a few moves I would consider if doomsday does really come.
The best way to fill the void of losing a star player is to trade for another one. However, this can’t be done on a whim, obviously, as the wrong trade for the wrong guy can cripple a franchise for years. But a hit on a right trade, and that becomes the fuel to a Stanley Cup run. So, who around the league could be a target for the Avalanche?
One name I think of is Filip Forsberg, winger for the Nashville Predators. He has one year left in his $6 million average annual value (AAV) contract, and is a member of a Predators squad beginning something between a shake up and a dismantling. Forsberg is the best forward on their roster, and his abundance of skill would make him a deadly addition to the Avalanche roster.
Like in any trade in this market, Colorado would have to pay a good amount to get him. High draft picks, along with prospects like Martin Kaut and Justin Barron would likely be a starting point to get a deal done. But that’s the price you pay to fill an elite talent void on your team. This is why the ideal solution for the Avalanche is to just find a way to bring Landeskog back. Just like any other guy you could trade for, like Johnny Gaudreau, Vladimir Tarasenko, or anyone else that would be impactful, each would have a high risk or a high price to pay.
Not signing Landeskog means you have more money to play with. Colorado also no longer has to pay Ryan Graves or Joonas Donskoi, the former traded and the latter poached by the Kraken in the expansion draft. In total, the Avalanche have an extra $13-14 million to spend wisely in order to maintain the Stanley Cup pursuit they’ve worked so hard to begin.
My first priority in free agency would be to re-sign Brandon Saad. He fit in seamlessly with the team this year after a slow start and was exceptional in the playoffs. With Landeskog and Donskoi absent, Colorado will need to retain as much wing depth as they can muster.
Saad will dictate a multi-year, multi-million-dollar contract, more expensive and extensive than Donskoi’s. However, the veteran’s solid two-way play and goal-scoring ability in big moments is worth paying for.
But there are other names floating around that the Avalanche should pay attention to. Mikael Granlund could be a cheap depth option following an ok season in Nashville. Jaden Schwartz is a guy Colorado reportedly has interest in, but unless they can get him for less than expected, I’d personally stay away. His production isn’t what it used to be and he would be a low-impact inclusion with a high-impact salary.
Blake Coleman would be an ideal addition, the kind of player the Avalanche would love to have. He helped fuel the Tampa Bay Lightning to two consecutive Stanley Cups following them picking him up at the trade deadline in 2020 (after he was almost traded to Colorado). He’s a player who does all the little things right and some of the big things, as well. Other middle six forwards the Avs could pursue include Kyle Palmieri, Nikita Gusev, or Erik Haula.
Joe Sakic will also likely want to bring in a piece or two to solidify his defensive core following the departure of Graves. One player linked to the Avalanche is Ryan Suter, a consistent, big-minute defenseman bought out by the Minnesota Wild, so they could protect the younger Matt Dumba. Suter would be a great fit on Colorado’s second or third pairings, being a far more reliable option than someone like Patrik Nemeth. The team would have ample money to sign him, maybe even if Landeskog comes back on board.
Colorado desires a bigger, tougher guy for their back end, as they reportedly wanted to make an attempt to sign Jamie Oleksiak before he found his way to the Kraken. Other guys they could use to fill that desire include Jani Haakanpaa, or the very underrated Jake McCabe. With the amount of flux occurring around the league, players will be there for the taking — but only for so long, and for the right price.
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The key to this is that if you lose Landeskog, you have to do something. This is not the time for the Avalanche organization to stand pat, not after the way the past two seasons have ended. This is their championship window, something that comes around only every so often.
The outcome of the Landeskog deal and the rest of the summer could very well determine the legacy of this Colorado core of players. Whether the captain will still be around to help form that legacy is yet to be seen.
Avery is a writer covering the Colorado Avalanche. He is graduating in April with a B.A. in English and Mass Communication. He has previously worked for The Puck Authority covering the Rapid City Rush and for NGU Vision Media as their News Editor. He is a board game enthusiast and enjoys spending time with others.