Jun 4, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman (6) handles the puck during game one of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado Avalanche Free Agency Top Five Targets

The free agent market opens on Tuesday, July 1 and the Colorado Avalanche, who have plenty of cap room and room for improvement, should be active on the free agent front. Here are the top five targets for the Avalanche on Tuesday:

1. Paul Stastny (C)

Yes, Paul Stastny still has to be the top priority for the Colorado Avalanche. The reason why the Avs didn’t make any significant trades during last year’s trade deadlines despite having pieces to move was because Patrick Roy preached consistency. The team surprised the entire league with the way they played and Roy said that they deserved to stay together for a playoff run. Even though it didn’t exactly work out as planned, it just goes to show the philosophy the Avs had and likely want to keep up. Stastny is a valuable member to the team. He’s never played for another NHL organization and it might be tough for fans to come to terms with him putting on a different sweater. I’ve already gone into the two sides of the Stastny situation, so I won’t rehash it here, but the fact that more than 15 teams are pursuing him tells you more than you need to know about what the rest of the league thinks about him. Re-signing Stastny won’t be easy, but until he signs with another team, you can’t rule out a return to the Avs.

2. Matt Niskanen (D)

He’s the best available defenseman on the market, which means plenty of teams will be after him, but the Avs have to make a run at him. He’s a very good puck moving defenseman who is also extremely responsible in his own end. He was not only the best defenseman on the Penguins last season, but if you’re an advanced stats person; Niskanen was ranked #3 in corsi for percentage of all defenseman who played 62 games or more last year. The problem, besides the fact that he’ll be coveted by plenty of teams, is that he’ll likely cost $6 million per season, if not more.

3. Anton Stralman (D)

If the Avs lose out on Niskanen, or don’t bother pursuing him, Stralman is a very good back-up plan. His numbers might not look like much (13 points in 81 games) but he’s another guy that the advanced stats love. He was ranked #7 in corsi for percentage of all defenseman who played 62 games or more last year and is coming off a very strong playoffs. He’s also a very affordable option. Coming off a $1.7 million dollar contract, the Avs could be able to get Stralman for less $4 million per season.

4. Christian Ehrhoff (D)

He put up 33 points on a terrible Buffalo Sabres team and is another guy that looks even better when you go into advanced stats. He’s a top two defenseman who could give the Avs a lot of minutes and play in every situation. He was just bought out of his contract because the Sabres didn’t want to pay him $4 million per season until 2021. He might not be worth $4 million in 2021, but he’s certainly worth that much for the next couple of seasons.

5. Mike Weaver (D)

Notice the theme here? Weaver would be the most affordable option, but also the weakest. He’s a specialist though, and that specialty is killing penalties. The Avs ranked 24 out of 30 teams in the penalty kill last season so it’s certainly as area that needs to be addressed. Weaver is a defensive defenseman who can play a lot of minutes and hopefully help cut down on the number of shots Semyon Varlamov sees on a nightly basis. He won’t cost the Avs much, but he’s 36-years old and not a long term solution.

Who do you want to see the Avs go after on July 1, Avalanche Family?

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Tags: Anton Stralman Christian Ehrhoff Colorado Avalanche Matt Niskanen Mike Weaver NHL Free Agency Paul Stastny

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