The Colorado Avalanche desperately need to improve their defense. That is what is being trumpeted from anybody and everybody that covers the Avalanche, and for good reason. Another issue that the Avalanche have had the last couple of seasons that doesn’t get nearly as much play is scoring. Yes, scoring is a problem for the Avalanche. Scoring depth, scoring on the power play, and having enough scoring power at the top of the lineup. It’s because of this issue that the Avalanche need to do everything they can to land Alexander Radulov.
While defense has taken the majority of the lumps for the Avalanche the past couple of seasons, it can’t be ignored that the team dropped off in scoring in a big way. When the Avalanche won the division in 2013-2014, they were fourth in the NHL in scoring, with 245 goals. The past two seasons, the Avalanche scored 209 and 213 goals respectively, both of which put the Avalanche in the bottom third of the league. There are any number of reasons that could account for why the team dropped off, but there is no doubt that adding a player of Radulov’s calibre will allow the Avalanche to boost their offensive numbers in many areas.
Solidify the Top Six
The biggest difference with the scoring ability of the team from the 2013-2014 season and the past two seasons was that the Avalanche had legitimate top two lines that season. After losing both Paul Stastny and Ryan O’Reilly, the top six forwards have been in a state of flux that has struggled to find combinations that score consistently throughout the season. More specifically, it has been a constant struggle to find a winger that can stick with Matt Duchene for any stretch of time. Radulov would be a perfect fit and has the skill and speed necessary to play with Duchene. If Radulov is added to the roster, the Avalanche are looking to ice Matt Duchene, Alexander Radulov, Mikko Rantanen, Mikhail Grigorenko, Nathan MacKinnon, and Gabriel Landeskog as the team’s top forwards. This is a very respectable collection of players, and a more complete group of scorers than the Avalanche have had at the top of the roster since the 2013-2014 season.
The big concern with Radulov mostly revolves around his character and the issues that he had in Nashville when he first came into the league. He was suspended during the playoffs in 2012 for a violation of team rules. Radulov has since been a captain and alternate captain for one of the KHL’s biggest and best teams. He has to have learned a great deal since his experiences in Nashville about what is and isn’t acceptable for his team, and there have been no character issues mentioned since he returned to Russia.
There was also his untimely departure from the NHL to go back and play in Russia that could make teams a bit leery of bringing him on. This could be a factor, but one thing that the Avalanche have working for them that no other team has is Patrick Roy. Radulov played for Roy during his time in the QMJHL and loved playing for him. Rekindling their old relationship as player and coach could be enough to keep Radulov happy and not wanting to run back to Russia. If that still isn’t enough to put everybody’s mind at ease, then Joe Sakic could work out a shorter term contract to limit the risk.
The other big problem with signing Radulov is money. Radulov’s KHL contract paid him $9.2 million in American money each season. While there is no reason to think that Radulov would get this kind contract from an NHL team, money may end up being a question. Money doesn’t appear to be the top priority for Radulov, but the Avalanche do still work on an internal budget.
Told Radulov's actual priorities in the #NHL are: 1. winning, he wants to play for a contender; 2. family comfort; money is not a big factor
— Igor Eronko (@IgorEronko) April 25, 2016
We know the Avalanche aren’t going to pay over $6 million, so the question is what will the contract look like? My ideal situation for this is that the Avalanche trade Jarome Iginla, and slip Radulov into the roster with about a $5 million cap hit.
The Avalanche have some work to do with their lineup, and while defense is a huge issue for the team there is a definite need to improve the offense, as well. Radulov would be a perfect addition to the lineup in a lot of different ways: he would solidify the top six forwards and the power play; has a strong connection to Patrick Roy; and can be signed in a manner that presents minimal risk for the team. The Avalanche absolutely must do everything they can to bring Alexander Radulov to Denver.