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The Avalanche at the Deadline

Steve Downie in Warrior Stance
Steve Downie in Warrior Stance

In July, the Avalanche traded their first-round pick to the Washington Capitals for goaltender Semyon Varlamov. At the time, I thought that the deal was disastrous (and that there was zero chance of Washington's own pick being higher!) because the Avalanche didn't look like they'd be a very good team on paper. I had them finishing among the league's bottom ten teams because of that, but they've actually been much better than I expected. Unfortunately, Varlamov hasn't delivered between the pipes. The Avalanche are currently ninth in shot differential per game (+1.7), but are one of just two teams in the top ten in that category sitting outside the playoffs. So a good team sitting just outside the playoffs that has no first-round pick. Sounds like a pretty clear buyer. After the jump, we'll take a quick look at why that might not be the case.

As you know, the first thing to set down is the cap space guidelines. I had set Colorado's budget at slightly below the cap floor before the season started, and $45M is about where they'll end up (depending on how many bonuses Duchene and Landeskog actually achieve) so I'm going to continue assuming that's what they've got to spend. For that reason, the numbers listed below will be salaries instead of cap hits. Here's the chart:

Top 3 Forwards - 27.5% or 12.38M
Middle 6 Forwards - 20.0% or 9.00M
Top 4 Defenders - 27.5% or 12.38M
Goaltending - 10.0% or 4.50M
Bottom 8 Players - 15.0% or 6.75M

And now let's populate with this year's team (with salaries instead of cap hits, assuming the two big rookies only achieve their "A" level bonuses, and that all other bonuses will be achieved):

Top 3 Forwards - Stastny, Duchene, Hejduk - 23.0% or 10.37M
Middle 6 Forwards - Landeskog, Jones, Mueller, Downie, Winnik, O'Reilly - 21.3% or 9.59M
Top 4 Defenders - O'Byrne, Hejda, Wilson, Johnson - 20.3% or 9.13M
Goaltending - Varlamov, Giguere - 8.3% or 3.75M
Bottom 8 Players - McLeod, McClement, Kobasew, Porter, Galiardi, Van der Gulik, Hunwick, O'Brien, Ellliott, Barrie, Preissing (BO) - 25.3% or 11.39M

This total actually comes in under the $45M budget today. Some of that is because of the money that they saved in the deal that they made a few days ago, which sent Kyle Quincey ($3.25M salary) to Tampa (and then Detroit) for Steve Downie ($1.9M salary). Downie is a pretty good player, and the Avalanche do have some young players they'd like to play coming in on the blueline, so this is a pretty good deal for them, especially since there's a reasonably good chance that the Avalanche had decided that a $3.25M qualifying offer for Quincey was more than they'd be willing to spend (not to mention that Quincey hates Colorado). Before we look further at what they might do going forward, let's take a look at what money they've got committed for next season, assuming no change in the cap or in Colorado's budget (and using the same bonus guidelines):

Top 3 Forwards - Stastny, Landeskog, ??? - 18.6% or 8.38M
Middle 6 Forwards - ???, ???, ???, ???, ???, ??? - 0.0% or 0.00M
Top 4 Defenders - Hejda, O'Byrne, ???, ??? - 11.7% or 5.25M
Goaltending - Varlamov, Giguere - 9.4% or 4.25M
Bottom 8 Players - Kobasew, ???, ???, ???, ???, ???, ???, ???, ??? - 2.8% or 1.25M
Key RFAs - Duchene, Mueller, Downie, O'Reilly, Porter, Galiardi, Johnson, Wilson
Kery UFAs - Hejduk, Jones, McLeod, Winnik, Hunwick, O'Brien

The Avalanche are pretty close to a blank slate next season, and it seems likely to me that they'll keep it that way, and that doesn't leave them with too many options. On the way out, I assume that any taker for Chuck Kobasew would be appreciated, but that doesn't seem likely. If there are offers for other players at the margins, the Avalanche would no doubt consider that as well. On the way in, it really depends on the budget. If there is wiggle room in the budget, it makes some sense for the Avalanche to pick up a cheap rental so long as the contract expires at the end of the season. I don't know which way they'll go, but at a guess, I'd say that they're more likely to do nothing or to sell around the margins than they are to buy anything of significance for this season.