Canucks 2022 Offseason Free Agent Targets: Colorado Avalanche

One place the Vancouver Canucks will look to get better is through free agency. The club is cap-strapped but, with some salary-cap maneuvering, could bring in some free agents that could help improve the forward group. One team they should be paying close attention to is the Colorado Avalanche who will have to part with some players due to their own salary cap issues. Here are three pending unrestricted free agents the Canucks should target from the Avalanche.

André Burakovsky

2021-22 Cap Hit: $4.9 Million

The player who should be at the top of the Canucks’ list is André Burakovsky. The Austrian native is coming off a season that saw him score 22 goals and add 39 assists in 80 games, both career highs. While he does play on the power play, 50 of his 61 points came at even strength which is an area Vancouver desperately needs to improve in. For reference, only J.T. Miller had more even-strength points this season on the Canucks.

Andre Burakovsky Colorado Avalanche
Andre Burakovsky, Colorado Avalanche (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Some will argue that his point totals may be inflated because he played on a line with Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen this season but in reality, he was a facilitator of offence regardless of what line he was on. Of the 50 even-strength points he accumulated, 38 of them were either goals or first assists. He also finished the season with 37 individual high danger chances and 130 individual scoring chances. Best of all, he has shown he can be moved around the lineup and still produce as, during the regular season, all four of the lines he played 60 minutes on finished with a Corsi of above 50 percent and ended up on the scoresheet.

Related: 4 Canucks Who May Not Return for the 2022-23 Season

While he makes a lot of sense for the Canucks to bring in, this will be all dependent on the contract. Generally, when a player is coming off a career year and headed to free agency, their cap hit usually goes up. There will also be other suitors that may drive the price up, especially if Colorado wins the Stanley Cup, as teams usually pay Stanley Cup champions handsomely, especially those who have won multiple as they value the experience. As long as the cap hit makes sense, the Canucks should be all in on Burakovsky as he makes their top six better and at 27, could be with the franchise for a good amount of time.

Valeri Nichushkin

2021-22 Cap Hit: $2.5 Million

Valeri Nichushkin is another player the Canucks should be intrigued by after his career year in 2021-22. In 62 games, he scored 25 goals and registered 52 points with 41 of his points coming at even strength. He also showed that he can facilitate the offence with 32 of his 41 even strength points being goals or first assists.

Not only has Nichushkin shown he can play up the lineup with MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog, but he makes the line he plays on better defensively. No Avalanche player that played more than eight games this season had a better Corsi rating than his 58.49 percent and in over 100 minutes of penalty kill time, Colorado only allowed nine goals with him on the ice while also scoring twice. Not only would Vancouver be getting a strong top-six forward who has experience playing and thriving with top-end NHL talent, but they would also get a forward that will help improve their penalty kill which ranked 30th in the league at the end of the season.

Related: Avalanche’s Nichushkin Proving His Value

The fit makes sense, but once again, this comes down to the contract. Would the Canucks feel comfortable paying him in the $3.5-4 million range or would they rather save that money to fix their defense? Nichushkin is a good investment and would fill multiple holes on the roster. If the Canucks can’t get Burakovsky, he should be plan B.

Jordan Gross

2021-22 Cap Hit: $750,000

Jordan Gross is not a household name but could help strengthen the Canucks blue line this offseason. The right-shot defenseman spent the year in the American Hockey League (AHL) where he registered 65 points in 61 games. He profiles as an offensive defenseman with great speed and strong puckhandling skills. Whether he is used in the NHL or AHL, he would be a good depth signing for the organization.

The Canucks need to build up their right-shot defence depth this offseason. Gross has a lot of AHL experience having played 179 games in his career so far and could be a mentor to some of the younger defensemen like Jett Woo. He has a long history of success at the AHL level and would be a good addition to the organization.

Plenty of Options Available From the Avalanche

The Canucks have a great opportunity here as Colorado will be forced to part with key players this offseason. There is even a chance that a restricted free agent like Artturi Lehkonen becomes available. If the contract makes sense, former Avalanche players could be making a big impact on the West Coast next season.

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