The Colorado Avalanche won’t be bringing Sergei Boikov back for another season in the AHL, at least not in 2019-20. The 23-year old defenseman has returned to the KHL to play for Dynamo Moscow, signing a two-year contract. Boikov is a restricted free agent for the time being, and since Colorado issued him a qualifying offer they will retain his exclusive rights.
The Colorado Avalanche have inked one of their restricted free agents, signing Andre Burakovsky to a one-year contract. Burakovsky decided not to file for arbitration earlier this month after being issued a $3.25MM qualifying offer, for which the deadline to accept was today. The young forward will still be a restricted free agent at the end of the contract in 2020.
Burakovsky, 24, was acquired by the Avalanche earlier this offseason after playing the last five years with the Washington Capitals. The 23rd-overall pick from 2013 has already amassed 328 regular season games with the Capitals, recording 145 points. Those total include consecutive seasons of 25 points, a disappointing drop that made the talented Austrian available. The Capitals couldn’t afford to keep Burakovsky around for that $3.25MM price tag, but the Avalanche are happy to take a shot on a player that had previously looked like a top-six winger in the making.
It’s difficult to find players with Burakovsky’s skill and size combination, but unfortunately that mix still hasn’t been able to produce a huge offensive season to this point. With a career-high of 38 points now several years behind him, Burakovsky will have to find a different level of success in order to deserve this contract and avoid going non-qualified next summer. Even the Avalanche, who have plenty of cap space at the moment, won’t be able to pay $3.25MM for a 12-goal winger, the total he has reached in each of the past three seasons.
It certainly appears as though he’ll the the opportunity to show he is better than that. The Avalanche have been reliant on their top line for a huge amount of their offense the past few years, but worked hard this summer to expand their attack and bring in some more secondary scoring options. Burakovsky joins Nazem Kadri and Joonas Donskoi as potential options for the second line, though each of them will have to prove their worth in new surroundings.
At the very worst, Burakovsky is a lottery ticket that doesn’t pay out and only cost the Avalanche a pair of draft picks. At best, he finally breaks out and becomes the dominant offensive piece he was in junior. Not a bad gamble for a team looking to make a splash in the Western Conference playoffs this season.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
While most people look at the Toronto Maple Leafs’ acquisition of Tyson Barrie as a major plus when the team picked up the lead defenseman and Alex Kerfoot for Nazem Kadri and Calle Rosen on July 1, there are other analytics experts who suggest that the addition of Barrie isn’t much, if any improvements over Jake Gardiner, who the team has allowed to walk away in free agency.
Of course, Barrie looks like an impressive upgrade, especially when you look at his offensive numbers. Barrie scored 14 goals and 59 points last season and posted 57 points the previous year, giving Toronto another top-notch offensive defenseman next to Morgan Rielly. Gardiner was a second-pairing defenseman whose offense disappeared last year with 30 points, even though he posted 52 points the previous season. However, only one player, Barrie or Rielly, can get those first-line power play minutes and there is no guarantee that Barrie will be able to pry those minutes away from Rielly next season, suggesting that Barrie’s number’s could drop quite a bit. In fact, two goals and 23 assists came off the power play last season where Barrie was the team’s quarterback of the first power play unit.
However, analytics suggest that Gardiner, despite his struggles might prove to be a better blueliner, especially defensively. While Toronto is an offensive juggernaut, Gardiner still had a plus-19 rating in plus-minus, while there are some questions about how good a defender Barrie is. In Colorado, Barrie posted a minus-3 on an Avalanche squad that made the playoffs last season and a minus-19 the previous year, when they were a playoff team as well. While plus-minus might be considered to be an unreliable fact, Gardiner has been solid for Toronto despite the fact receiving Toronto fans wrath for years. He has averaged over 21:48 of ATOI over the past three years and in those three years ranks 23rd in the league in points with 125. In goals above replacement (GAR), which is an all-encompassing stat to evaluate skaters, Gardiner ranked 17th among defenseman last year and fifth in the league at even strength, according to evolving-hockey.com. Barrie ranked 50th last season and 66th at even strength.
