Heading into this off season there was much speculation that the Colorado Avalanche would be a busy organization, and rightly so. When a team finishes with the worst final record of any franchise in the last 3 decades something has got to change. There was much speculation that disgruntled star center Matt Duchene may have played his last game in an Avalanche sweater, as well as speculation that players long rumored to be on the move such as Tyson Barrie could also be out the door as well as Erik Johnson. Many felt like this was the off season that the team would blow things up a bit and go very young and start working for the future again. Well to this point, none of those “thought to happen” deals have been consummated. The team has made some other moves though this off season, and that is what we will be taking a look at in this article.
Additions to the organization
- Jonathan Bernier – UFA signing
- Colin Wilson – Traded 2019 4th round draft pick to the Nashville Predators for
- Nail Yakupov– UFA signing
- Alexander Kerfoot – NCAA UFA signing
- Dominic Toninato – NCAA UFA signing
- Andrei Mironov – Contract signed and came over from KHL (Avs drafted him in 2015 NHL ENtry Draft.
- Jared Cowen – PTO Contract for camp/pre season
Let’s take a closer look at the various additions now
When we lost Calvin Pickard to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft it left the team with a pretty glaring need at back up goalie for this coming season. Starting goalie Semyon Varlamov didn’t play very much of last season and has missed large chunks of each of the last 3 seasons due to injury. He is also coming off 2 surgeries and is currently just finishing up his rehab. All signs say he will be ready to go come the start of training camp next month, but the team needed a solid backup just in case which is why they went out and signed Jonathan Bernier. Bernier is a Stanley Cup Champion in 2012 with the Los Angeles Kings. He comes in as the backup goal tender, but he has had stretches in his career when he has taken over the starting job in the past. He has played in 252 NHL games and has a 2.65 total GAA over that time as well as a .915 career save percent. He should be a very solid backup for this young Avalanche team as well as be a bit of a safety net in case Varlamov gets injured or has any issues coming back from his surgeries of this off season. He was signed to a 1-year deal which was actually a very smart move by the Avalanche. If Varlamov ends up struggling or has more injury issues this season it leaves the door open for them to give Bernier a raise and extend him long term if they decide that he is their new option at the starting goalie spot. At the same time, it leaves them the flexibility of not being stuck with 2 goalies with large cap hits if Varlamov comes back strong and plays well this season.
The Avalanche decided to make a trade with the Nashville Predators sending their 4th round selection in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft to the Predators in exchange for forward Colin Wilson. Colin Wilson was drafted with the number 7 pick overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. He has played in 502 games for the Predators and scored a career-high 20 goals during the 2014-2015 season. He then went on to score 5 goals in 6 first round games against the Chicago Blackhawks. Those 5 goals still stand today as the single-series franchise record for the Predators. When Wilson was drafted he was touted as a really good strong Power forward with good hands and finish around the net. While he has shown flashes of what made him such a highly sought after player his draft year at the NHL level he has not consistently shown the kind of play that the Predators may have wanted out of him. That being said in his 502 games played in the NHL Wilson has scored a total of 237 points while accumulating a + 37 rating. Wilson is 13 points shy of averaging .5 points per game in the NHL at this point in his career. That is quite impressive. The Predators giving up on him at this point only goes to show just how sky high his potential is and what the team expected out of him.
This was Wilsons Talent Analysis from Hockeys Future around his draft time
Wilson is an instinctive player with a combination of size, power and elite-level skill. His greatest attribute is his tremendous hockey sense. What set him apart from other collegiate freshmen is how he was able to utilize his hockey sense to better the team around him regardless of which zone he is playing in. His great on-ice vision and awareness allows him to anticipate and make very good reads on developing plays.
Wilson also possesses superb hands. His great patience with and distribution of the puck is really something to marvel at. Although he can often be found setting up one of his teammates, Wilson will shoot the puck as often as the opportunities present themselves. He possesses a very good, hard shot and can get shots to the net. Wilson is equally comfortable playing on both offense and defense. The confidence that he exudes and his ability to step up his game when called upon are matched by his intensity and relentless pursuit of excellence.
Wilson is listed at 6’1/215 lbs. His tireless work ethic and unyielding commitment to his off-ice conditioning are evident in the areas of his strength and power. He is a difficult player to move off of the puck and has shown a willingness to play in the difficult areas of the ice.
Personally, I am predicting a big season out of Wilson with the Avalanche and I think that he will be a very good fit and compliment guys like Mackinnon, Mikko, Landeskog, Jost, Compher, and company very well with his size speed and skill. If all goes perfectly for the Avalanche he will come all the way around to the form that he had before he was drafted and become a dominant player in the NHL. While this may not be what everyone expects, it would be the absolute best case scenario for the Avalanche.
