The Colorado Avalanche’s top scorers are delivering production at bargain rates.
One of the symptoms of the Colorado Avalanche’s youth movement is that the lineup is littered with players on either Entry Level Contracts (ELCs) or prove it deals. Both are cheap, and the result is a very cost effective roster in the very early stages of the season.
The Avalanche lack the superstar power that is driving the Washington Capitals so far, but they are using a solid, balanced roster to generate points. Even better, many of the players that are contributing for the Avalanche are on very reasonable contracts. Even better again, the Avalanche will almost certainly be able to afford the raises due to these players when the time comes.
That’s because the Avalanche have a lot of expensive players coming off the books just as the young guys come off their current deals. The Colorado Avalanche are slowly developing into a contender, and they’re not breaking the bank to do it.
Spread the Wealth
The Colorado Avalanche don’t have a single player in the top 50 in terms of cap hit. Nathan MacKinnon has the 57th highest cap-hit in the league, and that will probably go down once the Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel and impending Patrik Laine and Austen Matthews deals kick in.
On the one hand, that helps explain why the Avalanche have struggled recently. They simply lack the league breaking talent of guys earning $8-10M/year. On the other hand, lacking those huge contracts allows the Colorado Avalanche to build some respectable depth throughout their lineup.
And, as of right now at least, the results are good. For comparison, the Capitals top 4 scorers have scored an incredible 40 combined points in their first 6 games. They are a huge reason Washington is off to such a strong start.
They’re also chewing up $29.7M in cap-space, roughly 40% of the cap total.
The same amount of money on the Avalanche roster covers the top 10 scorers, with a combined 43 points. A big reason the Avalanche are able to generate such production is the play of guys on exceptionally cheap contracts.
Steal of a Deal
The Colorado Avalanche currently have 5 forwards and 5 defencemen earning less than $1M. Some of those might creep a little bit higher based on performance bonuses, but their base salary is 6 figures. Those guys have scored 21 points en route to the Avalanche’s 4-2 start. Nail Yakupov and Mikko Rantanen are leading the charge by giving the team 10 points for less than $2M.
Right behind them are Alexander Kerfoot, Tyson Jost, JT Compher and Patrik Nemeth to round out the balanced attack.
They, along with the $1.4M Sven Andrighetto, have beautifully complemented the highly paid core guys to give the Avalanche what may be its most complete lineup in years. Even the highest paid players are mostly providing good bang for the buck. Of the 6 guys making more than $5M, Erik Johnson alone isn’t putting up great numbers. Then again, his +6 rating is 10th best in the league.
The bottom line is that the most expensive core guys are doing their job, and they’re getting helped along by the least expensive guys.
Not so much the guys in the middle.
Points obviously aren’t the only measure of a player’s value to his team. Johnson is a good example of a guy who is playing well, even if the basic statistics don’t really reflect it. Nonetheless, it doesn’t change the fact that the Colorado Avalanche have some expensive players with unimpressive stat lines so far.
Carl Soderberg, Blake Comeau, Matt Nieto and Colin Wilson are basically the Avalanche’s bottom 4 forwards at the moment. They’re also eating up just over $12M in cap-space. That’s some costly depth. Especially considering they’ve scored 3 combined points.
Soderberg and Wilson have had some really good moments, and they aren’t getting prime offensive opportunities. But still, the Avalanche are paying a lot of money to the bottom of their lineup.
And it gets worse.
All or part of Francois Beauchemin’s, Cody Mcleod’s and Joe Colborne’s deals are still on the books. Add in an expensive, albeit very strong, backup in Jonathan Bernier, and the Colorado Avalanche are paying $21.3M to guys who contribute little or nothing to the team.
Which is actually phenomenal.
Room to Grow
More from Mile High Sticking
- Could Colorado Avalanche move on from Pavel Francouz next offseason?
- 4 goalies to replace Pavel Francouz if he has to miss time
- Colorado Avalanche make sneaky signing with Tatar
- Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog could return in 2023-24 playoffs
- Colorado Avalanche rookie face-off tournament roster
The Colorado Avalanche are getting fantastic value from young guys on cheap contracts, and poor value from their more expensive guys. You can lament the latter. Or you can view it as an opportunity.
That $21M committed to depth guys won’t be around much longer. Most of it will be freed up to go to the young guys when their raises are due. Not all of them will earn high value deals, but, so long as the Avalanche play their cards right, they should have no problem affording the ones who do stick.
Everyone on the high value, low production list has a deal expiring in three years or less. Just as the bulk of the ELCs do the same. Which means the Avalanche shouldn’t find themselves in cap trouble, even as they pay their emerging stars.
Say Rantanen gets a $5.9M cap hit on his next deal. That raise will be completely offset by Beauchemin and McLeod coming off the books. Anyone due a raise will largely be compensated by an overpaid depth player coming off the books.
Combine that with the extreme likelihood that the salary cap will continue to grow – especially with the Vegas Golden Knights adding their 16,000 season tickets to the revenue pool – and the Avalanche will be hard pressed to find themselves in cap trouble any time soon.
The youth movement is paying dividends for the Colorado Avalanche. So far, at least. Andrighetto, Yakupov, Kerfoot, Jost, Nemeth (surprisingly) and Compher are contributing points while on low value deals.
At the other end of the spectrum are Soderberg, Wilson, Comeau and Nieto. These guys are earning more than their points reflect. That’s not to say they aren’t contributing in other ways, just that their point totals aren’t indicative of $12M AAV.
These trends combine to form a bright future for the Avalanche. As expensive contracts, buyouts and retained salary come off the books, Colorado will find itself with roughly $20M in cap space. That, along with the $6M they already have, plus an increase in the salary cap over time means the Avalanche shouldn’t be hamstrung by the salary cap any time soon.
Once the Colorado Avalanche become contenders again, they should have the cap space to stay there.