Just this morning, I looked at three options the Colorado Avalanche should consider for their second-line center, noting that their flexibility with roster spots and cap space would affect who they could target.
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Then the bad news came. Captain Gabriel Landeskog will miss the entire 2023-24 season, as he is expected to undergo yet another surgery on his injured knee.
Landeskog has not stepped onto the ice since June 26, 2022, when he hoisted the Stanley Cup with the club, and he has not played a regular-season game since March 10. Of course, losing the 30-year-old forward is a devastating blow, as he is one of the longest-standing members of the club and plays on the first line alongside Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen.
Landeskog shed some light on the situation in a statement. “The timeline goes back to the bubble 2020. Kind of a freak accident that happens there. Never had any knee issues before that. One thing led to the next, and it just sort of progressively got worse over that next year,” he said, according to NHL.com. “Start of [last] season, it started bugging me on a daily basis. It got worse and worse up until the point that we got the first surgery. At that point I didn’t really realize the complexity of the injury and how one injury can…obviously it compensates.”
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Of course, he was originally slated to miss 12 weeks in 2022-23 following offseason knee surgery, but as things progressed, the timeline kept getting pushed back until it was announced that he would miss the playoffs.
“I still thought I’d be fine, ready to go after the summer,” Landeskog continued. “Obviously, a very short summer. I realized fairly quickly that things had gotten worse. … I thought I was going to be able to play the second half of the season. We’ve given it our best shot, and it just hasn’t worked out. Moving forward, we continue to explore options, but I felt like this was the decision I had to make at this point for everybody involved and for my teammates and myself.”
On May 10, he will have cartilage transplant surgery on his right knee.
Landeskog is Still Optimistic About the Future
The former first-round draft pick says he’s sure he’ll play again. “I’m confident in that,” he said. “When? I don’t know. You try and take it one step at a time. This is no different than going into a new season, essentially. Where you start with training camp, and you go from there. This is the same thing. I’m trying not to look too far ahead, but I’m confident, and like I said, we’ll get through this.”
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In the 2021-22 offseason, right before the club won the Stanley Cup, he signed an eight-year contract with an average annual value of $7 million with a modified no-trade clause (including a 12-team no-trade list) that kicks in for 2025-26. While his $7 million will not be under the cap this season, giving management some room to replace him, his optimism for a quick return to the lineup might prompt management to sign a more expensive player, like Ryan O’Reilly, on a short-term deal. But, of course, having the captain back is an invaluable asset as the Colorado roster looks to return to its Cup-winning strength.
Landeskog was the youngest player to be appointed captain when he was given the title on October 24, 2010, in his second season with the Avalanche. He has since been dethroned by Connor McDavid, but the fact that the Avalanche lost to the Seattle Kraken in seven games in the First Round is a testament to his value.
On the ice, he has 571 points (248 goals, 323 assists) in 738 regular-season games in his career with the Avalanche, and 67 points (27 goals, 40 assists) in 69 playoff games. The 30-goal scorer brings a solid net-front presence and offers grit and skill every time he steps on the ice. He defines the Avalanche’s style of play. His absence leaves a big hole that will likely mean bumping the team’s second-line forward to the first line and forcing the Avalanche to target two centers in the offseason.
This will be a huge obstacle to overcome, and the Avalanche must come up with a plan to deal with it.