The NHL should be afraid of the Colorado Avalanche

It’s never easy to see a team drop out of the Stanley Cup playoffs – especially how the Colorado Avalanche fell last night. Regardless of what you think of the recalled offside review target, there is no going back. The season is over and we are now heading for a summer that has the potential to be the most exciting in a long time.

This is a team that looked dead in the water for the first two months of 2019. You could change things – up without major additions Cale Makar in the playoffs – and became a team just one game behind the Western Conference final. Maybe they excelled in the playoffs, but Colorado is a team that has the potential to turn into a juggernaut very quickly.

Joe Sakic has a number of options for the offseason and it really feels like this is the year he’s made a splash to make his team a real contender for next season’s Stanley Cup.

This playoff run feels like the start of something special for the Avalanche franchise. You’re young, have a lot of cap flexibility and now have a leadership core who knows what it takes to win the playoffs.

The young squad

With an average age of 25.8 years, the Avalanche have the youngest line-up in the NHL. Carl Söderberg, Ian Cole and Erik Johnson are the only players with contracts who will be over 30 for the next season. This is a young team, but more importantly, they are a team built around an incredibly young core.

Nathan MacKinnon drives everything and he’s only 23 years old. If you were to start a Scratch franchise it would be hard to argue against MacKinnon being the second choice Connor McDavid.

His partner in crime Mikko Rantanen is two years younger – and still trying to figure out how to play in the NHL without your baby giraffe skating style. The two Allstars are in the early years of their heyday and are already among the best offensive players in the league.

Every NHL team hopes they can have a top-notch 20-year-old defender, the Avalanche have two in Makar and Samuel Girard.

Up and down the squad you can see young players. Guys who are either not near their prime or just starting out. From internal sources alone, this leads to a great improvement over the previous year.

The design

The Avalanche have the chance to significantly bolster their depth map next month in the NHL Entry Draft. They currently not only hold picks 4 and 16 in the first round, but thanks to the extra picks from the Matt Duchene trade, the Avs have four of the first 63 picks in the draft.

There is a very good chance the Avalanche shop will choose either or both of its first round to bring more immediate help. It would take a big return to move the fourth pick, but as of today, 16 is definitely in the game.

If the Avs stay where they are, Kirby Dach is a strong contender for fourth overall. If that is the case, there is a chance that Dach will join the squad and have an effect as early as the next season.

For a team that didn’t have the best track record in recent history on Draft Day, this year could bring a huge influx of talent to the prospect pool.

The cap room

That season, the Avalanche had one of the league’s lowest cap hits. Only the Carolina Hurricanes and the New Jersey Devils spent less on their lineups than Colorado. Unlike these two teams, the Avalanche have an ownership group that has proven they are willing to spend up to the cap.

Mikko Rantanen will get an expansion in the $ 9 million range, but even with that, the Avs have plenty of room to work with. Nikita Zadorov and Alex Kerfoot will eat a little of it, but Sakic will have the option to toss a lot of money if he wants.

The top 6 strikers will be the target. Artemi Panarin would be ideal. Giving him a $ 10 million contract would definitely be doable – it’s just not likely. All reports have the New York Rangers and Florida Panthers landing as front runners Panarin and although the avalanche will be of interest, it is very likely that things will end up like this John Tavares last summer – the team wants to pitch, but the player doesn’t return the favor.

If Sakic can’t land Panarin, there is a very decent crop of secondary options for him to pursue. It would be surprising if the avalanche didn’t come out of hand without one of them Jeff Skinner, Not so Lee, Jordan Eberle, Kevin Hayes, Gustav Nyquist or Michael Ferland.

do not say Matt Duchene, Do not say Matt Duchene, Do not say Matt Duchene

You could also use a guy who plays like that Matt Duchene.

The Avalanche don’t necessarily have to add a defender, but if Sakic is looking to use one, Jake Gardiner is a guy who fits on the left and plays a style of play that would go very well with Colorado’s style of playing.

That being said, the free agency isn’t the only way the Avalanche could use their cap space. There will be a number of teams looking to cut their pay obligations this off-season. Toronto and Tampa Bay need space for Mitchell Marner and Brayden point respectively. Steve Yzerman will try to create cap flexibility in Detroit (as opposed to his old job of creating cap flexibility in Tampa Bay). There will be a lot of teams that want to spend a lot of money. Sakic could throw himself there. Chances are he’ll find a restricted free agent that a team just can’t afford anymore – maybe a guy like Kasperi Kapanen – or how he did it with Brooks Orpik Last year he might be trying to take a bad contract in exchange for a more valuable asset.

Go forward

MacKinnon, Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog will be back to show the way. With internal growth and an ineffective take on of agents, there’s no reason to believe the Avalanche can be a contender for the top of the Western Conference next season.

The team has the best line in ice hockey, a defensive core that is probably one of the most underrated in the NHL, and it seems as if they have found their established top goalkeeper of the future in Philipp Grubauer. Now all that remains is to fill in the gaps.

Wednesday night sucks, the next few weeks will serve to wonder what if there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Colorado is a really good team and they have the potential to get a lot better over the next few seasons. If you listen to the fans across the league, you can tell they are worried. Contenders look over their shoulders while the Avalanche are quick to fill the void.

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