Nail Yakupov was signed as a UFA this off season by the Colorado Avalanche. He is a player that was drafted first overall in his draft year and was expected by all to be the next face of the then struggling Edmonton Oilers franchise. While he has shown greatness in spurts, to this point in his career he has struggled immensely to put it nicely. Nail is the kind of pure talent that could do things for a franchise that Auston Mathews or Connor Mcdavid is doing for their franchises currently. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what has happened in his career to this point that has caused so many fans and now 2 teams to give up on him but the facts that remain are these. HE is only 23 years old. Most NHL players hit their primes between 25-30 roughly in this age of the NHL. He has elite level offensive skills and hands. He is more determined than ever to prove that he belongs in this league being fully aware that he will not have that long of a leash this season in Colorado with the Avalanche. Igor Larionov who Avalanche fans may remember is now Nails agent. He said that “Sakic sees Yak as a top-6 winger.”
Here is Hockeys Futures report on Nail from just after his first year in the NHL
Yakupov is a pure goal-scorer with great hands, quick feet, and great natural hockey sense. Prior to his NHL debut here was concern about Yakupov’s ability as a playmaker and being more of a pure finisher than someone who involves his linemates, but he proved to be a solid team player who adjusted well to the NHL atmosphere. Although not overly big at 5’11 and sometimes prone to injury, Yakupov showed no signs of struggle in his big league debut.
Here is The Hockey News player forecaster about Nail
|Has phenomenal sniping ability, great puck skills and the speed to be a constant scoring threat from the wing position. Can also set up his linemates well when teams bear down on him.|
|Struggles in the defensive zone and lacks awareness when not on the attack. Lacks optimum size (5-11, 195 pounds) and strength. Takes some shifts off and lacks consistency in a big way.|
|Inconsistent, speedy scoring winger with a little upside.|
Whether he pans out for the Avalanche or not I like this signing. They signed him to a 1-year deal that counts for almost nothing against the cap. If he doesn’t show up in the first 20 or so games this season most feel like he will just be waived and sent down to the AHL and that will be the end of it. Personally, I think that he is going to fit well with the play makers the Avalanche have on their roster well. Nails agent seems to feel like Nail is more determined and working harder than he has to this point in his NHL career to prove that he not only belongs in this league but that he can be a top 6 player and be a productive piece of a winning club.
Best case scenario for the Avalanche? Kind of similar to the Wilson one. Nail becomes a legit franchise player and takes his game and the Avalanche to a whole new level. Will this happen? Again, not likely.. but it would be the best possible situation for the Avalanche.
Alexander Kerfoot was signed by the Avalanche as a NCAA UFA. He was one of 3 highly sought after NCAA UFA’s this off season. He played for Harvard University and served as Co captain for the team. Last season he played in 36 games scoring 45 points and getting a + 20 rating. He is considered to be a good 2-way player. He had offers from at least 10 other NHL franchises that have been reported openly. His decision to sign with the Avalanche came as a bit of a surprise to some after seeing their record last season, but Kerfoot seems to like what the team is building in Denver. Here was his reaction on Twitter after signing the contract.
Here is a quote by Joe Sakic about Kerfoot
“He’s a highly-skilled, playmaking center who is responsible at both ends of the ice. We look forward to seeing him take the next step of his hockey career with our organization.”
and finally, here are Hockeys Futures thoughts on Kerfoot
Kerfoot is blessed with a tremendous amount of natural offensive skill. His best attributes though are his on-ice vision and hockey sense. His elite-level puck skills are evident in the fact that he is both a good passer and finisher. While he continues to work on his skating, he is still quick and elusive. Despite being undersized, Kerfoot battles all over the ice and is not afraid of physical play. Despite working hard in the weight room, the centerman needs to continue focusing on his health to limit the potential for injuries.
Dominic Toninato was another NCAA UFA that the Avalanche were able to sign this off season. He was the captain of the Minnesota Duluth team that he played for over the last 4 seasons and he is considered a very solid 2-way player. He helped lead the team as their captain to the semi finals of the NCAA tournament this last season. He played in 42 games last season scoring 29 points and a + 25 rating. He is a very solid all around player and is someone who as well as Kerfoot could find himself on the Avalanche NHL roster sooner than later. Especially if we see any of the few remaining veterans on the team moved before the start of the season.