However, Gardiner’s value seems to have dropped. Despite being considered one of the top defensive free agents on the unrestricted free agent market, Gardiner remains unsigned with rumors he’s seeking $7MM per season. While a change in scenery might have been needed for Gardiner, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Barrie will be the better player.
So, is Barrie a significant upgrade over Gardiner?
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Before the Colorado Avalanche acquired Nazem Kadri from the Toronto Maple Leafs in a big deal involving Tyson Barrie, the Calgary Flames were close to acquiring the veteran center. However, Kadri refused to waive his 10-team no-trade clause that would have sent him in a deal that would have included defenseman T.J. Brodie.
The Calgary Sun’s Wes Gilbertson writes that Kadri did admit that he rejected the deal to Calgary in hopes of convincing the Maple Leafs that he wanted to stay with the team.
“What happened is they had a deal in place and they wanted me to move my no-trade clause,” Kadri explained. “Obviously, for me, it was no disrespect to Calgary or the Flames organization — I love their team and I love the direction they’re headed. I just figured that had I declined, I would have had a better opportunity of being a Maple Leaf next year, and that’s really what it came down to. “I wanted to play for the Leafs next year. I wanted to be a part of that. In declining that trade, I had aspirations of being a Leaf, and we know clearly that didn’t happen.”
Instead he did get traded to Colorado and now will take over as the team’s second-line center in hopes of developing a powerful secondary scoring line after their top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog.
- The Athletic’s Daniel Nugent-Bowman (subscription required) delves into the drafting success of the Edmonton Oilers’ new director of amateur scouting, Tyler Wright, noting that while the long-time executive with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Detroit Red Wings has had lukewarm success drafting in the first round, he has been successful in the later rounds of drafts, having nabbed several key players late in the draft, including Josh Anderson, Boone Jenner, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Filip Hronek and could provide value for Edmonton who hasn’t had as much luck later in the draft.
- In a mailbag piece, The Athletic’s Eric Stephens (subscription required) writes that while defenseman Hampus Lindholm is a solid top-pairing defenseman, his offense still hasn’t come around and at age 25, time is running out. The blueliner posted 34 points in his second season back in the 2014-15 season and hasn’t reached that target since then. However, Stephens writes that Lindholm was never a big fan of Randy Carlyle’s system and could thrive under new head coach Dallas Eakins and show off some more offense, potentially becoming a regular at 40 points.
- Looking back at the recent history of signings by the Los Angeles Kings, The Athletic’s Lisa Dillman (subscription required) looks at the best and worst deals handed out since 2009. Unfortunately for the Kings, the top bad contract is only kicking in this year as the eight-year, $88MM contract that star defenseman Drew Doughty signed a year ago is about to kick in at age 29. After a down season last year, the 29-year-old blueliner will be getting paid $11MM until he turns 37 years old. Not a good sign if people think that before he’s even started getting paid.
While there are still a few notable unrestricted free agents left on the open market, some of the lesser-known ones continue to find new homes. We’ll keep tabs on those minor moves here.
- Coyotes UFA goaltender Hunter Miska has signed a one year contract with the Colorado Eagles, the AHL affiliate of the Avalanche announced. The 24-year-old had a 3.08 GAA with a .895 SV% in 25 appearances with Arizona’s AHL team last season while also making his NHL debut. However, they opted not to tender him a qualifying offer last month.
- Blackhawks goaltending prospect Ivan Nalimov has been dealt in the KHL as SKA St. Petersburg announced that they’ve acquired him from HK Sochi in exchange for the rights to Arizona goalie prospect Ivan Prosvetov. Chicago has expressed an interest in signing Nalimov in the past but the opportunity to play for a top team at home may be difficult for him to pass up. Meanwhile, Prosvetov has already signed his entry-level deal but with several other goalies under contract already, the Coyotes could opt to loan him to Sochi for next season.
