Colorado Avalanche Roster Outlook: Part 4 – Centers


Apr 7, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Joey Hishon (38) is sprayed with water after recording his first NHL goal in the third period against the Nashville Predators at the Pepsi Center. The Avalanche defeated the Predators 3-2.Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Avalanche roster is generally not one of the deepest. However, if there is one position the team has depth in that other teams can be jealous of, it’s on center. With Matt Duchene becoming a better leader every day, Ryan O’Reilly playing some of the best hockey of his career, and Nathan MacKinnon waiting to bounce back from a tiny little slump, the forward core is set.

Nevertheless, it is not all that easy. All three of these guys want to be the number one center, only one can be. None of them want to play on the third line, but one has to, right? Not necessarily. We will examine all possibilities that Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy have for the off-season. Line-ups, call-ups, demotions, trades, signings — we have you covered!

2015-16 Centers

Expiring contracts: 

  • Danny Briere — UFA
  • Freddie Hamilton — RFA
  • Joey Hishon — RFA

Depth Chart: 

  1. Matt Duchene
  2. Ryan O’Reilly
  3. John Mitchell
  4. Jesse Winchester
  5. Joey Hishon
  6. Freddie Hamilton

Danny Briere was paid for leadership rather than skill. He has declined heavily over recent years and will not be re-signed. There are other players on the roster that can provide enough leadership (Landeskog, Duchene, Iginla, Johnson, etc.). The two restricted free-agents can be expected to be re-signed to two-way-contracts, possibly to slightly better terms.

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It looks like I forgot someone on the depth chart. However, I left Nate MacKinnon off on purpose. As of today, Ryan O’Reilly is a member of the Colorado Avalanche and I expect him to get an extension rather sooner than later — as long as negotiations are easier this time around. That means that we have three potential number one centers to fill the top two spots in the line-up. Clearly, that is not going to work. But after what Landeskog, O’Reilly, and MacKinnon have been doing on a line together late in the season, keeping MacKinnon on the wing seems like a perfect solution.

Nevertheless, we also have to explore trading Ryan O’Reilly. He will be an unrestricted free-agent come 2016, so the Avalanche will be seeking a contract-extension or trade — if the former cannot be agreed on. With a UFA’s value declining with every game he plays, it is likely that Roy and Sakic will want the situation resolved before draft day. Because if the negotiations turn out to be as hard as last time, they may explore trade possibilities on draft day. Trading O’Reilly for defense, packaging him with the tenth overall pick to move up the board, or packaging him with the tenth overall pick to receive a later pick and impact-players are all options.

Behind the first three, there are many options as well. The best-case-scenario would be to have everyone fit again, so that the bottom six players can be shuffled around a bit. John Mitchell has been a very valuable player for the Avalanche these past years, and he will be relied on for a few more. Jesse Winchester, if healthy, would be the perfect solution as number four. If he isn’t however, a free-agent signing may be required. There are a few options that could come fairly cheap. Shawn Matthias (VAN), Mike Santorelli (NSH), and Carl Soderberg (BOS) would be great options. Soderberg would be my favourite out of the three, but he will be looking for a significant raise from his one million dollar salary in 2014-15.

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  • Behind that it gets tricky. Marc-Andre Cliche played the majority of games last season, a lot of the time even on the third line. However, if it wasn’t for his contract, he should not even be a member of the NHL team anymore. If possible — salary-cap-wise — he should be sent to the Avalanche’s new AHL affiliate in San Antonio. The likes of restricted free-agents Joey Hishon and Freddie Hamilton will be more important. Both of them are ready for NHL-time, as we have seen in the close of last season. However, all center spots seem to be preoccupied. Furthermore, at least Joey Hishon will be hoping to play higher than the fourth line as soon as possible. Their chance is the lack of depth on right wing, as well as the injury of Dennis Everberg, who will be out for six to eight months. Depending on how well everybody does in training camp, Hishon and Hamilton both have a chance to be in the lineup next season — either as fourth line center or on either one of the wings.

    Red Deer Rebels captain Conner Bleackley will need another season in junior and probably some time in the AHL as well. Nevertheless, it is looking good for the Avalanche on center. The top three is extremely strong and behind that there is a lot of talent that can be shuffled around. The focus has to lie on other positions, because other teams can be jealous of what we have down the middle.

    Next: Avs Roster Outlook: Left Wings

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