Colorado, with a historically bad season in their rearview mirror faces a dilemma regarding Francois Beauchemin that critically impacts their strategy.
Buying out the declining defenseman, or convincing him to waive his no movement clause, would count Beauchemin as exposed in the expansion draft while clearing the NHL path for Avalanche prospects. This would allow them to protect three defensemen instead of four, and shield seven rather than four forwards. Beauchemin’s also on a 35+ contract that doesn’t bring cap relief, so no extra space comes back with a $4.5M buyout.
With almost $18.6M in Colorado cap room already available that’s not prohibitive, but a friendly agreement to forgo that NMC would be preferable.
A Beauchemin buyout/NMC waiver enables them to re-sign and keep Sven Andrighetto, 23-year-old center Mikhail Grigorenko whose ten 2016-17 goals was a career high and top-six performance two years ago showed good promise, and 24-year-old former Shark Matt Nieto, along with a veteran such as Blake Comeau who contributed 129 hits at a $2.4M cap hit.
Comeau’s 36-point 2015-16 might re-appear with a revamped squad. Slick playmaker Andrighetto at 24 is the best name here, as he somehow scored 16 points in 19 end-of-year games with Colorado’s meager offense.
This would leave Carl Soderberg ($4.75M cap hit for three more seasons) and his 37-point production drop, as well as Joe Colborne and his 36-point drop, exposed. They’d love Soderberg’s expense to go away and may kick in a prospect, draft pick, or something such to entice Vegas to do so. Counted on as future rebuild cornerstones, Tyson Jost, Mikko Rantanen, A.J. Greer and J.T. Compher escape expansion eligibility requirements.
On the blue line, big Erik Johnson and his no movement clause along with usual 50-point range producer Tyson Barrie are keepers. Even Barrie’s seven-goal, 31-assist year was impressive considering the circumstances.
RFA Nikita Zadorov was an imposing physical presence last year, leading the squad in both hits (153) and penalty minutes (73) in just 56 contests and is considered a crucial piece going forward. Unless the KHL lures him away he’ll be re-signed. That’s three on defense. Vegas could then pick from RFA Patrick Wiercioch and defensively-skilled Mark Barberio.
A departing Beauchemin also enables a more extensive look at promising young, non-expansion eligible defenders including Chris Bigras, Sergei Boikov, Andrei Mironov, and maybe Nicolas Meloche or Hobey Baker Award recipient Will Butcher. if signed
Reports have the Avalanche protecting veteran Semyon Varlamov over Calvin Pickard. While playing behind such a porous defense has contributed to ugly totals for both, Varlamov (after a 6-17-0, 3.38, .898 campaign), has seen his share of injuries in recent times and dangling his $5.9M cap hit in front of the forming Golden Knights seems tempting.
With Golden Knights’ GM George McPhee drafting and signing him originally in Washington, perhaps there’s a big Colorado cap relief match in Vegas for the remaining two years of his contract. It appears Pickard (15-31-2, 2.98, .904) Team Canada’s silver medal-winning netminder in last month’s World Championships will be exposed though, and might be a good get for the new franchise.
Predicted protected players with cap numbers
Sven Andrighetto – restricted free agent, arbitration eligible
Blake Comeau – $2.4M through 2018
Matt Duchene – $6M through 2019
Mikhail Grigorenko – restricted free agent, arbitration eligible
Gabriel Landeskog – $5,571,429 through 2021
Nathan MacKinnon – $6.3M through 2023
Matt Nieto – restricted free agent, arbitration eligible
Tyson Barrie – $5.5M through 2020
Erik Johnson (NMC) – $6M through 2023
Nikita Zadorov – restricted free agent
Semyon Varlamov – $5.9M through 2019
Buyout/NMC waived: Francois Beauchemin
Top two options on who they would most likely lose.
Calvin Pickard and Mark Barberio.
If Colorado were to make a trade with Vegas to select/not select a player, who would it be and why?
It will take a decent deal-sweetener, but they should try hardest to pedal Soderberg’s contract to Vegas reminding them of his three previous 51, 44 and 48-point seasons. Not last year’s 14.
If exposed, Pickard probably represents the most valuable available player, but if Colorado protects Varlamov over Pickard I’m not sure they’ll pony up enough to keep Vegas away from the young netminder with starting experience. While Vegas should have plentiful goalie options available in the expansion draft, even if they don’t ultimately want him tending goal, Pickard likely would fetch more in the oncoming transaction frenzy than Barberio.
Follow Kevin on Twitter @KWcrosscheck