The Colorado Avalanche need to stay the course and not make grabs at shiny players — even when they’re very shiny indeed.
The Colorado Avalanche are getting along very well with their rebuild. They’re on pace to earn 97 points and, possibly, a wild card playoff berth.
I discussed the Avalanche’s rebuild with some of my cohorts recently. Naturally, we all had differing opinions on how they should move forward. However, we all came to the same conclusion, which seems to be one shared by the general Avs fandom — Colorado should not beggar the future for a win-now situation.
That’s why I was a little perplexed when I came across a proposal on my Twitter feed. The topic was whether the Avs should pursue center John Tavares in free agency this summer.
My response was best summarized thus: Wut?
The tweeters engaged in this conversation are very hockey smart — a couple of them cover the Avs for BSN, so they know their stuff. (No, Adrian Dater wasn’t one of him — he may be MMA fighting with Mike Chambers.)
No one is going to argue against John Tavares being a stellar hockey player. In fact, the conversation even threw the idea out there that Tavares might be a future Hall of Famer.
The talk is more about what a potential future Hall of Famer might cost. ESPN put a possible price tag on Tavares — $8.5 million to $9.5 million. However, the conversation went as high as $14 million.
So, just for funsies, let’s do a little musing about John Tavares in burgundy and blue — and at what cost.
John Tavares, the Player
John Tavares is an elite player. In his nine-year career, he’s played 637 games and amassed 594 points (261 goals, 333 assists). Here’s his career stats:
He’s an offensive stud. He has fantastic stick skills both as a passer and as a shooter. His hockey IQ is excellent, and he can be both a playmaker and a goal scorer.
The one knock against him is he’s not known for being that speedy. However, he’s considered an elite, franchise center. (Also, his career average for faceoff wins is 51.1% — wouldn’t it be nice to have a center who could win faceoffs again?)
Tavares is known as being an excellent leader. He captained his major juniors team. He started as an alternate for the New York Islanders in 2011 (two years into his career) and became the captain in 2013.
Makeup of the Colorado Avalanche
Part of the argument on Twitter centered around getting Tavares at any cost, or at a pre-determined cost, and figuring the rest out later. However, we have time now, so let’s look at the idea now.
The Colorado Avalanche are a young, speedy team that aims to work hard across all 200 feet of the ice. The team is working on building around fitness, chemistry and leadership.
The core is comprised of a 25-year-old captain, Gabriel Landeskog, who’s been the cap since he was 19. His alternates are the veteran — and cornerstone — of the blueline, 29-year-old Erik Johnson, and superstar-in-the-making, 22-year-old Nathan MacKinnon. Winger Mikko Rantanen, also 22, is the other main player.
It’s hard to see any of the above players being moved anytime soon.
Right now, the first line is comprised of the very best the team has to offer — MacKinnon centering Landeskog and Rantanen. The “second” line is actually the checking line — Carl Soderberg centering Matthew Nieto and Blake Comeau.
The above-named rookies are constantly involved in a merry-go-round of lines that include young(ish) veterans such as Colin Wilson, Sven Andrighetto, Gabriel Bourque, and Nail Yakupov. None of those players are mainstays, and no telling how many, along with Nieto and Comeau, might be gone next season.
The Avalanche are still growing their second line. Of the rookies mentioned, only Kerfoot is putting up good numbers — the other three are traveling a slower path for their own reasons.
After the top line and Kerfoot, your top scorers on the Avalanche are a defenseman (Tyson Barrie) and the two grinders (Soderberg, Comeau).
So, where do you put John Tavares?
John Tavares and the Avalanche
How would John Tavares fit with the Colorado Avalanche? The answer is, he wouldn’t.
Tavares is going to be 28 when he starts his next contract. On the Avalanche, that’s nearing veteran territory on a team that’s fully committed to a youth movement.
And, again, where do you put Tavares? Do you even consider him for the “second” line? Or do you take away a little ice time from the young superstar-in-the-making?
And does Tavares go from being a five-year captain to, maybe, rotating with MacKinnon for alternate? Then we look at supplanting MacKinnon as the number-one center and as an alternate — that will do nothing to harm the team’s chemistry, right?
On top of all that, let’s acknowledge that not every single skater on a fast team has to be fast, but can your best player not be fast? Doesn’t that change the whole makeup of the team if he’s not?
Let’s also be realistic about money. Regardless of whether Tavares is going to make $8.5 million or $13 million, he’s going to want term. This will be the best contract in his life, and he’s going to want to milk it for at least four years, maybe six.
While MacKinnon is locked up at a huge discounted price of $6.3 million until 2023, and captain Landeskog is signed through 2021, Mikko Rantanen is going to need a new contract after next season. If he keeps his forward trajectory, it’s going to be an expensive one. At the end of next season, do the Avalanche really want to be looking at a 28-year-old making >$8.5million for at least three more years while trying to sign the other key piece of the team’s future?
And let’s be really real about money. GM Joe Sakic took first Ryan O’Reilly then Tyson Barrie to salary arbitration for around $1.5 million and $1 million respectively. He let Stastny walk for around $1.5 million and let Nikita Zadorov miss training camp for the sake of $100,000. Is this a GM who’s going to throw north of $9 million at a player?
Finally, and this is the ultimate point — John Tavares is a player for a win-now team. The Avs don’t have a good place for him on their roster because they’re not a win-now team. They expect to see their best days with their core players in a couple years and moving forth. Tavares will be past his peak by then.
John Tavares is a fantastic player, a real jewel for a team. He’d look great in Tampa Bay, Columbus, or even LA. He just wouldn’t make sense for the Colorado Avalanche.