Avalanche news: MacFarland promoted to GM; Georgiev signs

Avalanche news: MacFarland promoted to GM; Georgiev signs
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While the Colorado Avalanche bask in the (sometimes-boozy?) glow of a Stanley Cup win, they have a lot of work to do this offseason. The Avalanche already started some of that work, essentially swapping Alexandar Georgiev for Darcy Kuemper, and making a change — at least in terms of title — at GM.

MacFarland becomes Avalanche GM; Joe Sakic now president of hockey operations

Not every GM change results from a firing.

Sometimes, a team makes front office changes to avoid losing a prominent front office member to another GM job. There are also cases where an aging GM maybe sees the writing on the wall, but sticks around (Glen Sather and the Rangers are a go-to example).

In the case of the Avalanche, they promoted Chris MacFarland to GM on Monday, while Joe Sakic now holds the title of president of hockey operations.

Both Elliotte Friedman and Peter Baugh indicated that the Avalanche promoted MacFarland to GM at least in part to avoid other teams snatching him up for their positions.

Generally speaking, NHL teams don’t give you a look behind the curtain. So, one can only speculate about how much influence different forces carry.

  • A team might have a robust analytics department, but do they listen to their “good nerds?” You can only speculate. Some of that comes down to actions speaking louder than words. For instance: if Chuck Fletcher takes analytics seriously, his moves revolving around Rasmus Ristolainen would make for a funny way of showing such an interest.
  • Does a GM basically defer to scouts throughout a draft, just in the late rounds, or barely at all? That process isn’t very transparent.
  • Finally, how much influence would an assistant GM have?

[Whoever influenced the Avalanche’s trade strategies, they did some incredible work]

From Baugh’s report, it sounds like Chris MacFarland carried a lot of influence with the Avalanche even before this promotion to GM.

Arguably, you could draw a steady line from the Avalanche’s blossoming from a behind-the-times franchise to an innovative force by noting MacFarland’s ascent in 2015.

Perhaps Joe Sakic’s greatest decision was to listen to MacFarland? Either way, it’s a setup that’s worked wonderfully. It makes sense to try to keep the band together. (It remains to be seen if the decision-making process basically remains the same, or if MacFarland tries anything different as full-fledged Avalanche GM.)

Georgiev gets a contract with the Avalanche

After trading three draft picks (two third-rounders and a fifth) for the rights to negotiate with Alexandar Georgiev, the Avalanche recently signed him. It’s a three-year deal with a reported $3.4 million cap hit.

Honestly, allow some agreement on this seeming a touch steep for the 26-year-old.

Look, there’s very reasonable discussion about private models spitting out more robust information about goalies than public ones. That’s especially relevant with Georgiev, as he’s suffered behind some pretty putrid Rangers defenses at times.

Still, by models such as that of Hockey Viz, Georgiev’s work doesn’t inspire overwhelming confidence. By certain measures, Georgiev may have allowed more goals than he should have in 2021-22.

[Darcy Kuemper headlines the free agent market, but maybe teams would be better off trading for goalies?]

Naturally, the Avalanche likely aim for the best plan of all: to be so overwhelming as a team that any goalie worries wash away.

Either way, it’s not a disastrous amount of money or term, and Georgiev is young. If the Avalanche are right, then they have a worthwhile goalie in the prime of his career at a decent clip for three years.

I can’t help but wonder if their backup Pavel Francouz (32, $2M cap hit for two seasons) may end up being the better value.

MacFarland, Sakic, Avalanche have more work to do

After settling their goalie situation, the Avs still have work to do. On the bright side, Cap Friendly estimates that the Avalanche also have a fairly robust $21.035M in salary cap space.

Pierre LeBrun reports that Andre Burakovsky‘s representatives expect him to hit the free agent market. It’s possible that Nazem Kadri may price himself out of Colorado, too.

However, LeBrun reports that the Avalanche have made some progress with intriguing free agent winger Valeri Nichushkin.

One Avalanche player that won’t be back is Nicolas Aubé-Kubel. The forward will not receive a qualifying offer.

There are other Avalanche UFAs of note, including defenseman Josh Manson. Artturi Lehkonen is also an RFA with salary arbitration rights.

If those situations didn’t keep the Avalanche busy, the team may also sign some key contract extensions. Both Nathan MacKinnon and Bowen Byram could receive extensions as soon as this offseason.

So, MacFarland, Sakic, and the Avalanche already completed key offseason tasks, but they have more on the to-do list as free agent time rapidly approaches on Wednesday.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.