Colorado Avalanche: Evaluating Which Player Las Vegas Takes

Apr 6, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Mark Barberio (45) controls the puck in the third period against the Minnesota Wild at the Pepsi Center. The Wild won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 6, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Mark Barberio (45) controls the puck in the third period against the Minnesota Wild at the Pepsi Center. The Wild won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

The Colorado Avalanche left only a few good players unprotected. The Las Vegas Knights will get one of them in the 2017 Expansion Draft.

The Colorado Avalanche, as have all teams, have released their list of protected players for the 2017 Expansion Draft. Surprisingly to me, they went with the 11-player option, meaning seven forwards, three defensemen and a goalie. I didn’t think they had that many players worth protecting.

They kind of didn’t. Here’s who was on the protected list:

  • Matt Duchene, forward
  • Nathan MacKinnon, forward
  • Gabriel Landeskog, forward
  • Sven Andrighetto, forward
  • Matthew Nieto, forward
  • Blake Comeau, forward
  • Rocco Grimaldi, forward
  • Erik Johnson, defenseman
  • Tyson Barrie, defenseman
  • Nikita Zadorov, defenseman
  • Semyon Varlamov, goalie

I have no idea why the Colorado Avalanche went the 7-3-1 route. That just meant they were able to protect Blake Comeau and Rocco Grimaldi — all of the others could have been protected under the 8-1 scenario.

In any case, this is the full list of players Colorado exposed:

  • Joe Colborne, forward
  • Mikhail Grigorenko, forward
  • Carl Soderberg forward,
  • Mark Barberio, defenseman
  • Patrick Wiercioch, defenseman
  • Calvin Pickard, goalie
  • Troy Bourke, forward
  • Gabriel Bourque, forward
  • Rene Bourque, forward
  • Turner Elson, forward
  • Felix Girard,
  • Samuel Henley, forward
  • John Mitchell, forward
  • Jim O’Brien, forward
  • Brendan Ranford, forward
  • Mike Sislo, forward
  • Mat Clark, defenseman
  • Eric Gelinas, defenseman
  • Cody Goloubef, defenseman
  • Duncan Siemens, defenseman
  • Fedor Tyutin, defenseman
  • Joe Cannata, goalie
  • Jeremy Smith, goalie

Most of those players are either  journeymen the Las Vegas Golden Knights are unlikely to choose or pending free agents. Of the 30 players the Knights choose, only 20 of them have to already be under contract for next season.

They can negotiate with even a pending restricted free agent who was unprotected. If they sign that player, he satisfies the selection from that team.

Truthfully, there are only really five players the Vegas Knights might be interested in from that list above — Patrick Wiercioch, Mark Barberio, Carl Soderberg, Calvin Pickard, Joe Colborne.

Let’s see which one Vegas might realistically choose.

Patrick Wiercioch

colorado avalanche
Nov 21, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Patrick Wiercioch (28) against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. The Avalanche won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

The Colorado Avalanche picked up defenseman Patrick Wiercioch in free agency last summer. He just completed a one-year contract worth $800,000. The 26-year-old is a pending RFA.

Wiercioch has the size the team previously valued — 6-foot-5, 202 pounds. He’s got some speed due to his stride, but he’s not characterized as fast. He’s got a solid shot from the point.

Wiercioch didn’t play a ton during the season — 57 games with an average of 16:65 per game. He had a -9 turnover ratio.

I don’t see Las Vegas having much interest in Patrick Wiercioch. Of the five players on this list, I’d say he’s the least likely to get picked by the Knights.

Joe Colborne

Forward Joe Colborne got a hat trick on opening night then did almost nothing else for the Colorado Avalanche — he got just four goals total (and four assists) in 62 games.

Colborne is another player in the old style — big and mobile playmaker. He’s also very versatile. Unfortunately, as his numbers show, he’s inconsistent.

Colborne has one year left on his contract, with a $2.5 million cap hit. He averaged just over 10 minutes of ice time per game.

If the Vegas Knights are choosing a lot of players who aren’t under contract next season, and they need someone who is, I could see them choosing Colborne. Honestly, though, I don’t know why Colorado chose to protect the 31-year-old Blake Comeau over the 27-year-old Joe Colborne.

Carl Soderberg

The Colorado Avalanche signed center Carl Soderberg in free agency two summers ago — they even traded for the rights to negotiate with him before free agency frenzy. The team promptly signed him to a five-year contract with an annual average value of $4.75 million.

Soderberg is a two-way player who was supposed to be the poor man’s Ryan O’Reilly. Pauper’s ROR, more like.

Soderberg had a career season in 2015-16, earning 51 points (12 goals, 39 assists). Last year… not so much. He had 14 points (6 goals, 8 assists) in 80 games.

Avs insider Adrian Dater thinks the Vegas Knights might bite on the versatile Carl Soderberg:

He’s not the first player I’d guess the Vegas Knights were going to take. But I think Las Vegas has him ahead of Colborne and Wiercioch.

Calvin Pickard

More from Mile High Sticking

The Colorado Avalanche went and did it. As Dater predicted as far back as April, the Avs protected their veteran goalie with his inconsistent groin, Semyon Varlamov, over the younger, cheaper, more consistent Calvin Pickard.

I don’t see how Colorado can afford to lose Pickard. There’s only one more contracted goalie, Spencer Martin. If the Avs lose Pickard, they have a very distinct lack of goalie options.

The plus side is that the Las Vegas Golden Knights are going to choose Marc-Andre Fleury from the Pittsburgh Penguins for their starter. They need two more goalies, but they can choose from Florida Panthers’ Roberto Luongo, Philadelphia Flyers’ Michal Neuvirth and Detroit Red Wings’ Petr Mrazek. Also the Minnesota Wild’s Darcy Kuemper, Dallas Stars’ Antti Niemi, Carolina Hurricanes’ Eddie Lack…

So, while Calvin Pickard is necessary to the Colorado Avalanche, I don’t think he’ll tempt Las Vegas.

Mark Barberio

The Colorado Avalanche picked up defenseman Mark Barberio off waivers from the Montreal Canadiens. He had only four assists in 26 games for Montreal. However, he saw a lot more ice time with the Avs. He earned nine points (2 goals, 7 assists) in 34 games.

Barberio may be a surplus player on a deep team. However, he was important to the Avalanche. He’s a puck-moving defenseman with good skating ability. He’s also got good offensive instincts.

The Las Vegas Golden Knights must choose a player from each team. Colorado doesn’t have much to offer — Barberio is possibly the best of the lot. The Knights must choose at least nine defensemen total.

There are better defensemen available. However, Barberio has one year left at $750,000. If Vegas needs a cheap defenseman, they might opt for Mark Barberio.

Next: Avalanche Blueprint for the Rebuild

The Colorado Avalanche are not a deep team. Luckily they’re a young team. A lot of the most exciting players are either first-year or second-year professions. This includes Mikko Rantanen, J.T. Compher, A.J. Greer, Tyson Jost and Anton Lindholm. The Avs are a team for the future.

More’s the pity for Las Vegas, I guess.