Colorado Avalanche Roster Outlook: Part 1 – Goalies


The 2014-15 season is now over for exactly half of the NHL. While one half battles for what is widely known as the most important trophy in hockey (or even in all of sports), the other half has time to think about ways to improve their roster — so that next year at this time, they will be in the top half of the standings.

If I was covering the Buffalo Sabres, Arizona Coyotes, or Edmonton Oilers, the top priority this offseason would clearly be to win the Draft Lottery and improve the roster by adding an 18-year-old named Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. But not for the Colorado Avalanche.

Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy will focus on improvements that they can actually influence

The Avalanche, more precisely Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy, will focus on improvements that they can actually influence. While there is a 5-percent-chance for the Avalanche to win the lottery, the focus will have to lie on improvements through free agency, trades, and prospects that are already part of the organization. So let us start with our goalies for the next season.

2015-16 Goalies

Expiring contracts:

  • Calvin Pickard RFA
  • Sami Aittokallio RFA

Depth Chart:

  1. Semyon Varlamov
  2. Reto Berra
  3. Calvin Pickard

AHL-goalies Calvin Pickard and Sami Aittokallio are both restricted free agents. They will most likely be signed to two-way-contracts again, as they are still full-time AHL-goalies — at least for now.

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All roster-talk on this position revolves around one very important question: who will be Semyon Varlamov’s backup? And it is not an easy one to answer. With Reto Berra struggling big-time this season, it would be wise to substitute him with someone that can show NHL-ability more consistently. A strong backup is extremely important, as seen in Vancouver this season. When Ryan Miller got injured, Eddie Lack stepped up and played like a starter. If the Canucks had Reto Berra instead, I am not sure if they would have made the playoffs. Berra has shown a few great games, but I am still not sold on him.

This whole issue is not as easily solved as one may think, though. Reto Berra has two years left on a one-way-contract that has a cap-hit of 1.45 million dollars. Therefore, he cannot simply be sent to the AHL, as the Avalanche cannot afford parking another big contract like that in the AHL.

Dec 21, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Colorado Avalanche goalie Calvin Pickard (31) celebrates after making a save to win the game in a shootout against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. Colorado won 2-1 in an overtime shootout. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

This simple fact puts Berra ahead of Monsters goalie Calvin Pickard, who has proven that he can play on the NHL-level. In 16 games for the Avalanche this season, Pickard saved 93.2 percent of shots against with a goals-against average of 2.35. Those numbers are in fact better than Varlamov’s — obviously in a fairly small sample size.

One rumor that came up, was that Berra’s contract could be terminated on a mutual agreement, allowing the Avalanche to find a new backup and Berra to return to Europe. But let’s be honest here, who would agree to making a fraction of their current salary in Europe, instead of playing in the best league in the world making millions.

If we just assume that that is a legit possibility, would the Avalanche even rely on Calvin Pickard quite yet? He has only played 16 games in the NHL after all. Free agent options would include Jhonas Enroth (DAL), Thomas Greiss (PIT), and Jonas Gustavsson (DET), who all have experience playing as a reliable NHL backup.

If the Avalanche can find a way to get rid of Berra, […] they should do just that

If the Avalanche can find a way to get rid of Berra — by terminating his contract or perhaps even trading him — they should do just that. Instead of signing a veteran free agent, I would start the season with Calvin Pickard backing up Varlamov. Pickard has clearly shown that he has the potential to be a great NHL-starter one day. That would also give Sami Aittokallio the opportunity to start in the AHL and Spencer Martin to leave junior hockey and join the pros as Aittokallio’s backup. If Berra stays, however, he will also be NHL-backup. He can still be swapped with Pickard if the salary cap allows to do that.

There is a lot of work to be done for Sakic and Roy this offseason. And while they will be disappointed about missing the playoffs, it may not be all that bad that they get some extra time to work things out.

Next: Prospect Watch: NCAA/Europe

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