Friday, July 25, 2008

Svatos Signs // Two Years, 4.1 Million

The Colorado Avalanche Hockey Club announced the signing of forward Marek Svatos to a two-year contract, avoiding an arbitration hearing scheduled for today.

“Marek Svatos has been a key ingredient to our success the last few years,” said Avalanche Executive Vice President and General Manager Francois Giguere. “He’s scored many big goals for this club and we expect him to be a strong force for us again this season.”
Svatos Under Contract with Avs

Despite all of his injuries, (Svatos hasn't played more than 66 games in the past three seasons) Marek Svatos has been one of the best goal scorers that the Colorado Avalanche has ever had. If he can somehow stay healthy for an entire 82-game season, Svatos has 30, maybe even 40-goal potential if he's playing on a line with Sakic or Stastny. And with the departure of Andrew Brunette, the idea of Svatos as a top-6 forward is almost a certainty.

With a two-year, 4.1 million dollar contract, the signing still leaves the Avs with a little over 10 million to sign Joe Sakic and retain some flexibility for any additional moves.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

2008/2009 Schedule Released

The NHL released next year's schedule earlier today and I must say, I'm pretty pleased with the results.

The Avs will play every team in the Eastern Conference at least once and will be playing the Flyers, Thrashers, and Lightning twice.

They'll also play every divisional opponent six times while playing everyone else in the West a grand total of four times.

As far as specifics go, the Avs open up at home against the Boston Bruins and have the advantage of playing the last three games of the season in Colorado. And in what is somewhat bizzare scheduling, the Avs will play their final game against the Flames on February 2nd. I guess the NHL is finally going to stop trying to "create" rivalries by shoving a team down another's throat.

On a side note, the Avs are finally coming back to Philadelphia on December 16th! I haven't missed an Avs-Flyers game in Philadelphia since 1997 and that streak will continue this season.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Avs Sign Cody McCormick and Brian Willsie

The Colorado Avalanche Hockey Club announced today that it has signed forwards Cody McCormick and Brian Willsie each to a one-year contract.
Avs Sign Two

The re-signing of McCormick is just another by a team that will be very tough to play against next year. With McLeod, McCormick, Parker, Ledin, Laperriere, and Tucker, there should be no easy win for opponents against the Avalanche.

The Willsie signing, however, is just a bit puzzling. With Joe Sakic, Marek Svatos, and possibily Peter Forsberg still to sign, I would think that Francois Giguere would try to conserve as much cap space as possible.

I mean, wasn't it Giguere himself who said

"I'm operating under a budget that allows for a competitive team," Giguere said. "If you look at last year, we were probably $3 million below the (salary) cap up until the trade deadline, and on trade deadline, we spent almost $2 million. I'm a big believer that you leave some flexibility in your budget to be able to do things if things happen during the year.
USA Today

If that's the case, why is he giving money to a guy whose breakout season was a 41 point, -19 stint with Washington in 2006? Even after that season, his point totals dropped to 21 and then to 12 in just 53 games last season.

And if that's not enough, consider the amount of money the Avs have potentially wasted. Assuming Willsie makes about 550,000, he and Scott Parker will account for 1.5 million worth of cap space.

Gee, maybe that money could have been used to lure Andrew Brunette back to Colorado?

Maybe, but as of now, it's 1.5 million down the drain.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Avs Sign McLeod

The Colorado Avalanche Hockey Club announced today that it has re-signed forward Cody McLeod to a one-year contract, and also agreed to terms with forwards Philippe Dupuis and Nathan Smith, defensemen Darcy Campbell and Aaron MacKenzie, and goaltenders Jason Bacashihua and Tyler Weiman.
McLeod Signs

While it may seem like a small signing to some, I became a big McLeod fan last year and think he played a big part in getting the Avs to the playoffs.

Dressing in the last 49 games of the season, McLeod only compiled 9 points, but he also added some much needed grit and wasn't afraid to throw down with some of the league's best fighters.

According to hockeyfights.com statistics, McLeod had twelve fights in the regular season (not counting the eight he had in the AHL) and while he doesn't really have the best technique, (it sort of resembles an angry squirrel trying to get his nuts back - pardon my insinuations) he makes the Avs a tough team to play against.

