Just a year removed from winning the Stanley Cup in 2022, the Colorado Avalanche had an injury-riddled season from hell in 2023 with players in and out of the lineup all year long. Only four players on the entire Avalanche roster played all 82 games last season which is crazy; star players like Nathan Mackinnon, Cale Makar, Valeri Nichuskin, Arturri Lehkonen, and Bowen Byram missed a plethora of games for the Avs. Not to mention Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog not playing a single regular season or postseason game as he continues to deal with a knee injury that will keep him out all of next season as well. Somehow still this mangled Avs team won the Central division with 109 points and 51 wins. However, they lost in seven games to the Seattle Kraken in the first round of the playoffs due to a lack of depth.
The Avalanche team that won the Stanley Cup during the 2021-2022 season was overflowing with talent all across the roster. This tweet by Peter Baugh sums up the Avs’ past two years incredibly well, “The Avs won the Cup a year ago yesterday. The following are no longer with the team: Nazem Kadri, Andre Burakovsky, Alex Newhook, Darcy Kuemper, Nico Sturm, Aube-Kubel. Compher, both Johnsons, Cogliano, Helm are UFAs, and Landeskog is out for the year. Things change fast,” (Peter Baugh on Twitter). Losing Kadri and Burakovsky really hurt Colorado’s scoring and they were unable to find solid replacements for these two talented players. That was up until a few days ago when Colorado traded for Nashville’s Ryan Johansen and for Tampa Bay’s Ross Colton. After last season’s middle six looked invisible at points, Colorado’s front office didn't wait long to add some help.
The Avs got Ryan Johansen for pennies on the dollar (traded the rights to Alex Galchenyuk, who barely played for Colorado) and in return got Ryan Johansen and half of his salary retained ($8 million original salary, Colorado gets him for $4 million) from the Nashville Predators. This deal was a steal for Colorado who gets a seasoned NHL veteran who can play second or third-line center for the Avs, not to mention how great he is at the faceoff circle. Colorado then just a few days before the NHL Draft traded former first-round pick in 2019 Alex Newhook to the Montreal Canadiens in return for a 1st round pick (pick number 31), a second-round pick (pick 37), and AHL defenseman Gianni Fairbrother. Newhook didn’t live up to his expectations in Denver and was unable to make the jump Colorado wanted him to make which was to ultimately fill the second-line center position. The next day, Colorado traded the recently acquired pick #37 from Montreal to Tampa Bay in return for the middle six forward Ross Colton. Colton is set to be an RFA (restricted free agent. Meaning he needs a new contract but the team he is currently with gets first priority to sign him) July 1 and Tampa is extremely low on cap space so they shipped Colton to Colorado. Ross Colton is a great player, combining grittiness and skill in one, Colton forechecks extremely well and looks to get pucks deep and really put pressure on his opponents every time he steps on the ice.
Going into free agency Colorado has a listed $8.575 million in cap space to work with; however, that is without the cap space of captain Gabriel Landeskog and his $7 million in LTIR space (Long Term Injury Reserve. Lets teams use injured players salaries to help fill out the roster). With Landeskog’s LTIR space being used that puts the Avalanche at $15.575 million of available space heading into free agency. Almost $16 million to spend in free agency is more than enough to help get Colorado back to the Stanley Cup with an already stacked roster. Colorado Avalanche Salary Cap, Draft Picks, and Player Contracts - CapFriendly
Another aspect of this new Avs roster that is not getting talked about enough, is that they are going back to making draft selections. During Colorado’s deep playoff runs the Colorado front office would have no problem parting ways with high draft picks, whether being first, second, or, third-round picks, they were available for trade. However, going into this offseason the Avs wanted to go back to their old ways and rejuvenate a mediocre prospect pool, and they did just that. In the 2023 NHL entry draft Colorado used both of their first-round picks, selecting Calum Ritchie at pick 27 from the Oshawa Generals and Mikhail Gulyayev at pick 31 from Omskie Yastreby. Ritchie was a point-per-game player in the Ontario Hockey League, scoring 59 points in 59 games, and excels all over the ice. Ritchie won’t be the star on his line but he makes his teammates better and always knows where the puck will be. At pick 31, the Avs took defenseman Mikhail Gulyayev who is smaller in stature but is sneaky fast and put up some eye-opening numbers in Russia with 25 points in just 22 games played. Both Ritchie and Gulyayev will look to make the Avalanche roster in a few years barring any injuries or setbacks, but with where these two were selected, it was a successful draft for Colorado.
The Avalanche look to be gearing up for a huge year in 2024 adding to a decimated prospect pool, bringing in new talent to a tired forward group, and with almost $16 million to spend in free agency, Colorado is coming back for revenge.
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