- A report from the Russian website, hawk.ru (translation required), KHL’s Avangard Omsk has acquired the rights to defenseman Gustav Forsling from Sochi, whose rights are currently owned by the Carolina Hurricanes. The 23-year-old was acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks as part of the Calvin de Haan trade last month. The blueliner is a restricted free agent. Forsling has played 84 games in two seasons with the Blackhawks but might have a hard time cracking the Hurricanes’ defensive corps this season.
- With Ian Cole not expected to be available until December and Erik Johnson’s status up in the air for the start of next season, NHL.com’s Rick Sadowski suggests that the Avalanche could use another veteran blueliner. Adding one would also serve as some insurance in case youngsters Bowen Byram and Conor Timmins aren’t ready to step into the lineup. However, it seems likely at this point that if GM Joe Sakic was to pursue another defensive option, it would probably be of the lower-end variety. With that in mind, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them look to the PTO market later this summer to bring in some depth that way.
The Colorado Avalanche have signed head coach Jared Bednar to a two-year extension, keeping him in the organization through the 2021-22 season. Bednar was heading into the final year of his current deal but will get some security with which to work. GM Joe Sakic released a statement on the hiring:
Jared has done a tremendous job behind the bench and has earned the opportunity to continue leading this team. He is an outstanding coach who has the full trust of his players, coaches and staff. He has guided this franchise to two straight playoff appearances and we are excited with what this group can do moving forward.
Bednar has had quite the three seasons in Colorado, since being named head coach in late August 2016. He replaced the outgoing Patrick Roy, who had left the team suddenly just before training camp was set to start after struggles with management. Bednar has just a few weeks to prepare for his first NHL job, and that initial season did not go well. Coming off a championship with the Lake Erie Monsters, Bednar took control of a Colorado team that hadn’t made the playoffs in two seasons and things spiraled quickly out of control. The Avalanche would finish the 2016-17 season with just a 22-56-4 record, and many expected them to move on to a more experienced coach with more time to prepare.
Sakic stuck with Bednar though and it paid off in 2017-18 when he led the Avalanche back to the playoffs. A 43-30-9 record and a breakout season for Nathan MacKinnon—finally out of the shadow of Matt Duchene after an early season trade—was a huge turnaround in such a short period of time. Last season they followed it up with a second consecutive postseason appearance, and another outstanding year by MacKinnon and running mates Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog. Though the Avalanche struggled at times thanks to their dependence on that top line, Bednar still pushed enough buttons to guide them through the first round of the playoffs.
Now, with some added punch up front—the Avalanche brought in Joonas Donskoi, Nazem Kadri, and Andre Burakovsky—and a budding star on defense in Cale Makar, the outlook is outstanding in Colorado. Bednar will be there to guide it for the foreseeable future, trying to complete the trifecta of a Kelly Cup, Calder Cup and Stanley Cup in his coaching career.
It’s been a difficult stretch for goaltender Cameron Rowe. The backup to first-round pick Spencer Knight for the U.S. National Team Development Program this season, Rowe nevertheless entered the draft expecting to be selected based on countless reports. NHL Central Scouting in particular ranked him as the No. 4 goaltender in North America. Yet, the young netminder did not hear his name called this year. Now, his future is changing again. According to Brad Elliott Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald, the University of North Dakota has released Rowe from his commitment. Rowe was expected to arrive at North Dakota in 2020-21, but instead will be playing elsewhere. Schlossman reports that the Fighting Hawks staff grew frustrated with Rowe’s interest in pursuing the Canadian junior route instead of the NCAA path and did not want to wait around to find out if they had a starting goalie of the future or not. It’s unclear now what Rowe will do moving forward, although he is currently expected to play for the USHL’s Des Moines Buccaneers next season. Rowe could simply commit to a new college program or, as North Dakota suspected, could sign with the OHL’s London Knights, who own his CHL rights. Either way, the winding and unpredictable development path for Rowe is not done twisting and turning just yet.
