Sakic, Bednar on free agents, injuries; Barberio to Switzerland
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The Avalanche will have some money to spend once the NHL free agent market opens next month, but they also are mindful that a number of current players have expiring contracts and some significant others – namely Gabriel Landeskog and Cale Makar -- will be in that position after the 2020-21 season.
The Avalanche finished this season about $5 million under the current salary cap of $81.5 million, which will remain the same next season.
Not counting Colorado Eagles players, five players are about to become unrestricted free agents: forwards Vladislav Namestnikov, Matt Nieto and Colin Wilson; defenseman Kevin Connauton; and goalie Michael Hutchinson.
Defenseman Mark Barberio would have been in that category, but he’s heading to Switzerland (more on him later).
The following will be restricted free agents: forwards Andre Burakovsky, Tyson Jost, Sheldon Dries, Valeri Nichushkin and Logan O’Connor; and defensemen Nikita Zadorov and Ryan Graves.
Zadorov's wife posted a picture on Instagram of the defenseman with his right arm in a sling after he underwent surgery.
General manager Joe Sakic talked in general terms on Thursday before teeing off at The Sanctuary in Sedalia at his annual charity golf tournament that raises money for the Food Bank of the Rockies.
“We know what we’d like to, if all things are said and done, where we’d like to try and improve the team,” Sakic told reporters. “But we know with the flat cap, we got a couple of big guys (Landeskog and Makar) coming up here pretty soon. We’re mindful of that.
“But there are some things that we can work around the edges to try and improve the team.”
The Avalanche this season added Burakovsky, Namestnikov, Nichushkin, Hutchinson, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Joonas Donskoi and Nazem Kadri, all of whom made significant contributions.
Colorado finished second in the Central Division with a 42-20-8 record and 92 points in a season cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic and advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for the second year in a row, falling 5-4 in overtime to Dallas in Game 7.
“I love our team,” Sakic said. “I love the players, the commitment. They’re all here for one reason, and they’re here to win. They have great chemistry in that room, and I don’t think we have to do as much as we did last year.”
Landeskog will be eligible for unrestricted free agency after next season; his salary cap number is $5.571, 429, according to capfriendly.com.
Makar, a finalist for the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s best rookie, has one year left on his entry-level contract ($880,833) and will be a restricted free agent.
As for this year’s free agents, the Avalanche are expected to pass on Wilson, who missed all but nine regular-season games and every playoff game, and possibly Nieto with the emergence of O’Connor as a capable fourth liner and penalty killer.
Namestnikov had six points (four goals, two assists) in nine games following his trade deadline acquisition from Ottawa, with five points (four goals, one assist) in 12 playoff games.
Connauton is a veteran whose main value is depth. Hutchinson made his playoff debut with Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz sidelined with injuries. He played pretty well in Games 5 and 6 against Dallas, but he’s a journeyman.
I would think the Avalanche will sign all of their restricted free agents.
Coach Jared Bednar said after the Game 7 loss to Dallas that none of the seven injured players were on the verge of returning.
Grubauer had a lower-body injury, and Bednar said Francouz had hip and knee injuries.
“I have a lot of belief in those guys,” Bednar told reporters. “We’re going to evaluate some things and make sure that we’re doing everything we can to keep those guys healthy and get them strong and get them on daily routines, weekly routines.”
Landeskog, who was cut above his right knee by a skate in Game 6, would have missed another week to 10 days. Matt Calvert, Joonas Donskoi, Erik Johnson and Conor Timmins were weeks away from returning.
“You pour your heart and soul into something that turned out to be a full calendar year and come up short," Bednar said. "It’s disappointing for the players, coaches, Joe and his staff, our fans. We’re all trying to get to the same place. You sort of go through a state of depression for a couple days when you lose out.”
(The quotes in this story are courtesy of the Denver Post and 9News. No media advisory emails were sent because it wasn't a team event. OK. Don't know how these outlets found about it.)
Lausanne HC announced on Twitter that Barberio, 30, is joining the Swiss team with a three-year contract.
Barberio played in 21 games with two assists this season and didn’t dress for any of the Avalanche’s playoff games.
Acquired on waivers from the Montreal Canadiens on Feb. 7, 2017, Barberio had 25 points (six goals, 19 assists) in 113 regular-season games in parts of four seasons.
Barberio set career highs for goals (three), assists (10) and points (13) while playing in 46 games in 2017-18. He had one assist in six playoff games that season. Injuries limited him to 12 games in 2018-19.