The Colorado Avalanche can be a tough nut to crack.
If you bounce around “Hockey Twitter” at all, the team very much stands as a guinea pig in the “stats vs. tradition” debate (or whatever you’d like to call it). That debate often gets a little weird and then overshadows the team itself.
When you look at the Avalanche, it’s an odd mix of old and new.
You have old ideas and old faces in management with Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic running the ship. They seemingly lean toward signing old veterans from Jarome Iginla to Francois Beauchemin.
The fresh faces make this squad awfully interesting, however. Gabriel Landeskog is still one of the NHL’s youngest captains at 22. With all the pressure on Nathan MacKinnon to make the next step, one might forget that he’s just 19. Matt Duchene and Tyson Barrie remain in the meat of their primes at 24.
What if all four of those promising young players make significant strides that often come at such ages, particularly MacKinnon, who may just be scratching the surface of his skill set as people move onto to the next big thing in Connor McDavid? Could the Avalanche see earlier-than-expected results from still-blooming prospects like Nikita Zadorov and Mikhail Grigorenko?
Ryan O’Reilly is a tough player to let go – and he’s also just 24 – but when you look at that group, it’s quite a bit easier to stomach, isn’t it?
Yes, that defense looks pretty shaky beyond a handful of solid players such as Barrie and Erik Johnson, meaning the Avalanche will again lean heavily on Semyon Varlamov.
Still, with the abundance of talent at the forward position in particular, even the most ardent number-crunchers would shudder to dismiss the Avalanche outright.
According to Mike Chambers of The Denver Post, the Avs’ top priority heading into free agency is to add left-handed shooting defensemen.
Chambers previously reported the club is unlikely to re-sign pending unrestricted free agent defensemen Jan Hejda or Ryan Wilson. Both are left shots.
“As a coach, yes, we’d like to have somebody to play with EJ (inaudible) and Tyson. Obviously, we have (Nick) Holden and (Brad) Stuart, who are left shots, but we’d like to add a defenseman in the top four,” Patrick Roy said. “I think it will help our team tremendously.”
According to Generalfanager.com, there are currently 60 left shot blue liners set to hit the open market on July 1.
Chambers suggests the Avs will focus on Andrej Sekera, Christian Ehrhoff, Matt Irwin, Johnny Oduya and Paul Martin. Sekera is the Avs’ top target, according to Chambers.
The 29-year-old split the 2014-15 season between the Carolina Hurricanes and L.A. Kings scoring three goals and 23 points in 73 games while averaging nearly 22 minutes a night in ice time.
Kings’ GM Dean Lombardi said the team was in negotiations with Sekera last month and believes the blue liner wants to remain in Los Angeles.
Colorado could have as much as $13 million to play with in free agency.
“It’s definitely and exciting time for everybody — stressful as well,” GM Joe Sakic said of free agency. “We’ve got guys that we’re looking to see what we can do about adding to our lineup and see if something fits. It’s a two-way street. You can like somebody but they have to … players pick where they want to go. We have guys in mind that we’d like to come on board and help us win … We’re working and things keep coming up.”
The Colorado Avalanche are so close to having all their business wrapped up for the summer.
The team has one restricted free agent left to re-sign in defenseman Tyson Barrie. At 23 years old, he’s got a bright future ahead of him and showed the Avs how vital he can be last season.
According to Colorado’s president of hockey operations Joe Sakic, they’ll have Barrie back in the fold sooner than not as Mike Chambers of The Denver Post shared.
“I’m confident he’ll be here,” Sakic said. That sentiment from Sakic isn’t any different from what he said a month ago when he was “confident” they would get a deal done.
Last season, Barrie had a breakout season with 13 goals and 38 points in 64 games. He was a key player for them in the first round of the playoffs against the Minnesota Wild until he was taken out of action by Matt Cooke.
With the Avs not making any big moves on defense in the offseason, they’re banking on Barrie to come back from his knee injury in full health and to pick up where he left off.