Finally, the day is here and free agents across the NHL can begin signing with any club as of Noon ET. For the Colorado Avalanche, there are a few interesting stories to examine heading into the free agent period.
PAUL STASTNY SITUATION
Paul Stastny has officially become an unrestricted free agent, and is free to sign with any team he wants. He has earned that right. And, because he has reached this point, I find it hard to believe that he will ever be seen in an Avalanche sweater again.
Stastny is the top UFA center on the market, and it was widely reported that at least half of the teams in the league at least called his agent to inquire about acquiring his services. With so much demand for him, and the Avalanche letting him know that they will not go out of their way to resign him to a deal that they don’t approve of, Stastny will likely wind up in a different uniform by the end of this week.
In my opinion, this should be Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic’s final pitch to Paul Stastny:
“Look at the trade we just made for Daniel Briere. He waived his non-movement clause to come to Colorado. Colorado is once again becoming a destination for players, a place they wish to come because they think we can win. You are a big part of that, but only if you fit into our cap structure. If not, there are plenty of players out there who are willing to work with us because they want to win. So, if you want to win a Stanley Cup in the next two or three seasons, this is your best bet. If our offer isn’t appealing enough, then thank you for your services, and good luck in your future endeavors.”
If, after that, Stastny is still unwilling to resign, it is time to move on to a contingency plan, which you can bet Roy and Sakic have.
DANIEL BRIERE ACQUISITION
The day before free agency was scheduled to begin, the Avalanche moved winger PA Parenteau to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Daniel Briere. The Avalanche also gave up a 5th round draft pick in the 2015 draft in the trade.
As mentioned earlier, Briere waived his non-movement clause in his contract in order to come to the Avalanche. At this stage in his career (36-years-old), the only real reason to do this is because you believe the place you are moving to has a real chance to win.
Briere does believe this. He was quoted by the Denver Post as being extremely excited for the opportunity to join this organization.
Many fans and experts believe, once again, that Colorado was fleeced in this trade. However, many of the same folks believed they also were fleeced in the deal that landed them their franchise goaltender Semyon Varlamov, and the blockbuster trade that sent Kevin Shattenkirk and Chris Stewart to St. Louis for Erik Johnson, Jay McClement and a first-round draft pick (top-prospect Duncan Siemens).
Briere comes with tons of experience and will get a fresh start and will get to be a leader on this team filled with young, talented offensive weapons. He was buried on the Canadiens depth chart for most of last season, but over the course of his career he has accumulated more than a point-per-game in the playoffs.
Only time will tell how the Avs came out in this deal, but the important message to me in this deal is this: Colorado is becoming a place that players want to play. They want to play for Patrick Roy, with the young team he and Joe Sakic have put together, and they believe that it is a place to win Stanley Cups.
FREE AGENCY PLAN
With the expected departure of Paul Stastny, I believe that the Avalanche have their bases covered at the center position. They already have numerous centers on their roster (Duchene, MacKinnon, O’Reilly, Mitchell, Talbot, Cliche) and Briere, their most recent acquisition, can also play center. Therefore, it won’t necessarily be as important to sign a new center, but a new scoring forward would be nice.
Some targets I believe Colorado will take a look at are Ales Hemsky (reportedly seeking a deal worth $5.5 million annually),
Jarome Iginla (a $1.8 million cap hit for Boston last season, seeking a 2-year deal), and Mikhail Grabovski ($3 million cap hit last season). I, personally, would prefer to see Iginla don the burgundy and blue next season, as he would bring a fire and intensity to the team as he really wants to win a Stanley Cup. He would also provide more leadership for this young team, something that will only help in the growth and development of young stars like Gabe Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon.
As far as defense is concerned, that is a little more tricky. I believe the Avalanche need to make a splash on the blue line, but Patrick Roy seems to believe that the defensive core is just fine. For my own sanity, I hope he is just trying to say that to boost the morale of his current defenseman, and will actually look to bolster the group.
Some potential targets for the Avalanche are Willie Mitchell ($3.5 million cap hit for the Stanley Cup champion LA Kings), Brooks Orpik ($3.75 million cap hit last several seasons for Pittsburgh), and Christian Ehrhoff (recently bought out of 10-year, $40 million deal with the Buffalo Sabres). I would prefer that they target Ehrhoff first, as he is the youngest out of the group and could have the highest potential of the bunch, but seeing Willie Mitchell on the point for the Avs also makes a lot of sense.
In the end, there are a lot of different ways the Avalanche can go tomorrow. All there is left to do is buckle up and enjoy the ride.