The Colorado Avalanche offseason continues to be fraught with wild trade speculations surrounding a potential Matt Duchene trade, hand wringing over the team’s search for another defenseman and outright mockery by some national sports media. Fear not, intrepid Avalanche fans, as there are reasons for hope in the myriad offseason moves. Follow along with the list of changes and see if you can find the silver lining.

THE BAD

1. The Avalanche roster lost goaltender Calvin Pickard to the Vegas Golden Knights during the expansion draft. While last year’s numbers were not as impressive as hoped, his performance for Team Canada in the World Championships earned some respect. A consistent system with defensemen who didn’t score on their own net definitely helped. Rumor has it Vegas indicated they would select goaltender Semyon Varlamov if left unprotected. Losing Pickard was undesirable but losing Varlamov would have been a disaster. Rock, meet hard place.

2. Forward Mikhail Grigorenko did not receive a qualifying offer from the Avalanche and subsequently signed with CSKA Moscow in the KHL. This was more of a ‘meh’ move. Grigorenko allegedly lacked a quality work ethic and needed to play with more of an edge. After seeing the young guns play at the end of the season, Grigorenko appeared expendable. Grigorenko’s release, however, meant the resurrection of the “Avalanche lost the Ryan O’Reilly trade “ news stories, thereby re-defining ‘fake news’.

3. Hobey Baker winner and long time defensive prospect Will Butcher looks like he will be testing the free agent market come August 15th instead of signing with the Avalanche. He may never have made the Avalanche but he could have been a good asset on the AHL level.

THE UGLY

1. Please, please someone issue a cease and desist order for the speculation on trading Matt Duchene for other teams’ scraps. The good news – general manager Joe Sakic hasn’t settled for the scraps offered. The bad news – no trade has yet been made. The truly ugly news – until a trade happens, or the Avalanche announce they intend to keep Duchene, every day will offer some crazy media story suggesting a) Duchene should be traded for some team’s fourth line guy; b) Sakic stinks at being a GM; c) the Avalanche should be called LOL-orado; d) all of the above. This is what leads to drinking.

2. Waiting with bated breath for news defenseman Nikita Zadorov signed his contract has been – ugly, a fist-clenching-please-hurry-up-and-sign-something-so-I-can –enjoy-the-rest-of-my-summer-ugly. Speculations regarding a return to Russia have added to the ‘ugly’. Losing Zadorov would legitimately call in to question the return on the O’Reilly trade (unlike the Grigorenko stories). Yet, tying him up to a big money contract Zadorov has yet to earn would signal gross mismanagement by Sakic. Ugly. Hurry up, find a happy medium, and get it signed already.

3. Are the San Antonio Rampage going to be the AHL affiliate for both the Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues for the upcoming season? (Vegas acquired the Blues AHL affiliate, which sparked the concern.) If so, that’s a tire fire just waiting to happen. And what will happen with Rampage coach Eric Veilleux? Will the Eagles become the Avalanche’s AHL affiliate next year? Will the Rampage coaching staff move to the Eagles? These, and other stories will continue to evolve in “As the skates burn…”

THE GOOD

1. The Avalanche finally announced they hired two new assistant coaches – Ray Bennett, formerly an assistant coach for the St. Louis Blues for the past 10 years, and Jussi Parkkila, a goaltending coach who worked with Varlamov in Russia. Both gentlemen have an extensive background in hockey and should bring a fresh perspective to the team. The changes also usher in hope for an effective power play. Or is that too much to ask?

2. Colorado signed Sven Andrighetto to a two-year deal, after having him play only 19 games for the team at the end of the season. Initially acquired in a trade for Andreas Martinsen, Andrighetto tallied 16 points, placing him 12th on the team for points earned during the season. He brought a much-needed spark to a lackluster team and should be a quality offensive fixture for the upcoming season.

3. Speaking of offense, the Avalanche signed RFA’s Matt Nieto and Rocco Grimaldi to provide both some depth and continuity for the organization. While Grimaldi spent most of his time with the San Antonio Rampage, he proved capable of handling NHL minutes on his call-up.

