Yesterday was quite something.
The first day of the free agent frenzy was just as crazy as everyone thought it would be. Anaheim traded Bobby Ryan to the Senators, replacing Daniel Alfredsson who signed in Detroit, and Toronto gave away 15% of its cap to two guys who’ve never hit 50 points in their careers. So the latter is probably more status quo than anything else.
Colorado, meanwhile, stood completely pat other than signing depth defenseman Andre Benoit. While everyone was busy overpaying because of “market value” (we’re looking sternly at you, Columbus), the Avalanche are patiently waiting, knowing that there isn’t a big move for them to make during this free agent period.
The premier pieces were on the offensive side of things and the Avalanche are set at forward. Paul Stastny, Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, PA Parenteau, Alex Tanguay, and Ryan O’Reilly leave the Avalanche with a very good top six and room to grow and develop Nathan MacKinnon, the first pick in this year’s draft. Going after anyone near the top of the free agent list this year meant tying up copious amounts of cap space for, at best, “pretty good” players.
Defensively, where the Avalanche really needed the most help, there just wasn’t much available. The top free agent defenseman was probably Andrew Ference and the Avs knew they were probably going to have to overpay for a fifth or sixth defenseman. Instead of doing that and making a marginal improvement to their very thin defense, they will wait.
The smart move, if they’re going to add via the free agent pool, is to wait for the bigger deals to go around and snap up a veteran guy like Toni Lydman or Douglas Murray. Lydman has always been solid, if unspectacular, and will bring a veteran presence to the blueline. Murray, meanwhile, brings a punishing mentality both along the boards and in front of the net. Adding some toughness to the defensive corps should be a priority.
Regardless of what happens the rest of the off-season, the Colorado Avalanche played it smart. Instead of reaching for someone, anyone, just to show people that they’re trying to improve the team, they ignored the big money sought by the rather mediocre list of free agents this summer.
Greg Sherman, Patrick Roy, and Joe Sakic should give themselves a little pat on the back. As several other teams showed, it’s harder to stay out of your own way than it is to do what’s best for your team.
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