- North Dakota also lost the commitment of BCHL forward Murphy Stratton, Schlossman writes. Stratton, 19, played 45 games for the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen in 2016-17 before realizing that the major junior route was not for him. Stratton wished to pursue the collegiate route, but the NCAA considers the CHL to be a “professional league” barring former players from NCAA participation due to amateurism rules. In some cases, limited CHL action has been overlooked at a cost in terms of eligibility years, but Stratton’s half season would have been an unprecedented case. Yet, he still committed to UND last year, expecting a ban of one year and seven games to begin his sophomore year. Schlossman reports that Stratton recently found out that the ban would actually be much longer and has opted to change course on the college level as a result. He will not play at North Dakota nor any other NCAA program and is likely to return to the WHL. Over the past two years, Stratton has compiled 99 points in 110 games as arguably the best player for the BCHL’s Wenatchee Wild, so this is a substantial loss for the Fighting Hawks. Stratton however should be able to continue pushing for pro hockey relevance if he can produce at a similar level in the WHL.
- Another Makar is headed to the University of Massachusetts. The Athletic’s Ryan S. Clark reports that Taylor Makar, brother of Colorado Avalanche top prospect Cale Makar, has committed to UMass. Now, Taylor is not the player that Cale is; Taylor is an undrafted center who put up pedestrian numbers for the AJHL’s Brooks Bandits – another former team of Cale’s – this season. However, Taylor is likely familiar with head coach Greg Carvel and his staff and should head to a great environment for him to grow as a player and perhaps break out. No one is expecting Taylor to ever come close to his Hobey Baker-winning brother, but his tenure in Amherst will certainly be interesting to follow.
Though it had been rumored for some time, confirmation came today that Sven Andrighetto will in fact play in the KHL next season. Andrighetto’s agent Aljosa Pilko announced as much today, though it took some additional reporting from Igor Eronko of Sport-Express to find out the veteran forward has signed a two-year deal with Avangard Omsk.
Andrighetto, 26, has played parts of the last three seasons with the Colorado Avalanche, recording 17 points in 64 games during the most recent one. The team has brought in several new faces up front in Andre Burakovsky, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Joonas Donskoi and Nazem Kadri, a plan that may have facilitated his departure from the team as a free agent. The team decided not to issue him a qualifying offer last month given it would have cost them at least $1.55MM.
A dynamic offensive player in the minor leagues, Andrighetto has never quite been able to establish himself in that way at the highest level. Though there is obviously scoring to be found there, his minutes were limited by the Avalanche and with them his effectiveness. That offensive ceiling will likely bring him success in the KHL, and could even bring about a return to the NHL in a few years. Since he is just 26, there is still more than enough time for him to earn another contract if he decides to try to come back. If not, he leaves with 84 points in 227 career NHL games.
The Colorado Avalanche have avoided arbitration with Ryan Graves, signing the restricted free agent to a one-year contract. Graves filed for player-elected salary arbitration last week, but won’t have to go through the sometimes tough process. Instead he’ll be back with the Avalanche in 2019-20, but actually could end up a Group VI unrestricted free agent next summer if he fails to play in at least 54 NHL games this season. Adrian Dater of Colorado Hockey Now reports that the contract is a two-way deal worth $735K in the NHL.
Graves, 24, made quite an impact in Colorado last season, suiting up in 26 games and recording three goals and five points. The 6’5″ defenseman had come over from the New York Rangers in a deal for Chris Bigras, but didn’t have any prior NHL experience. He’ll now have to battle for a chance to remain with the Avalanche past training camp, something that is far from certain at this point.
Colorado is facing injuries to both Ian Cole and Erik Johnson that should keep them out at the start of the season, but even after the trade of Tyson Barrie the Avalanche blue line is quite crowded. Kevin Connauton, Cale Makar, Bowen Byram, Calle Rosen and potentially even Conor Timmins all represent newcomers that weren’t available at the start of last year, and will complicate the decisions for head coach Jared Bednar and GM Joe Sakic. Graves still represents some great depth, but will have to clear waivers in order to play for the Colorado Eagles of the AHL this season.