4. Colorado proved selective as free agency unfolded, picking up both wing Nail Yakupov and goaltender Jonathan Bernier and trading a 2019 fourth round pick for Nashville Predator Colin Wilson, who plays left wing. Bernier will provide needed depth in goal after the loss of Pickard, Wilson brings in experience at left wing for a Stanley Cup contender, and Yakupov was a low-risk, potentially high-reward one-year deal. They have come a long way from the three-year deal for the player at the end of their career.

5. The team continued to work on depth for the organization and signed Duncan Siemens (defenseman), Gabriel Bourque (wing), Felix Girard (center), Joe Cannata (goaltender), and David Warsofsky (defenseman). While Siemens may be vying for a starting spot on the Avalanche, the other signings offer quality depth for the Rampage and possible injury call-ups for the Avalanche. And, contrary to the sentiment that one can’t go home again, left wing Andrew Agozzino returned to the organization on a two-year contract.

6. Adidas released the new Colorado Avalanche uniform with an homage to the original jerseys, maintaining the classic ‘A’ with the snow slide wave featured prominently on the chest. The updated jersey includes the newer ‘C’ logo featured on both shoulders and removed the much hated ‘unipron’ white piping. The Avalanche definitely scored one of the best jerseys so stick taps all around.

7. The Avalanche acquired quality players in the entry level draft, showing they learned their lesson by selecting two defensemen with their first two picks, including Cale Makar at fourth overall and Conor Timmins at 32nd overall. For a full rundown, see A.J. Haefele’s article at BSN on grading the draft class. Colorado selected some forwards and took a couple of interesting leaps for non-traditional players in the later rounds. Drafts are hard to evaluate until a few years down the road, but selections certainly appear better than the disastrous 2012 class. Training camp should be fun.

8. Sakic had said the team would get younger and the organization seems to be taking those directives seriously.

With the addition of Andrei Mironov as well as re-signing Duncan Siemens, there should be plenty of competition on defense with the likes of Anton Lindholm, Sergeiv Boikov, Chris Bigras and Nicolas Meloche vying with them for a spot on the big club.

The forwards will also have their share of young talent battling for starting positions with J.T.Compher, Tyson Jost, A.J. Greer and Julien Nantel all looking for an opportunity to move up.

9. In the category of “addition through subtraction”, Rene Bourque, Fedor Tyutin, Patrick Wierrcioch, Eric Gelinas, Cody Goloubef and John Mitchell are no longer with the Avalanche. While some of these players may fit better on other teams with different systems, they did not mesh well with Bednar’s vision. Will Bednar be effective without them? Only Wiercioch (Vancouver Canucks) has signed with another team so far. The rest are unrestricted free agents. For those arguing the players should have been traded, the fact they are currently unsigned hints there’s not a huge demand for their skill sets.

10. As of now, there are only two players over 30 on the team – Carl Soderberg and Blake Comeau, both 31. While there’s nothing wrong with older players, their lack of presence on the current Avalanche roster signifies a historic shift for an organization that ended up buying out aging veterans Francois Beauchemin and Brad Stuart, retained salary on Cody McLeod and essentially traded away Jarome Iginla to open a roster slot. And that’s all in the last year. Joe Sakic is making good on his promise to make the team younger. Let’s all hope that equates to better as well.

WHAT TO WATCH

1. Will there be a Matt Duchene trade before the start of training camp?

2. Will Nikita Zadorov sign a contract with the Avalanche, and if so, what will be the term and salary?

3. Will Will Butcher find a professional hockey home outside of Colorado?

4. The Colorado Avalanche will participate in the San Jose Sharks Prospects Showcase Sept. 9-12th, facing off against the Sharks, the Anaheim Ducks, and the Arizona Coyotes. As of now, there is no public information on whether the showcase will be broadcast.

As always, stay tuned to BSN for all the latest and greatest Avalanche developments.

J.D. Killian

J.D. is a CSU alum who first became entranced with hockey while watching the old Colorado Rockies hockey team. Years of watching, cheering, and a love for intelligent analysis has brought J.D. to BSN Denver. You can follow JD on Twitter at @JDKpirate

  • Joe

    Admirable effort to try and put a shine on a turd, but a turd is a turd no matter how much gloss it has. I for one, have spent this off season preparing for a few more years of pain because this train wreck ain’t over yet. Very little optimism moving forward.

