Needs for the Defensive Corps
The Colorado Avalanche may have been bolstering their depth at the position, so the future looks decent. However, they need help right now. If they lose Barberio, they have three defensemen and a rotation of green prospects, though both Lindholm and Bigras have NHL experience. Even with Barberio they have just four d-men and a rotation of young bucks.
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This is why I don’t see the point in trying to draft a defenseman with the fourth-overall pick, not even Miro Heiskenan. Heiskenan is going to be a great player, but he still has at least a couple years of development ahead of him. Like I said, the Avs need a d-man for right now.
Either Colorado is going to have to trade for a decent defenseman — and that’s very likely (defenseman Mikhail Sergachev just got traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning, so he’s off the table) — or they’re going to have to acquire one in free agency.
Now, if the they want a stud defenseman, they definitely need to trade for him. Stud d-men rarely hit free agency. And when they do, they’re overpriced.
However, Colorado has decent cornerstones in Johnson and Barrie, with a side of Zadarov for physicality and energy. If they truly want to stop the skewed shot differential, they need a shutdown defender. If they could find a d-man with some offensive talent, or at least two-way acumen, that would be a boon, too.
Again, no one over the age of, say, 27 should be skating in burgundy and blue for the first time next season — and the players around 30 in Avs colors should be limited to a choice few like Johnson and Varlamov.
As with forwards, the list here of potential RFAs Colorado should consider isn’t going to be comprehensive. However, two players continue to catch my eye, 26-year-old Dmitry Kulikov (Buffalo Sabres) and 26-year-old Michael Del Zotto (Philadelphia Flyers.)
Dmitry Kulikov is scouted as a talented, two-way defenseman with excellent mobility. He likes to play aggressively. Michael Del Zotto is scouted as a great skater with good puck movement. He’s solid on the power play.
Unfortunately, neither player is going to come cheap. Kulikov is coming off a contract with an AAV of $4.3 million, and Del Zotto off a contract with an AAV of $3.87 million. Both are likely looking for a pay raise in free agency.
The Colorado Avalanche are freeing up a fair amount of money this summer — somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million. Zadorov is going to take a chunk of that, but the team can still afford to throw a little extra money at a good defenseman.
Both have a similar amount of strengths and weaknesses in their game. However, either one would help bolster the Avs blueline while the team waits for some of its prospects to develop.