NHL.com is providing in-depth roster, prospect and fantasy analysis for each of its 30 teams throughout August. Today, the Colorado Avalanche.
Changes were expected after the Colorado Avalanche finished ninth in the Western Conference to miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second season in a row, yet they've done more tweaking than housecleaning.
"We have a plan; this isn't a quick fix," general manager Joe Sakic said this offseason. "We still have to be patient with some of our younger players, it's still a young club. But we're confident we can turn things around."
The Avalanche, 39-39-4 last season, continue to maintain a strong belief in their core group of centers Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon, left wing Gabriel Landeskog, defensemen Tyson Barrie and Erik Johnson, and goalie Semyon Varlamov. Their ability to earn a playoff berth will depend largely on that group's level of play.
"The entire core has to have more consistency, they have to be good night after night," coach Patrick Roy said. "It's obvious that the core has to be the one that carries the team. If our core understands that they have a larger role to play in the success of our team, we're going to be fine."
Two restricted free agents signed a new contract: MacKinnon (seven years) and Barrie (four years). Colorado also signed restricted free agent goalie Calvin Pickard (two years) and forward Mikhail Grigorenko (one year).
MacKinnon, who won the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year for 2013-14, had 21 goals and 31 assists (52 points) in 72 games last season, when he missed the last 10 games with a knee injury.
Barrie had 13 goals and 36 assists (49 points) in 78 games, Grigorenko had six goals and 21 assists (27 points) in 74 games. Pickard was 7-6-1 with his first NHL shutout, a 2.56 goals-against average and .922 save percentage.
Duchene scored 30 goals to become the first Colorado player to do so since Sakic (36) and Milan Hejduk (35) in 2006-07, but Landeskog's production (20 goals, 53 points in 75 games) has fallen in each of the past three seasons, Johnson's minus-19 rating was the worst of his NHL career, and Varlamov (27-25-3, 2.81 GAA, .914 save percentage) has yet to play up to his Vezina Trophy-finalist level of 2013-14.
The Avalanche were relatively quiet on the free agent market, signing center Joe Colborne and defensemen Fedor Tyutin and Patrick Wiercioch on July 1. They weren't able to keep forwards Mikkel Boedker and Shawn Matthias, who left for the San Jose Sharks and Winnipeg Jets.
Colborne, a 6-foot-5, 221-pound 26-year-old, signed a two-year contract after he had NHL career highs for goals (19) and assists (25) in 73 games with the Calgary Flames. Colborne could be moved to either wing because the Avalanche are deep at center with Duchene, MacKinnon and Carl Soderberg.
Tyutin, who is 6-2, 221, signed a one-year contract after he was bought out by the Columbus Blue Jackets. The hope is the 33-year-old, who had one goal and two assists in 61 games, can help steady a weak defense and help Francois Beauchemin, 36, in mentoring Chris Bigras and Nikita Zadorov, each 21.
Wiercioch (25, 6-5, 202) signed a one-year contract. He had five assists in 52 games with the Ottawa Senators, missing 18 games because of injuries. Wiercioch and Colborne were University of Denver teammates from 2008-10.
Pickard's solid play made goalie Reto Berra expendable, and he was traded to the Florida Panthers for center Rocco Grimaldi on June 23. Defenseman Nick Holden was traded to the New York Rangers on June 25 for a fourth-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, and the Avalanche bought out the final year of defenseman Brad Stuart's two-year contract to create more minutes for Bigras and Zadorov.
The Avalanche also hired former NHL defenseman Nolan Pratt as an assistant coach, joining Tim Army, Dave Farrish and Francois Allaire on Roy's staff.
Right wing Mikko Rantanen, 19, the No. 10 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, and the 6-5, 220-pound Zadorov are expected to make the team out of training camp. Left wing JT Compher, 21, a Hobey Baker Award finalist at Michigan, will get a serious look. This could be defenseman Duncan Siemens' last opportunity to make an impression; injuries have slowed the 22-year-old's progress since he was selected with the No. 11 pick in 2011.
The Avalanche chose not to re-sign forward Jack Skille and four defensemen: Andrew Bodnarchuk, Brandon Gormley, Nate Guenin and Zach Redmond.