There's no sugarcoating how disappointing this season has been for the Colorado Avalanche, not to mention for the fantasy owners of their players. That said, a late-season signing could put a positive spin on their outlook entering the offseason.
The Avalanche signed top forward prospect Tyson Jost to an entry-level contract Wednesday, and he's expected to join Colorado for its final six games of the regular season. Jost, the 10th pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, scored 35 points and was plus-17 in 33 games during his freshman season at University of North Dakota. He signed with the Avalanche after playing one game in the NCAA tournament last week (4-3 double overtime loss to Boston University).
Jost also scored 15 points in seven games for Team Canada at the 2016 IIHF U-18 World Championship, breaking Connor McDavid's tournament record (14 points in 2013).
Jost could fit into Colorado's top-six forward group right off the bat, and is clearly a building block for the roster next season along with forward Nathan MacKinnon (145th in Yahoo) and emerging rookie Mikko Rantanen (LW/RW, 4 percent owned). Colorado's lines against the Washington Capitals on Wednesday were MacKinnon with Rantanen and Sven Andrighetto, and Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog with J.T. Compher. Jost could feasibly get a trial at either center or wing on either line, replacing Andrighetto or Compher, along with some power-play usage.
Video: WSH@COL: MacKinnon carves up defense for superb goal
How Duchene and Landeskog fit into the Avalanche's future plans remains unclear, but they are on the roster for now and could help Jost make a smooth transition. Landeskog (66 games played) and Duchene (71) rank 297th and 406th, respectively, in Yahoo -- quite the fall for these top 100 fantasy players of years past.
The biggest issue for the Avalanche remains their back end; they have allowed the most goals per game (3.38) in the League and are second-to-last in both penalty kill (76.4) and Shot Attempts close percentage (46.65). Their goalies (Calvin Pickard, Semyon Varlamov, Jeremy Smith, Spencer Martin) have combined for the lowest save percentage in the League (.894).
Duchene, Landeskog and top defenseman Tyson Barrie were not moved before the 2017 NHL Trade Deadline, but each could still be on the block despite being under contract past this season. With the NHL Expansion Draft looming for the Vegas Golden Knights and plenty of productive goalies on expiring contracts, the Avalanche will have a chance to address their goaltending this summer.
As for Jost's fantasy value in the short term, the main concern is plus/minus; Colorado has eight players with a minus-20 or worse, not including Jarome Iginla (minus-21 with Avalanche), who was traded to the Los Angeles Kings on March 1.
If you can afford to open up a bench spot for Jost in your keeper league, it may be worth stashing him to see how he fares in his upcoming NHL stint. If not, take a flier on him in either a deep league that does not count plus/minus or in your fantasy playoff consolation bracket.