Avalanche Future and Prospects Update

By Mike Kretschmer

While the season is still in full effect, all is good in the state of Colorado. Yet, few fans want to think about the future. Many fans shutter to think about next season, as the Avs could lose 2 to 3 of it’s star players…

Rob Blake is an Av, as Pierre Lacroix once again pulled off a ‘the’ blockbuster deal of the season in order to solidify an injury prone defense. Yet, a somewhat serious injury has left Blake looking to rejoin the Avs sometime during or before the first round. This is the same injury that took Ray Bourque out during last year’s playoffs.

The Kings recently announced that they have chosen to claim Jared Aulin of the Kamloops Blazers in order to complete the Rob Blake trade. Aulin has been having a monster year this season, and has been making scouts look foolish for overlooking him in the first round of last year’s draft. Last season, Aulin was averaging around a point per game until injuries slowed his season down. During training camp this year, Aulin fared quite well, and would have been in heavy consideration to make the team had Chris Drury not been signed.

While I was very impressed with Aulin’s play during training camp, I have been very impressed with the acquisition of Steven Reinprecht from Los Angeles. Reinprecht has become a great asset to both the second and third lines, and looks like he is more comfortable with the type of role that former Av and current Bruins winger Brian Rolston was unable to settle into. His energetic play has breathed new life into the Yelle-Podein-Hinote-Reinprecht combination, giving occasional offense with the type of grit that the Avs have lacked since the loss of Mike Ricci and Mike Keane. I am left wondering why Los Angeles would consider Reinprecht a throw-in, as I see a great amount of potential in him.

It’s a general opinion that the Avs gave up more in the Blake deal that they did in the prior deals with Boston and Calgary. What remains to be seen is if they can overcome the loss of Adam Deadmarsh in this year’s playoffs. As many of you may recall, Deadmarsh was praised as being one of Colorado top players in last year’s round against Dallas. Deadmarsh will be missed, but the organization is taking a minor gamble that other players, especially Alex Tanguay, will step up this year. It also appears that they possibly have a great amount of confidence in Hershey’s oft-injured Brian Willsie for next season, as he appears to be ready to fill the power forward void left by Deadmarsh.

In juniors, Radim Vrbata and Branko Radivojevic have had outstanding seasons, prompting the Los Angeles Kings to call a time out before selected a player from Colorado’s prospect list to complete the Rob Blake trade. Could you blame them? Between Aulin, Vrbata, and Radivojevic, half the scouts in the league would probably have varying opinions about who to take. Besides, Los Angeles probably wouldn’t want to make the mistake Boston made by rushing the decision the day of the trade and picking the much overhyped duo of Samuel Pahlsson and Martin Grenier.

Kuleshov who? Sorry, but tracking progress on Mikhail Kuleshov has been quite difficult. The general idea the team gives is that he will be present at next season’s training camp. If not, I think we can add his to the list of less successful 1st round choices the team has made, including Kevin Grimes, Peter Ratchuk, and Daniel Dore.

Jordan Krestanovich was a true force for the Calgary Hitmen this season. At times, it seemed like he was the only offensive force the team had, as many of it’s star players, including Pavel Brendl and Kris Beech were injured for lengthly amounts of time. Expect to see Jordan in Hershey after the Hitmen finish the season. Depending on roster changes, Jordan may find himself seriously competing for playing time with Vaclav Nedorost in Colorado next season.

Speaking of those roster changes, the town is quietly cringing over the possibility of losing Joe Sakic, Patrick Roy, and Rob Blake next season. While it’s been heavily publicized that Roy would take a paycut to stay with the team, it is highly doubtful that Sakic and Blake would do the same. This leaves some serious questions for the Pierre Lacroix. It’s no secret that Ray Bourque will retire after the season, Cup or no Cup. That would save up some salary to sign both, but that is still a lot of salary to pay without neglecting the fact that you are still paying Forsberg $11 million dollars next season.

It is a belief that, if the Avs can win the Stanley Cup this year, they will be able to generate some goodwill revenue from the playoffs to sign both. Even under such circumstances, it would be extremely difficult to find a median between goodwill and higher ticket prices. The real question is: How much of a friendly rivalry exists between Avalanche owner Stan Kroenke and St. Louis owners Bill and Nancy Laurie?

If Kroenke wants to make this an interesting rivalry for the next couple of years, I believe he would (will, and should) make a tremendous attempt to resign Sakic, if not both players. It’s a general feeling that Blake will leave for the highest bidder in the off season. Sakic won’t exactly take less either, but you must keep in mind that one of the main factors that kept Sakic out of a multi-year deal last off season was his insistance on a no-trade clause in his contract. Sakic has lived up to his potential and probable MVP expectations this season. If he follows this post-season up with the same play he has had during the regular season, it’s almost a lock that Sakic will finish his career in Colorado. Almost…