Rantanen’s contract suspension, Kadri’s talent among the storylines of the avalanche training camp |
January 14, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs striker Nazem Kadri (43) and Colorado Avalanche striker Nathan MacKinnon (29) meet in the first period at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
The Colorado Avalanche started their 2019 training camp with medical and physical tests last Thursday. Since then, the Avs have completed three days of ice camp sessions and their first pre-season training session on Monday morning.
Colorado will open its 2019 preseason on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at home against the Vegas Golden Knights. Here are the biggest stories from the training camp
Mikko Rantanen is still without a contract. With the contracts signed by Travis Konecny and Brock Boeser on Monday, Rantanen is one of 10 remaining restricted free agents who are still without a contract. Avs GM Joe Sakic and the Rantanen warehouse have both expressed an interest in signing a long-term contract. As expected, Sakic has confirmed that Rantanen will soon be Colorado’s highest paid player.
But the question remains, by how much? Star striker Nathan MacKinnon is signed for a bargain of $ 6.3 million annually. Can the Avs afford to give Rantanen $ 4 million more than one of the best players in the league?
The situation doesn’t seem to be as breakneck as other restricted free agents in the league. But with that in mind, Sakic would be wise to remove the distraction of a possible Stanley Cup season and sign his young striker as soon as possible.
Nazem Kadri impressed his colleagues with his all-round game. The blockbuster deal that Avalanche and Toronto Maple Leafs announced on July 1 made sense for both teams. Colorado desperately needed a second-line center while Toronto could sacrifice a talented striker to upgrade their blueline with Tyson Barrie. But what surprises most, especially Nathan MacKinnon, is how talented Kadri actually is.
“He’s a lot better than I thought,” said MacKinnon. “I think he was held back a little in Toronto. He’s a great shutdown player and will continue to be, but he has a lot of offensive advantages that I don’t think the league has seen. “
Kadri runs on a line between the young striker Tyson Jost and the newcomer Joonas Donskoi. The three impressed from the start and even praised it from head coach Jared Bednar in the early days of the camp.
With the acquisitions of Kadri and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Colorado has consolidated its central position. Bednar confirmed that the Avalanche will use Bellemare in a shutdown function on the fourth line. Last year, Colorado rotated forward on the fourth line, often using it ineffectively. Bellemare on the fourth row, along with Kadri on the second and JT Compher on the third, gives Colorado a more established center core behind MacKinnon for the first time in three seasons.
The Avalanche’s second power play session could be more effective this season. The Avalanche’s top power play series on Monday consisted of MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Andre Burakovsky and Kadri, with defender Cale Makar at the helm. Once Rantanen is under contract, one of Kadri or Burakovsky is expected to be pushed into the second unit. With Kadri ready to pitch camp on the opposing team, much like Colin Wilson last year, he is the more likely player to stay in the top flight.
With this in mind, Burakovsky could join a second unit at this point, consisting of Jost, Compher, Donskoi and Sam Girard. A line that could deliver plenty of offensive production in power play.
There are roster spots on the blue line. Veterans Ian Cole, Erik Johnson and Kevin Connauton’s injuries have opened up some spots on the Avalanche’s blue line. With Johnson expected to be ready for opening night, Colorado will put him, Makar, Girard and Nikita Zadorov in the top four.
Bowen Byram, the fourth overall 2019 winner, ran with former Maple Leafs defender Calle Rosen on Monday and were a solid duo, according to Bednar. The two, along with Conor Timmins, who is healthy for the first time in a year, Ryan Graves and Mark Barberio will all have a chance at the opening ceremony.
Cole is expected to be out until December, while Connauton is currently running in a contactless jersey after breaking a cheekbone two weeks ago.
Pavel Francouz and the Avalanche are convinced of his skills as an NHL goalkeeper. On the first day of the vacancy, Sakic told the media that Francouz will be the substitute goalkeeper for the next season. The KHL veteran turned heads at training camp, instilling confidence in both Sakic and Bednar that after a successful season in Loveland a season ago, he is actually ready to become a full-time NHLer.
At the end of training on Monday, Bednar announced the demotion of five players. Goalkeeper Trent Minor has been sent back to the WHL’s Vancouver Giants, while strikers Travis Barron, Josh Dickinson, Brandon Saigeon and defenseman Josh Anderson have all been sent to the AHL’s Colorado Eagles.
The cuts were made before the Avalanche season opener, when Bednar will refine a younger line-up.
“Tomorrow we have a group that is young. It is a reward for the boys to come to camp in good shape and play well in the rookie camp, ”he said. “I think there are some guys out there who deserve the chance to come over to camp here to take a look at the exhibition games and get a taste of them, some draft picks. The same goes for some of the guys who come to auditions. “