    • Joel Cline

      I enjoyed the honesty on both the bad and good. Seems you are just another typical Colorado sports fan…. Victimized by supporting a bad team.
      The team got better this summer and will again next. Dry it up and either be a good fan, that can take the good with the bad, or quit pretending you know more than everyone else, this doesn’t help an organization with a bad attendance numbers and a dwindling fan base that may happen upon this negativity.
      Now let’s all get together and support these guys! They need it now more than during the Cup years

      • Joel Cline

        Sorry Joe… Didn’t mean to come off like a jerk. If I were a player, I would never come to a team that not only has been bad lately, but also has fans that don’t believe in them either.

      • WyoX

        It has been said by people a lot smarter than me. “Supporting a bad team does not make you a good fan. It makes you a poor consumer.”

        • Joel Cline

          That’s fine…. Im a poor consumer with loyalty and heart. I think you are too, or you wouldn’t have read the article and the comments. One thing we all agree on is we’re sick of losing, but I’m sure not as sick of it as the players.

        • J.D. Killian

          One can be loyal AND disappointed in a bad season. They aren’t mutually exclusive ideas. And a bad season doesn’t mean there isn’t hope for the next season either. That’s what makes sports fun – no one really knows the outcome until they play the game.

    • Special Ed

      I gotta disagree with you Joe. I think there is cause for optimism. 48 points in a season is good cause to reference scatology, but I also think it’s a fair analysis to say that everything that could go wrong, did go wrong last year. You might think this team a last place team, and thats fair, but even with that analysis you have to acknowledge this team underachieved. Which means we should see improvement with no changes.

      This team has the talent to place 8 players in the worlds. Worlds are all star teams. So, That means there is talent. MacK and Duchene are both excellent forwards. I think Duchene is a quality talent, but doesn’t raise the level of the players around him. So… he needs to be on a team with similar talent.

      I believe Barrie is over rated. He showed his defensive skills last year when he became the number one defenseman after Johnson went down.. which means he was exposed as a man who is NOT a 1st line blue liner. But he DID improve as the year went on. By the end of the year, he developed into someone serviceable in the 4th or 5th slot on D. I think if he plays 3rd line minutes, he will be ok for us. Zadorov matured into a very good D man this year. Not great, but quite a solid partner #2 behind Johnson. We have a lot of very young D. They have potential. That’s cause for optimism.

      We dumped basically 2 entire lines of offensive deadweight in the forward category. Kids like Compher and Greer showed heart, effort and some talent. I’m not expecting them to become all stars. But they were improvement over what we had at the start of the year. And then we saw that Rantenen does have talent. He might be the best player on this team in a few years. I think this year we will have 3 decent lines. Maybe 2 very good ones.

      And finally, we don’t have a coach quitting on a team just a few weeks before camp, which can’t help but cause a lot of consternation on the team. For most of this past year, we saw players that struggled knowing where to go, and why. That should change this year. That alone is going to make things better.

      If they can generate some excitement and confidence to start this season, and keep it up, I think this team can compete for a playoff spot. Can they win one? I dunno… Probaby not. But they wont be a dumpster fire. And you’ll have cause to flush this past season.

      • Joel Cline

        Very well put!
        My thoughts on Big Z are, I love what he has the potential to become, but if he’s asking for crazy money, don’t risk the future on it… he is unproven and uses the KHL as a bargaining chip when he feels under payed. I really hope he stays, but he’s not Adam Foote yet….

      • J.D. Killian

        Well said.

  • Jimbodini

    That was a really enjoyable read.

    • J.D. Killian

      Thanks for taking the time to read it!

  • MikeL

    Good article JD

    • J.D. Killian

      Thank you! And thank you for taking the time to read it.

  • Kelly Walker

    J.D. what would you thin k about an offer from the Penguins for Duchene that gave Colorado LW Connor Sheary 23 goals in 61 games with 3 years of control left, Olli Maatta a top 4 LD defenseman for the Pens the last few seasons and a guy that is still only 22 and signed for 5 more years, and Ethan Prow a prospect RD? Just curious how Colorado would view this package.

    • J.D. Killian

      I would consider it, although I don’t know much about Ethan Prow. I don’t know if the Avalanche would. Maatta would definitely fit the need for a left hand D although I think Sakic is looking for something more along a top 2 D-man. Having said that, scoring was an issue for the Avalanche last year and it’s worth considering adding a forward to the mix as well as a prospect.