Colorado Avalanche: Joe Sakic’s Plan for a Championship Team

DALLAS, TX - JUNE 23: Joe Sakic attends the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center on June 23, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - JUNE 23: Joe Sakic attends the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center on June 23, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic coyly laid out his plans for the team’s immediate future in a post-season presser.

Colorado Avalanche GM Joe Sakic is proud but not satisfied with what this year’s team accomplished. I think with some time, the players — and we fans — will feel the same. Sakic is the big guy in the big chair, though, so he has to get to his rationality sooner.

Sakic gave an end-of-the season presser last night, which is what we get here in Avs Nation in lieu of locker cleanout interviews (It’s better than nothing). And, while old Quoteless Joe didn’t exactly become a font of information, he did give some hints into what he’s planning for the future.

Obviously, just like every other GM minus four (the ones still in the Stanley Cup hunt), his focus now is on three items of business — signing pending free agents, the draft, and finding new free agents.

As Joe Sakic said in his presser, “The end goal is to be a champ and win a Stanley Cup… and it starts here in the offseason.”

So, let’s look at what Sakic has in mind — his infamously vague utterings and my infamously expanded interpretations.

Signing Colorado Free Agents

The Colorado Avalanche/Colorado Eagles have a whopping 26 pending free agents. Of those, 11 are pending unrestricted free agents, while the other 15 are pending restricted free agents.

Out of all of those, the biggest name on the list is Mikko Rantanen. The Colorado Avalanche are going to sigh All Star Mikko Rantanen. Sakic said this of the situation:

"“It’s a priority to get him done. We prefer long term, but if it has to be short term than it has to be short term. We want to make sure that we have him signed. “"

Rantanen’s agent, Mike Liut, notoriously hates bridge deals. Sakic wants long-term, so hopefully they get him signed up for quite a few years. He’s highly likely to be the highest-paid player on the team because of his All Star year and Nathan MacKinnon‘s extremely team-friendly contract.

As far as the other players go, Sakic seems pretty laissez-faire:

"“First things first, meet with the coaching staff, go over our team and build our plan for what we want to try and do. So, I’m not too concerned about signing all those guys. We’ll get them done.”"

Of all those contracts, many of the players will probably not be signed. Nikita Zadorov, who’s had contractual disputes with the team before, is another big name. But the other biggie is goalie Semyon Varlamov. Sakic spoke about that player directly:

"“I met with Varly so we’ll see what happens July 1 with him. He’s going to be UFA, and we’ll be in communication.”"

Well, that’s not exactly the same response he had about Rantanen. It might be that the Avs are planning on looking at some of the goalies in free agency (please not Robin Lehner) and only offering for Varlamov if those players don’t pan out.

By the way, of those 26 contracts I mentioned, four of them are goalie contracts — three of the goalies being pending UFAs.

2019 NHL Draft

As Sakic pointed out, the Avs have five picks in the first three rounds this year. Unfortunately, Colorado doesn’t have the greatest history with picks beyond the first round, so we’ll focus mostly on that for now.

The Avalanche have two first-rounders — Ottawa’s (thanks to the Matt Duchene trade ) and their own. Those represent numbers 4 and 16 respectively.

Like every GM, Sakic stated he expected to get a “good player” at both positions. Well, let’s be honest — most of us don’t care a ton about that #16 — we’re salivating about the fourth-overall.

Sakic’s words on the fourth-overall:

"“We’ve got our list. We could go either way (with a forward or defenseman) to be honest with you. We know who is going one and two, we’ll see who Chicago takes at three.”"

That’s very interesting — Sakic isn’t stating outright if they’re looking at a forward or a defenseman. Naturally, GMs never trumpet their choices. However, there don’t appear to be any Cale Makar magicians in this year’s draft, so I’m going to predict the Avs select a forward.

I’m just getting started in my draft analyses, but some of the popular picks for fourth overall are Vasily Podkolzin, Dylan Cozens, Alex Turcotte, and Bowen Byram. Of those prospects, Byram is the lone defenseman.

Free Agency Frenzy

More from Mile High Sticking

In previous years, Sakic has stated firmly that the Colorado Avalanche don’t plan to “make a splash” in free agency. He notably didn’t make that declaration this year. Instead, he commented more on the fact that the Avalanche were building toward a specific future — a championship future. And said future wasn’t so far in the, well, future.

Indeed, he stated outright, “We’ll be more aggressive this year.”

Holy smokes. Granted, Sakic was mostly talking about targeting certain players, but Joe seems to be saying they don’t intend to sign just a couple role players here and there. Indeed, he stated that they already have “targeted players” in mind. And it’s just a matter of whether they become available.

Phew, thanks, Joe, we can speculate from now until Free Agency day (July 1) what that means — and we most certainly will. However, he may be talking about a couple of Columbus Blue Jackets stars — Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky. Maybe even old homeboy Matt Duchene.

Jeff Skinner, Kevin Hayes, Brett Connolly, Petr Mrazek, and Erik Karlsson are also set to hit unrestricted free agency. We’ll see of Sakic has any of those players in mind.

Next. Pride for the 2018-19 Season. dark

The Colorado Avalanche had a season that should make the front offices, the players, and the fans hold our heads up high. But, like Sakic, while we’re proud, we’re not satisfied. The goal is 16W, the holy grail of sports, the Stanley Cup.

And Joe Sakic has his vision to achieve that goal.