Avalanche Mailbag: 3C Replacement (If Needed), Term For Drouin

Colorado Hockey Now

It’s probably best that we get a mailbag in right now with some questions regarding the Colorado Avalanche, because this could be a hectic 10 days. With the Edmonton Oilers extending the NHL season a little longer, the calendar for the league looks a little wild.

Monday June 24: Game Seven

Thursday June 27: NHL Awards

Thursday June 28-29: NHL Draft

July 1: Free Agency Opens at 10 AM MST

Of course, it would have been easy to avoid a wild week like this if you’re the league. Maybe start the season a little bit earlier, don’t have a week off between the Conference Finals and the Stanley Cup Final, or don’t have long gaps between games in the Final itself. But that didn’t happen, so here we are. It’s a big week for the Colorado Avalanche, but I’m also unsure how much movement we actually see from them, given their cap situation. The rumors of Ross Colton potentially being available came up in a lot of questions, so might as well talk about it.

Ryan T: If the Avs do move RossCo, what do you think the plan is? Ritchie? He’s not ready. Trade/sign a cheaper 3C? Not easy. I get he’s a touch overpaid, but imo moving him isn’t smart. 4M for a 40 point 3C is fine.

I don’t think Calum Ritchie is the plan. Maybe he could surprise at training camp, but I think the plan there is to send him back to the OHL for another year. To me, it’s pretty simple. If the Avalanche feel like they have to move Ross Colton out, which is still far from a guarantee, they’re probably looking to bring in a cheaper 3C who has some experience. I also believe it’s going to be important that they find a 3C they can trust defensively. Colton isn’t overpaid, in my opinion. I don’t think it’s great value, but it’s not bad value either, especially with the cap continuing to go up. However, a trio of MacKinnon, Mittelstadt, and Colton down the middle isn’t the best defensively, so changing the makeup of that group would make some sense. You just probably aren’t going to find a better player than Colton to fill that spot…

I talked about this a bit with a few other Avalanche beat writers yesterday. You can watch here.

From Rory: Who are some cost efficient 3C options if the Avs do move Colton to save money? If they do keep Colton, do they need to prioritize a faceoff specialist/penalty killer to play 4C?

I mentioned in my daily the other day that if Philadelphia is really interested in trading Morgan Frost, talking to them about a Colton/Frost swap would be fun. I’m sure there would be some pieces added on both sides, but that’s a way to save some money. I’m not sure how much better it makes you, but it would be fun.

The free agent market isn’t great. Quite frankly, the only guy on the market who might make sense is Alex Wennberg, but after a solid playoff run in New York, I wouldn’t rule out him getting a bigger contract than Colton currently has. They could just re-sign Yakov Trenin, but keep in mind Trenin hadn’t played center in years before coming to Colorado. I’m not sure he’d be a great option.

One name on the trade market that could make some sense is Nick Bjugstad. He makes $2.1 million next season and would add some size down the middle. He doesn’t always play like the big man he is and I don’t think he’s as good as Colton, but that’s just a name that could be of interest.

MacFarland will have to get creative if a move like this was to go down.

From Son Huynh: Do you think Mack finally wins the hart?

Yep, I think it’s a lock. I’ll be there in the 112 degree heat to see it.

From Rick Bennett: Have you seen enough to go long (5-6 years) on Drouin to get the lowest possible AAV? Has C-Mac?

I would be weary of going 5-6 years on Jonathan Drouin. He had a great year, and he deserves all the credit for it, but it was still only one year. The biggest reason why I’d be afraid of a deal like that isn’t production, but injuries. He was healthy all last season, but he has struggled with injuries throughout his career. No guarantee those injuries don’t come crawling back. We have seen the Avalanche give out term to Miles Wood just to keep the AAV down, so it’s not impossible that they do that, but it would surprise me.

Going from a one year “prove it” deal to a 5-6 year deal would be quite the leap.

From Katie: Assuming JJ and Cogs don’t return, what do you think the top 2 PK units look like on Day 1?

I’m assuming this was sent before the retirement announcement of Andrew Cogliano, but there will have to be changes. Not only is he gone, but so is Valeri Nichushkin.

Miles Wood, Artturi Lehkonen, and Logan O’Connor are the three locks. Nikolai Kovalenko led his team in shorthanded time-on-ice over in the KHL, and the Avalanche would be wise to try and develop him there, just like they did with Wood. Beyond those guys, it’s probably going to be a lot of people they bring in this summer.

Johnson really didn’t play much on the PK, so that’s not a big loss for the special teams. I do think a guy who can kill penalties for the third pair should be a priority to limit the minutes for Cale Makar in that spot.

From Tyler: Is there a chance that the Avs make a trade and bring Kadri back to Colorado?

Nope. That ship sailed when Casey Mittelstadt got to town.

From Moose Rantanen: What does the Olausson trade look like at the draft?

I don’t imagine the Avalanche would get much in return for Oskar Olausson. Unless there’s a team out there that really wants him, you’re probably better off holding onto him. I don’t think there’s much of an NHL future there, but he did show some improvement last season and is still just 21. His trade value, at this point, has to be minimal.

From Jackie: How many Russians do the Avs draft with their 7 picks?

Hopefully a few so I can keep watching more KHL. I had Yegor Surin fourth on my draft board, but I really like him and think he’d be a fun pick for the Avalanche at 24. Igor Chernyshov would be a nice pick as well. Colorado has struggled to develop their own draft picks, so might as well let Russia do the work for them.

From Brendan: Do you think a cap dump is necessary this off-season, and if so, whose the odd man out?

Without knowing what the heck is going to happen with Valeri Nichushkin, it would seem like the Avalanche think some wiggle room is necessary. From all accounts, they’re planning on Gabriel Landeskog coming back and they’ll make room for him. The Colton rumors started because the team might prioritize Drouin over him.

You don’t love giving up center depth, but trading away Colton does make some sense. MacKinnon and Mittelstadt will combine to make around $18 million, so a $4 million third line center does seem a little excessive. Would you rather replace a third line center or a second pair defenseman, if you had to? I know where I’d take the hit, especially with a legit 2C in Colorado now.

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