Avalanche have money to spend in free-agency
Heading into the offseason the Colorado Avalanche has flexibility and money to spend. According to capgeek.com the Avalanche has $25,953,571 of available cap space this summer. If the Avalanche keep unrestricted free-agents Paul Stastny, Ryan O’Reilly, and Jamie McGinn on board for next season there should be in the range of $6-$7 million worth of cap space left over.
Foundation in place
Aside from signing the forwards mentioned above, the top priority for the Avalanche this offseason – similar to the previous offseason – is the evaluation and improvement of the defense. This season the Avalanche have a better idea of what to expect from their defenseman; in contrast to last season when only the coaching staff had a hunch about the new group’s potential. Tyson Barrie, 22, budded last season and is now a legitimate top-four offensive defenseman. The surprise emergence of Nick Holden gives the Avalanche another steady offensive defenseman to go along with the workhorses, Erik Johnson and Jan Hejda.
Nate Guenin had a solid first season in the NHL and is a safe bet to fill one of the final defensive spots considering the two-year extension he received in January. Guenin won’t give the Avalanche much offense, but Roy seemed to like his gritty style and work on the penalty kill unit. Whether Guenin will be featured as the sixth defenseman or in a seventh defenseman type of role where he will be plugged in on select nights is to be determined. As for Ryan Wilson, he’ll be back but don’t expect to see him often. Wilson was a healthy scratch for the better part of the past season and seemed to find a niche in Roy’s doghouse. Wilson can be a tough, reliable defenseman when called upon but will probably serve as a utility player for the Avalanche in the upcoming season. He has one year remaining on his contract ($2.25 million), and all signs point to it being his last. Andre Benoit and Cory Sarich will likely remain unsigned and will walk in the coming months, leaving the team with options to round out the backend.
According to The Denver Post‘s Adrian Dater via Rodger SportsNet‘s Jeff Marek, the Avalanche were high on Florida Panther’s defenseman Dmitry Kulikov in early December. Kulikov, the 14th selection in the 2009 draft, is an offensive defenseman who has had turnover issues in the early stages of his career. As Dater points out in his blog post, Kulikov has the potential to stack up points in the NHL and Roy knows this well having coached against him in the QMJHL. Kulikov is a restricted free-agent this summer and could be on the Avalanche’s radar. At 23, Kulikov would be an enormous splash in the free-agent market and could help the Avalanche for years to come as he enters his prime. Yet, doubt remains he will reduce his turnovers and play smarter in his own end.
A target the Avalanche should consider in July is Matt Greene of the Los Angeles Kings. Greene, 31, is a big, mean defenseman with playoff experience and Stanley Cup pedigree having won the cup in 2012 with the Kings. Greene will be an unrestricted free-agent and would be affordable for the Avalanche in the $3 million per year range. If the Avs can snag him off the market he would be a nice fit to log 18-20 minutes as a top-four defenseman.