Colorado Avalanche: Expansion Draft Worst Case Scenario

Jan 4, 2017; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Colorado Avalanche center Carl Soderberg (34) and defenseman Cody Goloubef (18) during the warmup period against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 4, 2017; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Colorado Avalanche center Carl Soderberg (34) and defenseman Cody Goloubef (18) during the warmup period against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /

The Colorado Avalanche must start preparing for the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft. The following is a likely scenario for how it will go down.

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.

Related Story: All About the Expansion Draft

Expansion Draft Rules and the Colorado Avalanche

Teams have two options for protecting players in the Expansion Draft:

  • 11 players: seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie
  • 8 skaters: forwards and defensemen with one goalie

Because of their contractual situation, the Colorado Avalanche are almost certainly going to choose the eight-skater option. Players with No Move Clauses must be protected. That’s ok, because they don’t really have 11 players worth protecting.

There are also exposure requirements for the Expansion Draft:

  • One defenseman 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.
  • Two forwards who meet the above experience and contractual requirements.
  • One goalie who’s either under contract for 2017-18 or will be a restricted free agent just prior to the 2017-18 season.

The Colorado Avalanche have six forwards who fit the exposure requirements:

The Avs have two defensemen who meet the exposure requirements:

Both goalies, Semyon Varlamov and Calvin Pickard meet the exposure requirement.

The Colorado Avalanche also have five pending restricted free agents:

If Colorado wants to use their pending RFAs to fulfill an exposure requirement, they must make a qualifying offer before the Expansion Draft.

The Avs also have four pending unrestricted free agents:

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

Worst Case Scenario for the Colorado Avalanche

More from Mile High Sticking

So, the Colorado Avalanche are going to choose the eight-skater option. Because of No Move Clauses, they must protect two specific defensemen — Erik Johnson and Francois Beauchemin. The former is the team’s cornerstone of defense, so he’d have been protected regardless. The latter…

We all hope the best case scenario happens — Beauchemin waives his NTC. That allows the team to expose him and protect Mark Barberio. Alternatively, the team could buy out his contract, meaning they still don’t have to protect him. They’d still have to expose Barberio, though, because there isn’t another defenseman under contract.

Colorado could sign a pending RFA, such as Patrick Wiercioch. However, if the Las Vegas Golden Knights don’t take the bait, the Avs are stuck with him. He’s not bad — and he’s a sight better than alternatives such as Cody Goloubef and Fedor Tyutin. However, Wiercioch doesn’t fit the team’s new mold.

The Colorado Avalanche are almost certainly going to submit the following protection list to the NHL:

  • Nathan MacKinnon
  • Matt Duchene
  • Gabriel Landeskog
  • Erik Johnson
  • Francois Beauchemin
  • Tyson Barrie
  • Nikita Zadorov (unsigned)

There are two more variables. One, which of the pending RFA forwards, Matt Nieto or Sven Andrighetto, does the team protect? I’m guessing Andrighetto since they traded for him and he’s a better player than Nieto.

Two, which goalie do the Avs protect?

Avs insider Adrian Dater

seems certain Colorado is going to protect Semyon Varlamov. To my mind, that makes little sense. First of all, Varlamov has a fat, $5.9 million contract through two more seasons. Second of all, he’s only had one stellar season — the golden 2013-14 season. Third, he just had a major surgery for a recurring groin injury.

Why would the Vegas Knights choose him over more palatable prospects, notably Marc-Andre Fleury?

Secondly, even if Vegas chose Varlamov, what difference does it make? Varly is a goalie for the now — he’s 29. Colorado is a team looking to get younger, so they don’t need a veteran goalie.

This is a worst-case scenario post. So, let’s say Dater is right and Colorado protects Varlamov. We’d all love for the Vegas Knights to relieve us of Blake Comeau or, even better, Carl Soderberg. However, there are really only two players that are worth much on the exposure list — Mark Barberio and Calvin Pickard.

Even with the Colorado Avalanche’s luck, they can’t lose both to Vegas. However, losing either one is a big detriment to the team.

Calvin Pickard is younger (25 years old) and much cheaper ($1 million for one more year) than Semyon Varlamov. He’s not as athletic as Varlamov, but he’s much dependable. Losing him would be a problem. Even if Varlamov stays on, he needs adequate backup. Spencer Martin isn’t that.

Mark Barberio is in the Colorado Avalanche’s new style of defensemen — he’s a speedy puck mover. He worked out really well for the team last season. Those kinds of guys aren’t easy to come by. The Avs are already lacking on defense — they can’t afford another hole.

Here’s a bad scenario: Colorado exposes Pickard. The Knights pick him up. Varlamov fails to recover fully from his groin surgery, leaving Colorado with an over-priced, broken goalie and a green youngster as his backup.

Here’s the absolute worst-case scenario: The Colorado Avalanche expose Mark Barberio, whom the Las Vegas Golden Knights pick. They also fail to sign Nikita Zadorov, who defects to Russia. That’s two holes in defense with only the aging Francois Beauchemin to show for all of that.

Next: Best Case Scenario for the Avs Expansion Draft

The ugly reality is that it’s probably true that Colorado isn’t going to buy out Francois Beachemin, nor is he going to waive his NMC. The Avs are probably going to protect their $5.9-million goalie. Both Barberio and Pickard are going to be exposed, and that’s the player Vegas is likely to choose unless Colorado bribes them to do otherwise.