It has been a topic of hot debate among Colorado Avalanche fans and pundits, the question of who the Avs should protect in the upcoming NHL Expansion Draft from the new Las Vegas Golden Knights team. The Avs can only protect one goaltender, so either Semyon Varlamov or Calvin Pickard would have to be exposed.
The goalie that will be protected, BSNDenver has learned, is Varlamov.
The Avs still consider the Russian, who missed the second half of this past season from hip surgery, their "No. 1 goalie" and therefore believe he should be protected over the younger, cheaper Pickard. Varlamov, 28, who is expected to make a full recovery from the hip procedure and resume skating soon, still has two years remaining on a contract with a $5.9 million cap hit.
Pickard, 24, has one year left on a contract paying $1 million. He could be an attractive choice for the Golden Knights, considering his age, contract and potential. But, while he showed flashes of excellence at times playing on a bad team this year, his overall body of work following the Varlamov injury probably was mediocre at best. So, it seems certain going into next fall's training camp, that Varlamov will be back to having No. 1 status in net.
The decision to protect Varlamov could change if he doesn't heal as well as expected, but that is highly unlikely and, besides, Las Vegas probably wouldn't want to select a damaged-goods goalie anyway.
The Avs must submit their list of players exempt from the draft by June 17, with Las Vegas making their picks on June 21. The Avs can protect either seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie or eight skaters (forwards and defensemen) and one goalie.
WILL BUTCHER UPDATE
Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic met for coffee Tuesday with University of Denver defenseman Will Butcher and a "family adviser", and while no contract was signed by the Hobey Baker winner with the Avalanche, the two are expected to talk again next week.
The Avs expected Butcher to take his time on thinking it over, so there is no animus just because he didn't sign right away. The Avs called the meeting "very positive" overall. If Butcher, who was drafted 123rd overall by the Avs in 2013, declines to sign with the Avs, he will become an unrestricted NHL free agent Aug. 15.