Colorado Avalanche: Evaluation of Offseason Moves So Far

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JUNE 06: Brandon Saad #20 of the Colorado Avalanche celebrates with teammates on the bench after scoring a first-period goal against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game Four of the Second Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at T-Mobile Arena on June 6, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JUNE 06: Brandon Saad #20 of the Colorado Avalanche celebrates with teammates on the bench after scoring a first-period goal against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game Four of the Second Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at T-Mobile Arena on June 6, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

The Colorado Avalanche have had a modest offseason. Have they done enough to become Cup contenders again?

The Colorado Avalanche haven’t had as exciting an offseason as they may have had in recent years. However, they have made a few moves to address current and future needs.

First off, the NHL Draft. Colorado only had four draft picks, and none of them were high, so they were never going to make a big splash in this year’s draft. That’s the price you pay for being a Cup-contending team.

Here are their draft selections:

  • Round 1, #28: RW Oskar Olausson (HV 71 Sweden)
  • Round 2, #61: D Sean Behrens (U-18 USNTDP)
  • Round 3, #92: C Andrei Buyalsky (USHL)
  • Round 7, # 220: Taylor Makar (AJHL)

You’re probably aware by now that, yes, Taylor Makar is from THAT family — he is, indeed, Cale’s brother.

You want at least your first and second rounders to make the team. Olausson is a decent-sized forward who played last season in Sweden’s top men’s league as an 18-year-old. He’s know for the old standbys you expect in a first-rounder — speed, skating finesse, and good hands. Naturally, he has plenty of room for development.

Meanwhile, the Colorado Avalanche had some free agents they needed to sign — and some that did not get signed. The notable free agency subtractions were forward Brandon Saad and, of course, goalie Philipp Grubauer.

The loss of Saad was not so surprising, though many Avs fans wish Colorado could have found a way to sign him. He went to St. Louis for $4.5 million. With the Avs already getting close to the cap ceiling — and with big contracts coming up due both this year and next — it’s unsurprising they couldn’t cough up that much for a second liner.

The big loss was Phillip Grubauer. On the one hand, Colorado traded for him to be their number-one — and even traded away an excellent goalie in Semyon Varlamov to make room for Grubauer to take on that mantle. On the other hand, he didn’t stay hot when the Avalanche needed him to extend their playoffs past the second round. A hot goalie wins Stanley Cups, and Grubauer didn’t do that for the Avs.

Grubauer apparently decided to chase money instead of glory. He went to the expansion team Seattle Kraken for $5.9 million, which Colorado simply wasn’t going to pay him. The hinky part was that he made a comment that Seattle had been in contact with his agent before the deal was announced on Day 1 of Free Agency Frenzy — which means the Kraken were contacting said agent outside of the approved window. There seemed to be a lot of that going around this year.

Those were the big losses that Colorado saw in free agency. Concerning their own players, they made the biggest two signings they needed to. They secured superstud Cale Makar for the next six years — at $9 million a year, which ain’t cheap. But then I call him “superstud” for a reason.

The nailbiter was captain Gabriel Landeskog. Told y’all our cap wasn’t going anywhere. As Joe Sakic once famously said, you chase money and glory — or you stick with a team and see your number go up in the rafters. (That’s an extreme paraphrasing, but the gist is there.)

Gabriel Landeskog is a very good NHLer, and he has a family to think about. You could understand from a business point of view if he decided to chase the money. However, I never had the sense that Landy was going to play that way — he did what he could to stay in Colorado and make the kind of money that makes sense for his situation. I have no problem with that.

Will our cap see his number raised to the rafters? I don’t know — but I do know he will always be one of those players who defines who the Colorado Avalanche is and will become.

Not that many Avs fans are paying attention to the other big free agency signing, though it had the potential to be a polarizing one. Erstwhile doghouse dweller Tyson Jost finally earned his payday. It was a relatively modest one — $2 million for the next two years. Even many passionate naysayers agree he earned that contract, though there are a few “he’s weak on the puck” holdouts. (Yes, because that’s what the coach and the GM reward.)

Speaking of the GM, Joe Sakic wasn’t overly active in free agency. He made a few journeymen and AHL moves. Notables:

After free agency, there was one obvious gap that Colorado had to address — goal tending. Arguably, goal tending has been in question for a while now. The Avalanche made a move I don’t love-love, but that was necessary. They made a trade.

Specifically, they traded longtime prospect Conor Timmins for former Minnesota Wild goalie Darcy Kuemper. I was excited to see Timmins succeed in Colorado from the moment we drafted him, and I hate anything the Wild have ever touched. Luckily, Kuemper is lately of Arizona, so Timmins is headed in that direction.

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Realistically, Timmins was going to have an incredibly hard time cracking Colorado’s d-core, and we needed a goalie. Hopefully Darcy can get it done with a good defense in front of him.

The Colorado Avalanche are probably not totally done, but any pieces added now are likely to be ancillary. So, in all, how did they fare in the offseason?

Well, you could argue that their depth took a hit. In addition to the above-mentioned losses, they also lost forward Joonas Donskoi in expansion. They didn’t entirely replace all that they lost.

However, they backed some important players and have one specific player in their sights — Nathan MacKinnon. The truth is, the heart and soul of the team belong to Landeskog — but the fate rests in MacKinnon’s hands. And arguably Cale Makar’s going forward. Landy has to do his job — lead the team. MacKinnon and Makar have to be wizards, which I believe is the statement the Avalanche have made with their modest moves this summer.

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Do the Colorado Avalanche have a Stanley Cup team assembled? It’s hard to say. We all thought they did last year, and they still exited second round. We’ll have to see how this team bonds with chemistry and how their strengths and weaknesses balance. However, I have confidence that the current lineup can put on one heck of a show — and challenge far into the playoffs.