Assuming the he plays with the same energy he is capable of, a rotation of McLeod, Ledin, Guite, Laperriere, and possibly McCormick seems like an interesting possibility for the Avalanche.

Oh, and of his five total goals this season, two of them were against Detroit.

That never hurts.

And if you don't like the signing, love the fact that he hates the Wings:


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Saturday, July 5, 2008

Svatos Taking Colorado to Arbitration

With this bit of news, Colorado's future activity during the off-season becomes a bit foggier. It seems pretty clear that Svatos is probably being offered less than he thinks he deserves, but unless that number is under two million, I really don't think he has a case.

When you consider Svatos has never played more than 66 games in any of three pro seasons and only had 37 points in 62 games last season, (albeit, he did have 26 goals) it's likely that the arbitrator will rule in Colorado's favor.

However, if Svatos chooses to hold out until the hearing, we might not see him in Avs uniform after the 2008-2009 season. Because most contracts rewarded in arbitration are one-year deals, Svatos could be in a position next year where management has to decide whether or not he's worth a new contract. If they think he's going to cause the least bit of trouble, they'll look elsewhere for a potential 30-goal scorer.

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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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Thursday, July 3, 2008

AVS SIGN DANIEL TJARNQVIST

The Colorado Avalanche have signed free agent defenseman Daniel Tjarnqvist to a one-year contract.

The deal was announced Thursday.

Tjarnqvist, a 31-year-old native of Sweden, has 16 goals and 80 assists in 315 NHL games with Atlanta, Minnesota and Edmonton. He played last season in the Russian hockey league.

Source: www.denverpost.com


With Liles, Hannan,Clark, Leopold, Foote, Salei, and Cumiskey, I figured that Giguere would be content with the defense. Obviously, that wasn't the case.

Tjarnqvist is no more than sixth or seventh defenseman on this team and his signing could either mean someone is being traded or Giguere is just worried about having enough depth on the blueline.

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Avs Re-Sign Wojtek Wolski

The Colorado Avalanche Hockey Club announced today that it has signed restricted free-agent forward Wojtek Wolski to a two-year contract.

Wojtek is definitely part of the elite young group of players establishing themselves in the league. Therefore, we feel very strongly that he is important to the future success of our club,” said Avalanche Executive Vice President and General Manager Francois Giguere. “We’ve been pleased with his development at the NHL level and we expect him to be a big contributor to our team.”

Source: http://avalanche.nhl.com

There's no reason to think that Wolski will do anything but improve next season. Instead of riding the pine, (as he did with Quenneville some nights) Wolski will finally be a Top-6 forward on this team.

This kid has tons of potential and has already showed signs of brilliance.

Now all we need is Svatos.

Edit - The contract is 2 years, 5.6 million. In a market that saw Sean Avery get paid 4-million per season, I'd say that's a pretty good price for a Top 6 player.

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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Overall Thoughts on Tucker/Raycroft

It's still possible that the Avalanche are going to sign one of the remaining free agents but it's likely that Francois Giguere is content with the roster he has assembled. Compared to the signings of Smyth and Hannan in 2007, 2008 didn't have the same kick.

Darcy Tucker
2 Years, 4.5 Million

After losing Andrew Brunette for a mere 2.33 million a season, the Avs went out and signed Tucker for a similar price. Brunette brought some grit and leadership and Tucker shares similar qualities. He's two years removed from a 28-goal season with the Maple Leafs and despite mediocre numbers last season, remained a fan favorite in Toronto.

Here's what you're getting with this guy:

The Avalanche have become a soft team these past few seasons and with the signings of Parker, Ledin, and now Tucker, it's clear that Giguere wants to make them a team that somewhat resembles the 2007 Anaheim Ducks.

Was it a good signing? Maybe. I would have preferred to keep Brunette for a similar price. Tucker has made enemies in this league and team chemistry can't be overlooked. If he can keep the stupid penalties to a minimum, he'll win over the hearts of Avalanche fans.

