Colorado Avalanche: 2015-16 Pre-Free Agency Roster Outlook


The Colorado Avalanche acquired some new players in the big Ryan O’Reilly trade during the draft a few days ago and there could be more coming as free agency begins today. In light of those new acquisitions and possible pick-ups to be made today, let’s take a look at what the roster may look like next season.

Although a lot is yet to happen on the way to finding the best possible roster for the Avalanche for the 2015-16 season opener against the Wild on October 8th, we will take an early look at what it may look like. Without further adieu, let’s start with the forwards.

Colorado Avalanche Forwards

I think it is pretty clear what the top-six will look like and here is what I have projected:

Line 1: Tanguay-Duchene-Iginla

Line 2: Landeskog-Soderberg-MacKinnon

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Obviously, Soderberg is a poor man’s O’Reilly and that is exactly why management signed him. If there was any doubt what management thinks he is capable of, Sakic put that to rest, saying he sees him on the second line with MacKinnon and Landeskog.

So, the top two lines are all but set at this point, and I think they will do quite well. Of course, it is quite likely that these will be jostled during the year in order to find the ultimate chemistry. Nevertheless, the top-six forwards have plenty of skill and will hopefully mesh well with one another.

The bottom-six forwards on the other hand are certainly a little bit more up in the air, and there are many different options for what could occur. First off, here are six players who I think are most likely to be on the roster next year fulfilling a bottom-line role. Barring any injuries in training camp, these would be my first choice:

  • Cody McLeod
  • Jesse Winchester
  • John Mitchell
  • Mikko Rantanen
  • Mikhail Grigorenko
  • Right wing free agent signing

Chris Stewart would fill a nice third-line checking role for the Avalanche.

As our Mile High Sticking editors have noted, the Colorado Avalanche are slim at right wing — and I agree. Thus, I think they should try and target a right wing during free agency. For some of the options, check out Janik Beichler’s article on free agent targets and Nadia Archuleta’s article for possible right wing targets during free agency. Also, Nadia has some good options for RFA right wings. However, acquiring an RFA is, of course, less likely.

Excluding the RFA options, my personal favorite is Chris Stewart. First of all, he is a former Avalanche player and he holds a lot of offensive upside. Furthermore, I think he would fill a nice third-line checking role for the Avalanche.

Since this is all hypothetical, here are my optimal bottom-six lines, including the acquisition of Chris Stewart.

Line 3: Rantanen-Mitchell-Stewart

Line 4: McLeod-Winchester-Grigorenko

Rantanen may come as a surprise, but I think having him play on the third line would give him a good chance to develop into a valuable NHL forward. Nevertheless, he could of course get slotted down to the fourth line if his development needs a little more time. Regardless, I think he is NHL-ready and he should surely make the jump next year.

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Just like Rantanen, Grigorenko has a lot of potential and could also move up to the third line. However, he is less likely to have a guaranteed roster spot next year — especially if Joey Hishon makes a strong showing in training camp.

One thing the avid Colorado Avalanche fan will notice is how different these bottom lines look compared to last year. I feel that last year’s depth lines were solely a symptom of the injuries the Avalanche sustained during training camp and throughout the year. So, these would be my ideal forward lines for next year, but of course much is subject to change. So let us move on to defensemen.

Colorado Avalanche Defensemen

D-men for the Avalanche just received a large upgrade with Nikita Zadorov, yet they are still lacking a partner for Erik Johnson. Regardless, let’s take a look at what next year’s D-lines may look like.

Top pairing: free-agent acquisition-Johnson

Second pairing: Zadorov-Barrie

Third pairing: Stuart-Bigras

Zadorov provides an immediate upgrade to stifle the woes of the Avalanche’s blue line from last season.

The first priority in free agency for the Avalanche is to find a left-shooting D-man to partner Erik Johnson. Andrei Sekera would be an easy option as he is an unrestricted free agent, restricted free agent Eric Gelinas would be another great pick-up if the Avs could acquire him from the Devils.

As I mentioned, Zadorov provides an immediate upgrade to stifle the woes of the Avalanche’s blue line from last season. Barrie is becoming an elite defenseman in the NHL, but could certainly use a bruising partner to create space for him and also provide strong defensive skill in the event that Barrie gets out of position due to his offensive skill set.

Finally, on the third-pairing I have Brad Stuart and Chris Bigras. I have Stuart slotted down here because I truly think he is incapable of moving further up the depth chart. Yet, he would provide great minutes on the third pairing and would help Bigras mature.

Bigras’ pro showing was short, but he made quick work of his time in the AHL, recording four assists in seven games. I think he is NHL-ready as long as he receives minimal minutes on the third pairing. He may need one more year in the AHL, but are the other options in Holden, Guenin, Siemens really that much better? Management should take a risk on Bigras next season – at least to start – and see how things pan out.

Finally, let’s look at the goalies. Semyon Varlamov is the clear No. 1 goalie for the Avalanche and hopefully will be for a few more years to come. So, the only real question concerning the goalies is who will be Varly’s backup next year.

Calvin Pickard is the clear choice as far as I am concerned, but Berra’s contract is getting in the way. Really, I suppose Pickard could benefit from another year in the AHL, but I don’t see him progressing much more in skill down there. He needs to move up and be Varlamov’s backup next year otherwise I am afraid that another year in the AHL will only hurt his growth.

The only problem is that Berra is on a one-way contract, which makes it difficult to keep him in the minors. Ultimately, training camp will decide who becomes Varlamov’s backup, but my money is on Picks, even though Berra showed prime form near the end of last season.

What would your ideal lineup for the Avalanche be next season? Let us know in the comments.

Next: Should Avs Target a winger in free agency?

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