Thanks to Nathan MacKinnon’s incredible bargain deal, the Colorado Avalanche have a wide-open Stanley Cup window. Now is the time for you to win.
The Colorado Avalanche are currently in an envious position. You are one of the NHL’s Stanley Cup contenders and have one of the best youth pools in the league. The Avalanche are one of the youngest teams in the league and only get better as their young stars continue to flourish.
There’s no reason the avalanche shouldn’t be good for the foreseeable future. Most of their best players are either long-term bans or have their entry-level contracts. Andre Burakovsky and Valerie Nichushkin will need raises as RFAs, among other things, this off-season, but they have more than enough cap space to take care of it.
Nathan MacKinnon’s contract could be the best deal the United States has seen since it was bought in Louisiana. The Avalanche signed him just before he became a perennial contender for the Hart Trophy, and it’s weird that his cap hit is only $ 6.3 million for the next three seasons after that.
How big is the bargain? MacKinnon’s cap hit ranks 55th among all strikers. With 31 teams, this means that each team has an average of two strikers with a higher cap hit (after rounding up). Since the start of the 2017/18 season, MacKinnon has the third most points among strikers. Only two strikers in the top 20 (Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov) have a lower cap hit than MacKinnon.
MacKinnon’s deal is the kind of contract team that takes advantage of it. You’re trying to win a Stanley Cup because it’s a lot easier to win a Stanley Cup when the best player is relatively cheap. The Avalanche didn’t do that.
The time to win is now
The Avalanche have three seasons before MacKinnon becomes an unrestricted free agent. You need to take advantage of his bargain deal by surrounding him with more talent. To be fair, I think the Avalanche are certainly trying as they allegedly tried to sign Artemi Panarin last summer.
But trying is not good enough. Yes, General Manager Joe Sakic did a great job turning the avalanche around very quickly. They were the worst team of the salary cap era (back then) during the 2016-17 season. A year later, the Avalanche made the Stanley Cup playoffs. Two years later, they nearly knocked the San Jose Sharks over in the second round. Three years later, they look like legitimate Stanley Cup contenders.
Sakic was able to swap for Nazem Kadri last summer, which worked out quite well for the Avalanche. And the Burakowski deal was pure brilliance. It also went very well to sign Nichushkin for dirt cheap. But that’s not good enough. The Avalanche must make moves that will help them win the Stanley Cup.
There is value in patience. Just look at how Sakic handled the Matt Duchene deal. He put the price high, waited for someone to hit him, and got huge loot. However, sometimes you have to be aggressive and get going. Sakic has yet to make this type of move, and at some point he will have to make some of those moves.
Who Should the Colorado Avalanche Target?
The Avalanche need more top quality strikers. They have quite an impressive depth as they haven’t had much of a problem scoring goals this season despite numerous injuries to some of their best players. What the Avalanche do not have enough of, however, are difference makers in the forward area. There are MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, and that’s about it. Gabriel Landeskog is a great player, but he doesn’t make any difference.
Fortunately for the Avalanche, there are some potential differentiators in the free agency. The biggest name is Taylor Hall, which the Avalanche reportedly showed an interest in trading earlier this season. Mike Hoffman and Tyler Toffoli are also worth a look, and both would be a decent consolation prize in losing Hall.
The Avalanche is also said to be looking for defenders. Should they check out Alex Pietrangelo and Torey Krug? At the right price, of course. But most likely they will be a little outside the Avalanche price range by doing what to do and posing as a striker. However, there might still be some solid options available.
Erik Gustafsson stands out for me among the UFA defenders. He’s extremely gifted on the offensive and I think he would go well with the Avalanche, provided the price is right. Brenden Dillon would be a good fit too if its price tag fits her budget.
MacKinnon has the best bargain deal in the NHL and I don’t think it’s that close. The Avalanche have not yet benefited from this, but they are moving in the right direction. Your future is bright right now, but if you keep waiting for the right moment to find the missing piece, you could be missing out on that missing piece.
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