Mike Chambers from the Denver Post analyzes the need for the team to do an upgrade on defense. For the Colorado Avalanche, there is a pressing need for a defenseman who can clearly execute the transition out of their defensive zone and make that first pass to a forward already at full speed in the neutral zone. Those players are usually key on a team enjoying deep playoff success. That is clearly missing for the Colorado Avalanche. The offense is present but the defensive end needs work. What can they do as the NHL draft approaches followed by the Unrestricted Free Agent period commencing on the 1st July 15.
He brings up the point that defenseman Tyson Barrie and Erik Johnson with better players capable of playing big for them. Patrick Roy stated at season’s end that the Avalanche will need to improve their defensive corps. So look for Colorado to draft a defenseman in their tenth spot. There are some real defenseman available this year and where the Avalanche will draft, they may find this player capable of shouldering their elite duo of Barrie and Johnson.
Avalanche’s Option for UFA
With a cap space of 11 million dollars, the Avalanche may be tempted to dip into the free agency pool. Jan Hejda and Ryan Wilson will likely not returned which will leave six out of eight defenseman signed up for next season creating two available spots. Signing a Cody Franson, for example will redefine which chair certain defensemen will play into. Defenseman acquisitions for the Avalanche is highly predictable when UFA season opens up July 1st. With Jeff Petry now signed up, this leaves the Avalanche of five defenseman of interest, they will be pursuing.
The players they will be looking at are: Andrej Sekera who played in Los Angeles at the trade deadline after being traded from the Carolina Hurricanes prior to the trade deadline. Next the other player of interest to Colorado will be Cody Franson who was traded to Nashville by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Franson represent what Colorado may be looking for. At 27, he is in his prime and can move the puck well and rack many minutes of play. He has size and can score. He won’t come cheap and looking at the defenseman available could go and double his salary cap of last season which was 3.3M.
The other one is Mike Green. Green may be tempted to resign for less in Washington ad a longer term. His defensive play in his own zone has always been questionable but his skating and his ability to join the offence is superior. He can make that first pass like we mentioned above. Finally two defenceman the Avalanche could be tempted to go after are Matt Irwin who at 27 is still young, from the San Jose Sharks and Jake Gardiner who would need to be acquired via trade. Irwin is a superior skater and will move the puck out of the Av’s zone without any problems. With a salary at 1.1M last season, he is expected to earn more than the double of that salary but it will still be cheaper than a Mike Green or Cody Franson in the 6M range.
Finally, the Avalanche will be choosing a defenseman at the NHL Draft. Two candidates they will have available potentially at the tenth position are: Ivan Provorov (7) and Zach Werenski (9). The Avalanche could be tempted trade up one or two spots pending the teams ahead are comfortable doing so. As an example, Colorado could trade with the Philadelphia Flyers, another team that will be looking for a defenseman in the draft. Could Colorado trade up to 3rd spot with Arizona? Noah Hanifin from Boston College is available after all at that spot. Maybe it can happen. Nothing is impossible at the draft and Arizona has said they would be listening to offers. Could Ryan O’Reilly be trade bait to go up a few notches?
In closing, the Avalanche have some good defensemen coming up but that are not quite ready yet. Their best prospect at this time is AHL leading scorer amongst defenseman Maxim Noreau, 28. They also have Chris Bigras and Mason Geertsen who are both 20 and still developing. Bigras and Geertsen are likely not ready for next season but could make an entry in 2016-2017. There is no doubt, that the Colorado Avalanche are in need of a defenseman as noted by Roy at season’s. Their best bet may be UFA, to address the problem now since they have the cap space to do so.
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