Colorado Avalanche Expansion Draft: Best Case Scenario

Feb 9, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Mark Barberio (45) controls the puck ahead of Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Patric Hornqvist (72) in the third period at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 9, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Mark Barberio (45) controls the puck ahead of Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Patric Hornqvist (72) in the third period at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

The Colorado Avalanche must start preparing for the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft. Here is the best-case scenario for the team.

The Colorado Avalanche, like all the other NHL teams, will be taking part in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft. The team must produce its list of protected players by 3:00 pm MT on June 20.

The Las Vegas Golden Knights have until 3:00 pm MT on June 20 to make their selection. The results will be announced during the NHL Awards show on June 21, which starts at 6:00 pm MT.

Protection and Exposure Rules

The Colorado Avalanche have two options for protecting players. They can choose 11 players — seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie. Or they can choose the eight skater (forwards and defensemen) option with one goalie.

There are rules as to who the team may protect and what caliber of players they must expose. For full details, read here:

Related Story: Rules of the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft

However, the main point is that the Avalanche must protect any players with No Movement Clauses — which means defensemen Erik Johnson and Francois Beachemin. They don’t have to protect first-  or second-year professionals such as Mikko Rantanen.

However, they must expose one defenseman and two forwards with  a minimum of 70 games experience in the last two seasons OR 40 games in the last season who’s under contract for 2017-18. They also have to expose a goalie who’s under contract for the 2017-18 season.

How the Colorado Avalanche Meet the Rules

At the time of writing (barring any trades), the Colorado Avalanche have six forwards who fit the exposure requirements:

  • Nathan MacKinnon
  • Matt Duchene
  • Gabriel Landeskog
  • Carl Soderberg
  • Joe Colborne
  • Blake Comeau

Colorado has two defensemen who meet the exposure requirements:

  • Tyson Barrie
  • Mark Barberio

Both goalies, Semyon Varlamov and Calvin Pickard meet the exposure requirement. I’m hoping Colorado protects young Calvin Pickard.

The Colorado Avalanche also have five pending restricted free agents:

  • Sven Andrighetto
  • Matthew Nieto
  • Mikhail Grigorenko
  • Patrick Wiercioch
  • Nikita Zadorov

If the team wants to use them to fulfill an exposure requirement, they must make a qualifying offer before the Expansion Draft.

The Avalanche also have four pending unrestricted free agents:

  • Rene Bourque
  • John Mitchell
  • Cody Goloubef
  • Fedor Tyutin

If the team wants to use any of them to fulfill an exposure requirement, they must have him under contract before the Expansion Draft.

Additionally, the Las Vegas Golden Knights can contact any pending RFAs or UFAs and sign them to a contract. However, doing so means they don’t get to choose another player from the team.

Undesirable Obstacles

Colorado Avalanche
Mar 4, 2017; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Francois Beauchemin (32) poses for a photo prior to the game between the Winnipeg Jets and the Colorado Avalanche. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports /

The Colorado Avalanche are almost certainly going to utilize the second protection option of eight skaters and one goalie. That works out just fine because they don’t have a ton of contracts on the books past July 1.

That said, Colorado does have a couple of undesirable contracts that persist into at least next year. One of those is 31-year-old Blake Comeau’s, $2.4 million through the end of next year. Joe Colborne — $2.5 million through next year — could be another, but he’s only 27, so there’s hope for him.

The big, ugly contract is 31-year-old Carl Soderberg’s, $4.75 million through 2020. That’s three more seasons.

The other undesirable contract is 36-year-old Francois Beauchemin’s, $4.5 million through next year. What makes his particularly undesirable is that No Move clause, which means the team must put him on the protected list.

Best Case Scenario for the Colorado Avalanche

There are six players the Colorado Avalanche must protect because they comprise the team’s core:

  • Matt Duchene
  • Nathan MacKinnon
  • Gabriel Landeskog
  • Erik Johnson (who has a NMC anyway)
  • Tyson Barrie
  • Nikita Zadorov

One of those, Zadorov, is a pending RFA. As fellow my Mile High Sticking editor, Ross Sellers, pointed out, it’s in Colorado’s best interest to sign Zadorov before the Expansion Draft. As with any good Russian player, Zado has stated he’ll defect to the KHL if he doesn’t get a juicy enough contract.

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What’s more, Vegas has that time period between the submission of the lists and the final selection to sign RFAs. An expansion team has money coming out the wazoo — and Zado could be a marquee player for the Knights.

So, in our best-case scenario, Colorado must sign Nikita Zadorov before the Expansion Draft. (They could protect him unsigned, but see above about the KHL.)

Now, if the Colorado Avalanche must protect Francois Beauchemin because of his NMC, that leaves them with just one spot left. To give themselves maximum flexibility, they must fix that. The Avs have two options — buy out Beauchemin’s contract (which will mean the defenseman is likely facing retirement) or convince him to waive his NMC.

According to Avs insider Adrian Dater, Beauchemin isn’t considering waiving his NMC. He should, though, because that’s the best possible scenario for all involved. Las Vegas might actually pick him up, or the team might be able to trade him. That’s good for Beauchemin because he’ll get to play in the NHL for one more year — something that’s highly unlikely with the Colorado Avalanche next year.

For the team, that’s ideal because then they get to protect Mark Barberio. If Beauchemin is protected or bought out, Barberio is the only defenseman left who fulfills the exposure requirements because he’s under contract for next season. Otherwise Colorado would probably have to sign Patrick Wiercioch and hope Vegas takes the bait.

So, best case scenario, Beauchemin waives his NMC and the Colorado Avalanche are able to add Barberio to the protected list. This is good because Barberio is the kind of swift, puck-moving defenseman the team has been moving toward.

That leaves one spot left. The team is highly unlikely to protect Carl Soderberg or Blake Comeau. I don’t think they’d want to protect Joe Colborne — I hope not anyway.

So, Colorado would be able to protect an RFA. The two options are Sven Andrighetto and Matthew Nieto. While Andrighetto was the better player for Colorado last year, it would be ideal if the Avs could protect both.

Here’s how they could do so and even get rid of the last undesirable obstacle: They must make a trade to get the Las Vegas Golden Knights to pick up Carl Soderberg.

What would that look like for the Colorado Avalanche? Ideally, they’d just throw something unwanted at the team. However, GM George McPhee apparently isn’t a stupid man. He’s going to want something in return for taking on that albatross of a contract.

Next: Could a Wild Trade Impact the 2017 NHL Draft?

We’ll explore that in a future post. Until then, leave your ideas in the comments box: What could the Colorado Avalanche trade to the Las Vegas Golden Knights to entice them to pick up Carl Soderberg’s contract?