Assessing Avalanche free agent options: Nazem Kadri? Evan Rodrigues? Standing tapping?

Training camp is slated to begin next month and, after trading goaltender Alexandar Georgiev, the Avalanche have had a relatively quiet offseason. With limited cap space, general manager Chris MacFarland has focused primarily on maintaining his Stanley Cup-winning core, signing Valeri Nichushkin and Artturi Lehkonen to long-term contracts and bringing back veterans Andrew Cogliano and Darren Helm on one-year contracts.

Colorado still has one of the best rosters in the league, but its forward depth has taken a hit, as Andre Burakovsky (Seattle), Nico Sturm (San Jose) and Nicolas Aube-Kubel (Toronto) all left for free agency. . Nazem Kadri, meanwhile, remains unsigned. If the season started now, the Avalanche forward lines would look like this:

left wing Center Right wing

Arturi Lehkonen

Nathan MacKinnon

Mikko Rantanen

Gabriel Landeskog

J.T. Compher

Valery Nichushkin

Ben Meyer

Alex Newhook

Logan O’Connor

André Cogliano

Jason Megna

Darren Helm

(Note: This roster uses the same first line and a similar second line as the Avalanche used in the Stanley Cup Finals closeout. Megna is included on the fourth line because he was skating with the team. in the Cup Final, but the Avalanche could also look to other internal options.)

The Avalanche have about $4 million in cap space remaining, according to Cap Friendly. Some of that could go to another defender; maybe Jack Johnson or Ryan Murray are considering going back on a cheap offer. Even if that’s the case, MacFarland will always have some flexibility, although he should be aware of Nathan MacKinnon’s contract situation. The star center has one year left on his contract and is set to get a massive raise after next season.

Here are some options Colorado has up front as the offseason continues:

Nazem Kadri

Kadri, who will be 32 at the start of next season, is coming off a career-best 87-point year, and he scored one of the biggest playoff goals with an overtime winner in Game 4 against Tampa. Bay. There’s been smoke linking him to the Islanders, but general manager Lou Lamoriello hasn’t announced a signing. With Noah Dobson, Alexander Romanov and Kieffer Bellows as restricted free agents, Lamoriello would likely have to make a trade to put Kadri under the salary cap.

MacFarland, and potentially other GMs interested in Kadri, are in a similar boat to the Islanders: Colorado would have to drop someone from their roster to make room for Kadri. The Avalanche let center camp know how well they saw him, and Kadri said before the offseason his preference was to stay. But from a logistical point of view, it could be difficult.

The free agent pool

Most free agents have signed at this point, but there are still some intriguing options available.

Evan Rodrigues

Rodrigues is a 29-year-old center and had 43 points in 82 games with Pittsburgh last season. He would be a downgrade from Kadri but is solid defensively and more than capable as a mid-range option. The fact that he’s a good shooter could also give Jared Bednar flexibility, given that Lehkonen, Rantanen, Nichushkin and Landeskog are all southpaws.

Paul Stastny

Maybe Stastny could be ready for a reunion in Colorado after a 45-point season with Winnipeg. At 36, his skating might be a limiting factor at this point, but he’s a smart player and could play in a variety of roles.

sonny milano

Unlike Rodrigues or Stastny, Milano isn’t a centre, but he could be a solid third line to give the team depth and could move to the second line in the blink of an eye. He didn’t receive a qualifying offer from Anaheim, so he could become one of the more economical options available.

Colorado could also look to someone like Phil Kessel, though the veteran’s defense and skating might not match the team’s identity even as he continues to rack up points. Or maybe MacFarland is looking for depth additions in the last six as a stopgap until the trade deadline. Players like Tyler Bozak, Tyler Ennis and Sam Gagner could fall into this category.

The trade market

Colorado has used the draft and trade market to acquire base players far more than free agency. The Avalanche drafted their top three forwards – Landeskog, MacKinnon and Rantanen – and traded for Burakovsky, Kadri, Compher and Lehkonen, along with Devon Toews, Girard and Erik Johnson at fullback. Don’t be surprised if this is a route the team has taken to try and plug a hole in the middle of the front six at some point before the 2023 trade deadline.

Anyone with a year left on their contract in Chicago is worth watching — including Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Max Domi — given how aggressive the Blackhawks are with quality players in their rebuilding efforts. Other lower division teams could be potential business partners, and MacFarland could always surprise and acquire someone no one expects.

Internal options

The Avalanche could wait to add a forward and rack up salary cap space until the trade deadline. If the front office goes this route, it would make Compher and Newhook prime candidates to grab the second-line center role in training camp unless Bednar wants to use Rantanen at center, which he did at points last season. Compher is strong defensively and has scored some key playoff goals, and Newhook is a 21-year-old who just completed his first full season.

If Colorado doesn’t add another forward, players like Megna, Lukas Sedlak and Anton Blidh will have chances to grab NHL roles. The same goes for young players like Martin Kaut, Mikhail Maltsev and Sampo Ranta, all of whom have NHL games under their belt. Oskar Olausson, the team’s 2021 first-round pick, is a promising young winger, but he’ll likely need more time in the AHL before he’s ready for the NHL.

(Top photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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