Andrew Raycroft
1 Year, 800,000

First Thought: Crap
Second Thought: 800,000? That's all?
Third Thought: Meh, he's still a guy who hasn't put together a decent season in years.

But seriously, I don't think that much. I've followed Raycroft since the beginning of his career and it has been a pretty painful road. Winning the Calder Trophy in 2004, Raycroft won 29 games with a 2.05 GAA and a .926 save percentage with the Bruins. However, a mixture of injuries and a "loss-of-mojo" kept Raycroft from ever solidifying his place in Boston. After a disasterous 2005-2006 season, Raycroft signed in Toronto. In 72 games, Raycroft posted 37 wins, a 2.99 GAA, and a .894 savc percentage. Last season, of course, Raycroft appeared in just 19 games and went 2-9 on a mediocre Leafs team.

So what are we to expect? The truth is, the guy is an 800,000 backup. I'm not sold on Peter Budaj and it's always been my opinion that the backup should be able to win you games, not just fill in on the starter's off-night. I wish the Avs had opted for Ty Conklin. He was signed by the Red Wings for a mere 750,000. Instead, they stuck us with another long-term project with a short-term contract.

Raycroft will be gone next season.

In the end, free agency comes down to one question.

Did the Avalanche improve?

Money aside, the lost Finger, Sauer, Brunette, and Theodore.

They replaced those players with Ledin, Tucker, and Raycroft.

It's hard to say on July 2nd whether or not this team will be any better than the roller coaster that was last year's squad. Without Finger and Sauer, the defensive core is still solid and barring injury issues, should be as good and probably better than last year's unit. Offensively, the Avs are going to miss Brunette and it will be up to Wolski and Svatos to finally step up their game. In goal, things are still as unsure as they were when Patrick Roy announced his retirement. You don't have to be a scientist to figure out that all of the recent champions have had great goaltenders leading the way. I really don't belive Budaj is that guy.

Overall, not the most exciting signings in Avalanche history, but certainly two of the most interesting.


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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

PER LEDIN FINALLY SIGNED BY COLORADO

The Colorado Avalanche Hockey Club announced today that it has signed forward Per Ledin to a one-year contract.

Ledin, 29, spent this past season with HV 71 Jonkoping of the Swedish Elite League, where he tallied 33 points (16g/17a) and 137 penalty minutes in 52 games. The left winger finished third on the team in penalty minutes, fifth in goals and sixth in points. He also appeared in all 17 playoff games for Jonkoping, which captured the league title.

“Per Ledin will add a different dimension to our team,” said Avalanche Assistant to the General Manager Michel Goulet. “We believe his gritty style of play will benefit our club in the upcoming 2008-09 season.”
Source: http://avalanche.nhl.com

He'll compete with the Cody's for playing time. Nothing wrong with another grinder but whether or not he's another Jaroslav Hlinka, we'll find out. If he can limit the amount of stupid penalties he takes, Ledin might actually be an asset this season.

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DARCY TUCKER TO COLORADO

Two years, 4.5 million.

As with Raycroft, I'll talk about this signing as the day comes to a close.

He's probably FG's replacement for Brunette.

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ANDREW RAYCROFT TO COLORADO

A one-year deal, 800k.

I'll post my thoughts on this as the day is wrapping up.

Initial Thought:

Crap.

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Jeff Finger Signs In Toronto

Finger snagged a four-year deal worth 3.5-million a season.

The Leafs overpaid here and while it will be tough to see Finger go, Giguere made the right move by not paying him all that money on the basis of one season.

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Washington Signs Jose Theodore

Theodore will be a Capital for two years. The terms of the deal are undisclosed.

Before the Caps signed Theodore, Huet signed in Chicago. If Theo can play as well as he did last season, Washington won't regret the move.

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Phoenix Signs Kurt Sauer

The Coyotes signed Sauer to a four-year deal worth about 1.75-million a year.

Sauer wasn't on my "to-sign" list so I'm happy the Avs let him walk.

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Brunette Signs In Minnesota

A three-year deal worth 7 million.

The Avs could have signed him for that price. Either they didn't try hard enough, didn't want to try hard enough, or Bruno really wanted to go back to Minny.

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