Thursday, July 1, 2010

Avs start free agency as planned and a few other recent happenings

Getting pretty deep into day 1 of the NHL's free agency period. July 1st is more than just a holiday in Canada (Happy Canada Day to our neighbors to the north). For most GMs and fans, it is like Christmas for their teams, or Hanukkah since that lasts longer. The Avs, however, are choosing to sit on the sidelines this offseason and stick to their plan of building from within.

Personally, I love that the Avs are sticking to their guns and not being active in free agency to find a quick fix. Judging by some of the contracts being handed out to some of the players, I'm glad that Greg Sherman was smart enough to stay away. Seriously, a 36 year old Sergei Gonchar is going to get paid $5.5 million per season for the next 3 years. Dan Hamhuis is set to get $4.5 million for the next 6 years. Hell, even Derek Boogaard will be getting $1.6 million per year for the next 4 years. That's 1.6 million more than he's worth!

The biggest fish in the free agent sea, Ilya Kovalchuk, is still yet to be signed. It was rumored that the Devils have backed out and the Kings are the only team that are still in the running for Ilya's services. Some were saying that he is asking for more money than anyone wants to pay (shocker, I know). If the Kings do land him, I'd be curious to see how they handle the situation when Doughty, Johnson and the rest of their young talent is ready for new contracts. They are already paying Ryan Smyth over $6 million as well as Anze Kopitar. That is the exact reason I wanted the Avs to stay as far away from Kovalchuk as possible.

The Avs have a strong nucleus up front and if their young defensive prospects live up to their potential, they won't be needing any high priced free agents. The goaltending department also seems to be set as Craig Anderson presumably should build upon his breakout season as well as the Avs finally adding some much needed goalie depth in the prospect pipeline.

Draft Thoughts

Speaking of the draft, that is where they added this goalie depth. The Avs picked up the 1st or 2nd ranked (depending on who you ask) North American goalie, Calvin Pickard (2nd rd), and the top ranked European goalie, Sami Aittokallio (4th rd). Both of these guys are ones to be excited about.

The decision to take Joey Hishon with their 1st round pick was definitely a shocker to me considering there were still big wingers available like Austin Watson and Emerson Etem. After the steam wore off and I read a little more on Hishon, I really like the pick. He started the season ranked in the top 10 and it was only because of injuries that he fell out of the top 30. Despite the injuries, he still managed 40 points in 36 games. Also, in 08-09, he scored more points that our very own Matt Duchene in the same league all while playing on a worse team.

The other part of the draft that made it a tremendous win for the franchise was they were still able to find some potential steals in the later rounds. Guys like Pickard (2nd rd), Stephen Silas (4th rd) and Troy Rutkowski (5th rd) all could've gone in the earlier rounds but were still available when the Avs selected. Some had Silas and Rutkowski going possibly as high as the late 2nd round. I'd give the Avs a solid B+ on this one.

RFAs still unsigned

The Avs have tendered qualifying offers to all of their restricted free agents that matter (sorry Wes O'Neil but you don't matter). Just because the QOs are already in, doesn't guarantee that these players will still be with the Avs next season. Chris Stewart, Peter Mueller and Kyle Quincey are all guys that other teams could target with offer sheets. Given how bad the depth is in this year's free agent market, teams may look to poaching RFAs away from other teams however, the Avs have plenty of cap space so any offer these guys receive will most likely be matched by the Avs.

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