Saturday, July 5, 2008

Avs Still Have Room To Spend - Who Is Left?

According to NHL Numbers, the Avalanche still have about 14 million dollars in cap space with only Cody McCormick, Cody McLeod, Joe Sakic, Marek Svatos and possibly Peter Forsberg left to sign.

It's been reported that an offer sheet has been extended to Svatos and that Sakic is likely to return. Assuming Forsberg decides to finally retire (it's time) and the Cody's end up getting re-signed, I'd expect the Avs to still have around 5 to 6 million to throw around.

With that kind of money, it's time to figure out where this team is weak. Here's a look at the projected depth chart:

Centers
Joe Sakic
Paul Stastny
Tyler Arnason
Ben Guite

Wings
Milan Hejduk
Ryan Smyth
Wojtek Wolski
Marek Svatos
David Jones
Darcy Tucker
Ian Laperriere
Per Ledin
Cody McCormick
Cody McLeod
Scott Parker

Defenseman
Brett Clark
Scott Hannan
Adam Foote
John-Michael Liles
Jordan Leopold
Ruslan Salei

Goaltenders
Peter Budaj
Andrew Raycroft

Hopefuls
Chris Stewart
TJ Hensick
Kyle Cumiskey
Nigel Williams
Daniel Tjarnqvist

Assuming this is how it shakes out (meaning McLeod and Jones make the team right away) it's easy to see that this team has changed from its philosophy of "speed and finesse" to one of "hitting and grinding."

The first concern is with the goalies - I don't have much faith in Peter Budaj and I have even less in Andrew Raycroft. However, there is no one out there for the Avs to sign unless they consider Ray Emery. And for the life of me, I pray they don't.

The defensive group looks pretty solid, especially with the addition of Daniel Tjarnqvist to give them some more depth. They could still look to sign somebody with a good shot from the point such as Paul Mara.

That leaves us with the forwards. If Sakic DOES retire, that leaves Colorado very short in the center position. Francois Giguere has said that he would allow Wojtek Wolski to move to the center position, but would you really feel comfortable with a team featuring Stastny, Wolski, Arnason, and Guite/Hensick as its top options?

No, I'd recommend moving Arnason. The four games a season he shows up for aren't worth the other 78. There are plenty of guys who would be a perfect fit including Pavol Demitra, Michael Peca, and Brendon Morrison. They all fit into the 2-4.5 million dollar range and would provide for excellent depth. Sure, they're risks, but they're the kind of players who have experience and can really help a second or third line perform.

I would be lying if I didn't have a few concerns about this upcoming season. Sure, we're almost guaranteed to be a pesky team with the additions of Ledin and Tucker but the Achilles heel of the Avalanche last season was being able to score - especially on the power play. We haven't addressed that concern at all (unless you count promoting the guy in charge of the power play to head coach) and it'll be a shame if the same problems continue with five million dollars of cap space.

We still have a long way to go until we see the 2008-2009 Avalanche take the ice. Hopefully, a few more changes are made along the way.

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