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Sakic doesn’t plan on trading MacKinnon, Rantanen or Jost

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The Colorado Avalanche, by pretty much any measure, are one of the worst teams in the NHL this season and on track to be one of the worst of in the NHL over the past 10 years. It has become increasingly clear that general manager Joe Sakic has quite a bit of work to do when it comes to fixing the mess the current team is in.

Given the team’s current spot in the standings and its consistent regression over the past three years, it is inevitable that some sort of trade is going to get made in the not-too-distant future, likely involving one of the team’s core players.

Before the Avalanche’s overtime win over the New York Islanders on Friday night, Sakic said (via Terry Frei of the Denver Post) that he will continue to explore trades that will help the team down the line and that the team has to get young.

Along with that, he also named three players that he does not plan on moving. The list includes Nathan MacKinnon, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft, Mikko Rantanen, the team’s first-round draft pick in 2015, and Tyson Jost, their first-round pick from this past season.

Here is Sakic, via the Denver Post:

“Well, I don’t plan on moving a guy like MacKinnon, (Tyson) Jost, (Mikko) Rantanen, especially with their age,” Sakic said. “We have a lot of good pieces here. Will I be listening to different ideas on how to improve us and maybe get us younger and get more depth here? Yeah, we’re going to do that.”

Given the skill level, age, potential, and contract status of those three players it is a very good place to start.

It also means that he would at least consider trading any of captain Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene or Tyson Barrie. Any potential move involving one of those players would be a massive shift in the structure of the team because they are still three of the four or five best players on the roster.

Such a move would also carry a great deal of risk. Not only because it’s tough to get back fair value for a player like a Matt Duchene if you decide to follow that path and move him, but also because of who is making the trade. The latter point is not something that should be taken lightly.

When hockey teams like the Avalanche go bad, the focus tends to fall on the best players, and Colorado is no different. That core group has faced intense criticism for two solid years now for the team’s shortcomings, even though the biggest issue remainss an alarming lack of depth at both forward and defense (and especially on defense).

The problem spot has been off the ice, specifically when it comes to the construction of the roster. This is, for all intents and purposes, Joe Sakic’s team. Twenty-two of the 28 players that have appeared in a game this season for the Avalanche were acquired under Sakic’s watch, with most of them coming over the past two years. Whether it be draft picks, free agents, trades, this roster belongs to Sakic. And it is not very good.

He also already made one significant change to the team’s core when he sent Ryan O'Reilly to Buffalo before the 2015-16 season and the return, to this point, has underwhelmed. You can not do that again with another core player.

The question you have to ask if you’re the Avalanche is — and really this is true of any team in this situation — do you trust the people that helped create the mess, to fix the mess?

More: MacKinnon wins it in overtime for the Avalanche

Sheary’s agent — who’s also Dumoulin’s agent — hoping to avoid arbitration

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Conor Sheary‘s agent is hopeful that an arbitration hearing won’t be needed with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

And that same agent has reason to be optimistic, since he’s also the agent for Brian Dumoulin, who settled at the last minute today.

“Each (case) is so different,” Andrew Gross told the Post-Gazette this morning. “Ultimately, though, team and player would like to avoid going in that room. It’s not a pleasant experience.”

Sheary’s hearing isn’t scheduled until Aug. 4. The 25-year-old forward is coming off a 53-point regular season. In his young NHL career, he’s already won two Stanley Cups.

That said, the Penguins can’t afford to break the bank on an extension. After all, a big reason for their success has been having players like Sheary on affordable deals — a necessity with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, and Kris Letang taking up so much cap space.

Sheary wasn’t all that productive in the 2017 playoffs either, scoring just two goals with five assists in 22 games, while finishing a team-worst minus-5 for the postseason.

“We’re prepared to go to arbitration,” Pens GM Jim Rutherford said last week.

Of course, Rutherford was also speaking about Dumoulin, and the two sides were able to reach an agreement on him.

You can probably expect a similar outcome with Sheary.

Just don’t bet the house on it.

Preds avoid arbitration with Austin Watson

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Another narrowly avoided arbitration to pass along.

The Nashville Predators have signed forward Austin Watson to a three-year, $3.3 million contract that will pay him $1 million next season, $1.1 million in 2018-19 and $1.2 million in 2019-20.

Watson’s hearing was scheduled for today.

From the press release:

Watson, 25 (1/13/92), set career highs in goals (5), assists (7), points (12), penalty minutes (99) and games played (77) during the 2016-17 season as he established himself as an integral member of the Nashville roster. The 6-foot-4, 204-pound winger then added four goals and nine points in 22 postseason contests as the Predators advanced to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. Watson also appeared in 57 games for the Predators during the 2015-16 season, recording three goals and 10 points.

The Pittsburgh Penguins also avoided an arbitration hearing today by signing defenseman Brian Dumoulin to a six-year contract.

Spooner seeking $3.85 million in arbitration

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Ryan Spooner‘s arbitration hearing with the Boston Bruins is scheduled for Wednesday. And if it goes ahead, it could be a rather contentious one.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Spooner is seeking $3.85 million on a one-year deal, while the B’s are thinking almost half that at $2 million.

Spooner, a 25-year-old forward, will certainly be able to sell his offensive statistics. He had 49 points in 2015-16, then 39 points last season.

“Ryan’s a talented player,” said GM Don Sweeney, per CSNNE.com. “He’s had a lot of success. Our power play is better when he plays as well as he’s capable of playing, and he can really be a good complement to our group.”

But the knock on Spooner has always been his defensive play. The past two seasons, he’s a combined minus-17. Back in May, it was reported that the B’s were entertaining trade offers for him.

Spooner’s last contract paid him $1.9 million over two years.

Dumoulin agrees to six-year contract with Penguins

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Brian Dumoulin won’t need his arbitration hearing today.

The Pittsburgh Penguins announced this morning that the 25-year-old defenseman has agreed to terms on a six-year contract with a $4.1 million cap hit.

From the press release:

Dumoulin, 25, has been a key component to the Penguins’ back-to-back Stanley Cup championships, as he played in all 49 playoff games in that span, and recorded 14 points (3G-11A). In the 2017 playoffs, Dumoulin had an average ice time of 21:59 minutes, the most of any Penguins skater, and his plus-9 paced all team defenders. He assisted on Carl Hagelin‘s empty-net goal that sealed the 2-0 victory in the decisive Game 6 of the Cup Final against Nashville. 

Dumoulin is coming off of a contract that paid him just $800,000 in each of the past two seasons.

With Dumoulin signed, Pittsburgh now has five defenseman under contract for at least the next three seasons, the other four being Kris Letang, Justin Schultz, Olli Maatta, and Matt Hunwick.

The Pens still have one more arbitration case in forward Conor Sheary. His hearing is scheduled for Aug. 4.

Related: Without Letang, the ‘simple bunch’ gets it done for Penguins