A clean slate. That is what the Avalanche will be looking for come this summer. Following a disappointment in the playoffs, the Lanche are faced with an interesting summer and new year. From a new arena to a new owner, this upcoming season will be one full of changes as the Lanche try to right what they feel to be a few “wrongs” in their system.
Let me first get a few things out before we even look at what the Lanche will go after this year in the draft, trades and free agency. Lacroix must stay, he’s made solid deals and wants to win. Kamensky, Lefebvre, Gusarov and their high salaries are all gone…unless they sign for less money. Fleury might not re-sign. He has less than a month till free agency and big money. Lacroix will be working overtime to get his lone big name FA signed. He does have a few plusses in his corner…Sakic and a team called the Avalanche. If or if not Fleury re-signs, Lemiuex, Donovan, and Sakic will be shopped around the league. Yes Sakic. Joe is in his last year of his contract and he has two things going for him…a cheap contract and star status, which means most teams will bite. Come next off season we could see Roy gone too as the expansion draft approaches and the Avalanche will be forced to decide on Roy or Denis. They can stop this by getting Atlanta to take Billington in the expansion draft hence preventing the Lanche from losing another goalie next year. My guess is the name Billington will be called on draft day. Now that the ground work is laid out, lets take a look at what the Lanche need and want.
The Lanche need a defensemen or two who can play hard and possibly move the puck. A sniper or two wouldn’t hurt either. Free agency brings nothing big as the only player the Lanche will pursue, outside of their team, will be Mark Tinordi. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he is signed even though he will only be a 5th or 6th defensemen at best, which means they need to look elsewhere. As far as trades go, Buffalo has McKee but he seems untouchable, unlike McCabe in Vancouver who is most likely to be moved. What is it with teams having more than three excellent young defensemen? As far as the draft goes, there is no one who could step in right now even if the Lanche were to move up to nab them.
Chicago is shopping their top pick and so is Tampa, but any team who has ever shopped a high pick has always wanted way more than its worth. Don’t look for the Lanche to trade up unless certain scenarios work out (Sakic or Lemiuex trade?). There are plenty of scenarios we could dream up, but not many teams will want anyone offered but Joe for their high pick. One thing is for certain, Pierre plays the drafting game smartly.
Look at the two rookies this year for Colorado. They both were picked late in the draft(94′) and so was Parrish(96′), who was traded to Florida. These are only a few players who have come out of the draft for the Lanche in the middle rounds and now look like excellent picks. Which means the Lanche will think defense first and offense second through the fifth…rounds that is.
The Avs most likely will move a few veterans and prospects this off season, as Larsen, Tanguay, Smith, and Denis are most likely to make the team next year as regulars or call-ups. They will look to add quality through the draft now that they have lots of prospects. A few names, in the minors, like Aebischer or Dingman could net the Lanche another decent pick or even allow them to move up slightly in the draft. With Boynton re-entering the draft and such names as Barret Jackman and Ross Lupaschuk wandering around the back end of the first round, the Lanche are sure to make a move. Donovan and a pick/prospect could bring a late 1st rounder or early 2nd rounder to the team.
As far as unknowns, dark horses and late picks go…this is the Lanche’s stomping ground. They have enough depth that they could take risks this year by drafting a few unknowns and cast offs. Keep an eye on Martin Havlat and Kristian Kudrok as possible pick ups, as both are dark horses in my eyes. A few others who tweak interest are Sheldon Keefe and Matt Carkner. Both fit Colorado’s needs and wants but each feature a flaw of some sort. With Keefe its size(5’10”) and with Carkner its skating, but otherwise these are both late picks who could end up being steals for any team.
Finally, in a near-perfect world. Theo is re-signed. Sakic isn’t traded. A few prospects, veterans, and picks are moved to garner a few extra higher picks which the Lanche use on Boynton and Jackman not to mention a dark horse or two(Keefe?). Of course in a perfect world they get to call out Pavel Brendl’s name on draft day, but then again this isn’t a perfect world.