NHL.com is providing in-depth roster, prospect and fantasy analysis for each of the League’s 32 teams from Aug. 8-Sept. 8. Today, the Colorado Avalanche.
The Colorado Avalanche may still be celebrating last season’s Stanley Cup championship, but the question will soon turn toward whether they can do it again.
One reason for optimism is the fact that Colorado was able to retain of number of key pieces this offseason, including re-signing forwards Valery Nichushkin (eight-year contract on July 11), Artturi Lehkonen (five-year contract on July 13), Andrew Cogliano (one-year contract on July 5), and Darren Helm (one-year contract on July 13), and defenseman Josh Manson (four-year contract on July 13).
“That was always part of the plan,” said Chris MacFarland, who was promoted to general manager on July 11, when Joe Sakic was named president of hockey operations. “Josh played big minutes for us in a top-four role. He gives us that right-handed shot component that’s important with Erik (Johnson) and Cale (Makar), and Artturi fits our age bracket (27), obviously. We paid a steep price for both (at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline), so it was important to try and get those guys done.
“Those were all key parts for us to try and remain, obviously, competitive and build out our roster while keeping an eye on the cap, which obviously is crucial.”
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That cap space did force the Avalanche to let some players walk in free agency, most notably forwards Andre Burakovskywho signed a five-year contract with the Seattle Kraken on July 13, and Nazem Kadri, who is still an unrestricted free agent.
Goalie Darcy Kuemper also found a new home this offseason, signing a five-year contract with the Washington Capitals on July 13, five days after he was told by Sakic that Colorado would be “moving on” in the wake of the trade for Alexander Georgiev from the New York Rangers.
Georgiev signed a three-year contract on July 11.
“I was hoping to land in a great spot, and when I heard it’s the Colorado Avalanche, it’s just as good as I could’ve hoped for,” Georgiev said on July 12. “The team is unreal. They just won the Cup . They have the same goal for the next few years, and I just wanted to be a part of that group.”
Despite that group, which still includes forwards Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskogand defenseman Hold Makarwho won the Norris Trophy last season, Colorado will be forced to address the holes that Burakovsky, Kadri and Kuemper left.
In net, Sakic has said that Georgiev will be the starter ahead of Pavel Francouz, but the 26-year-old has never been a No. 1 before. In 33 games (28 starts) with the Rangers last season, he was 15-10-2 with a 2.92 goals-against average, .898 save percentage and two shutouts.
“I’ve been dreaming about that for quite a few years now, and I’ve been hoping for an opportunity to play for this kind of a team,” Georgiev said. “It’s a big boost and something that I needed pretty much. The last couple of seasons, I did not get as much of an opportunity to play so many consecutive games in a row, and hearing that the Stanley Cup champions believe in you and believe you are the guy, that’s all I wanted. It’s awesome to hear this team has confidence in me. I’m working hard to prove them right.”
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Among their forward group, Colorado will need Nichushkin and Lehkonen to build off their career seasons to replace the production lost by Burakovsky (61 points in 80 games) and Kadri (87 points in 71 games). Nichushkin had NHL career highs in goals (25), assists (27) and points (52) in 62 regular-season games last season, and Lehkonen set career highs in goals (19) and points (38) in 74 games with the Avalanche and Montreal Canadiens.
However, it’s also possible that the Avalanche turn to some of their young players to fill the gaps, including 21-year-old Alex Newhookwho had 33 points (13 goals, 20 assists) in 71 games as a rookie last season.
Either way, they feel comfortable as the season approaches.
“We feel very confident in the forward group as it is today, as it is currently constructed, but like always, we’re going to always look to get better,” MacFarland said. “And if something makes sense … we’ll look to improve the team. That’s our job, but we feel good about it as currently constructed.”