Here is what Hockey Futures Talent Analysis is of Toninato
Toninato is a forward who excels in all zones. He is a versatile player with leadership qualities and can score goals as well as set up his team mates. Toninato is effective on both the powerplay and penalty-kill. He made a smooth transition from junior to college hockey and should continue to refine all areas of his game through his college career.
Miranov played the last couple of seasons in the KHL and was named a KHL All start this last season. He is a strong physical defensive blueliner who can skate very well. In the early prospect camp that the Avalanche had just after the NHL Entry Draft many who were in attendance were very surprised with his skating ability. That is one area of his game that many didn’t realize he possessed. Miranov should be able to challenge for an NHL roster spot this season as the Blue line has not gotten much attention from the end of last season yet. Time will tell if there will be a trade to bring in some help on the back end or not, but as of now, Miranov has every shot to come to camp and pre season ready to impress.
Today Jared Cowen signed a PTO (Professional try out) contract with the Avalanche. This means that he will be with the team for training camp and pre season games. He at any point can be offered a full contract to play with the team this season, or they can release him at any point as well. This move to me is just one for some depth during camp and to see how he’s recovered from his 18 months away from the game due to injury. If he comes out and shocks everyone and looks really good then he could earn a roster spot, if he comes out and even just looks average then he probably will be let go. Could he make the team? sure, anything is possible. No one seemed to give either Rene or Gabe Bourque a shot last season when they signed their PTO’s but both made the team. I am pulling for the guy and all ways love seeing redemption or come back stories after an injury like that, but it’s more of a very pleasant surprise than an expected thing at this point. Solid move to get some depth in camps and pre season, and good 0 risk potentially some reward situation. Best guess is not to expect to see him with the team past a couple of pre season games though. The last thought on this is if he does show that he can play solid on the bottom pairing or something for the Avalanche this year and they sign him to a 1 year deal he could be swapped at the deadline potentially for an asset even if that is a 4th round draft pick or something that would show some creativity on Joe’s part for taking nothing and turning it into an asset of some sort. Time will tell, but it is something to watch.
Subtractions from organization
- Calvin Pickard – Selected by Vegas Golden Knights in expansion draft
- Will Butcher
- John Mitchel?
- Fedor Tyutin
- Eric Gelinas
- Nate Guenin
- Patrick Wiercoich
There are really only 2 players that the team is losing this season that I feel could have significant impacts on the team moving forward. This is in no way meant to show disrespect to the other players on this list, but looking at the team as a young rebuilding team many of the veterans that are moving on would not still be playing by the time the team was really ready to seriously challenge for the cup. That being said, I think that losing Calvin Pickard could be something that really comes back to bite the team in the next few seasons. I fully expect to see him continue his development with the Vegas Knights and become one of the better young goalies in the league in the next 2 years. Will Butcher is the other player on this list that could be another who ends up developing into a solid player in the NHL in the next couple of seasons. I can’t really blame the kid for wanting to leave the Avalanche organization based on how everything went down the last 2 or so years, and there are still many questions about his game and whether it can translate to the NHL or not but he is an asset that I would have liked to hold onto if possible. I know that the Avalanche attempted to keep him as well, but maybe it was just as the saying goes a bit to little too late.
Things that could still happen before camp?
- Duchene trade?
- Barrie trade?
Could we still see a Matt Duchene trade? Absolutely possible. I have been saying all off season that I anticipated that we would see a move, but that it wouldn’t happen until September. I would love to see Duchene stay with the team as he has been one of my personal favorite players on the team for years, but if the team can bring in that right fit defensively I can also understand the thought about moving him.
Could we see Tyson Barrie moved? That could be possible as well, I wouldn’t be too surprised if we saw a deal with Barrie and Duchene packaged for something very solid for the team moving forward, but does he have to be moved? Not at all. I see more in Barrie than most Avalanche fans seem to, and I will be posting an article in the near future showing just why his advanced stats are, believe it or not almost identical to Brent Burns and PK Subban when they were Barries age. Yes, even the plus minus etc. I think there is a lot of potential for Tyson still, but I could also understand the move if we got the right pieces back.
Nothing? I would say that this would be my 2nd best guess. First would be some kind of late Duchene deal maybe mid to late September then nothing then on a limb maybe a Barrie deal, but that one is more doubted by me personally at this time. Anything can happen and change in an instant though, the NHL is so fluid we will have to wait and see. What do you think might happen before we get to the first game of the season? Would you like to see any thing I mentioned happened? Would you like to see something else? What do you think of the additions this year? Do you like the off season moves as a whole? Let us know in the comments and we can continue the discussion there! Have a great day everyone! We are almost to September which means some real hockey news!