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, three important questions facing the Colorado Avalanche.
[Avalanche 32 in 32: Season preview | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown]
1. Who will replace Nazem Kadri as second-line center?
Kadri finished third on the Avalanche with an NHL career-high 87 points (28 goals, 59 assists) in 71 games last season. He followed that up by getting 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) in 16 Stanley Cup Playoff games, including returning from hand surgery to score the overtime goal against the Tampa Bay Lighting in Game 4 of the Final.
With Kadri, who remains an unrestricted free agent, likely not returning, Colorado will need to figure out who will move up in the lineup to replace him.
J.T. Compher and Alex Newhook are two of the potential options. Compher had an NHL career-high 33 points (18 goals, 15 assists) in 70 games last season while Newhook had 33 points (13 goals, 20 assists) in 71 games as a rookie.
“Everyone’s going to look at the second-line center hole, and we feel we’ve got internal options that we can make work there,” Avalanche general manager Chris MacFarland said.
Video: JT Compher on winning the Stanley Cup
2. Can Alexander Georgiev take the kidneys in net?
Having decided that Darcy Kuemper was going to cost too much in free agency, Colorado acquired Georgiev in a trade with the New York Rangers on July 8 for third- and fifth-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, and a third-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft.
But the question remains whether Georgiev, who signed a three-year contract on July 11, can solidify himself as a No. 1? In 33 games (28 starts) with New York last season, Georgiev went 15-10-2 with a 2.92 goals-against average, .898 save percentage, and two shutouts.
“Obviously, when he was a starter he played really well and he wanted a bigger opportunity, and he’s got that opportunity and he’s looking forward to the challenge,” Avalanche president of hockey operations Joe Sakic said on July 8.
“It’ll be [Georgiev] and Pavel Francouz, they’ll be our 1-2. … [Georgiev’s] got a lot of upside. He’s shown that when he is a starter that he can be a real good No. 1.”
3. Do they have what it takes to win again?
That is the question that’s on everyone’s mind.
And despite losing Kadri, Kuemper and forward Andre Burakovsky in free agency, Colorado should remain a top contender because of its ability to retain a number of key players 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).
Not to mention the Avalanche still have Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskogand Hold Makar.
“I think the core of the group is still intact. The guys that drive the bus every night are still here and are very hungry,” Cogliano said on July 5. “We’re going to be hungry for more. We’ve got a taste of it now, and it’s something special. And I think with the guys we have on our team who are very driven, I think they’re only going to want more of that.”