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PHR will look at every NHL team and give a thorough look at their cap situation heading into the 2020-21 season. This will focus more on players who are regulars on the roster versus those who may find themselves shuttling between the AHL and NHL. All cap figures are courtesy of CapFriendly.

Colorado Avalanche
Current Cap Hit: $79,676,386 (under the $81.5MM Upper Limit)

Entry-Level Contracts
D Cale Makar Jersey (one year, $880K)

Potential Bonuses
Makar: $2.5MM

Makar’s rookie season was nothing short of dominant as he took home the Calder Trophy for the top rookie while finishing in the top-10 of Norris voting for the top defenseman in the league. He finished second on the team in scoring and logged over 21 minutes a night. Better still, he played even better in the playoffs. He looks like a franchise blueliner already and is going to command a substantial raise next offseason, even without arbitration eligibility. The fact they burned a year of his entry-level deal in the 2019 playoffs might help keep the AAV down slightly (he’ll have less than two full seasons of games under his belt) but if his sophomore campaign is anything like 2019-20, that shouldn’t make much of a difference. Makar may not get the top cap hit of $9.25MM but he should come fairly close to that mark.

One Year Remaining, Non-Entry-Level
F Pierre-Edouard Bellemare Jersey ($1.8MM, UFA)
F Matt Calvert Jersey ($2.85MM, UFA)
D Ian Cole Jersey ($4.25MM, UFA)
G Philipp Grubauer Jersey ($3.33MM, UFA)
F Tyson Jost Jersey ($874K, RFA)
F Gabriel Landeskog Jersey ($5.571MM, UFA)
F Brandon Saad Jersey* ($5MM, UFA)

*- Chicago is paying an additional $1MM on Saad’s contract.

Landeskog hasn’t been able to get to the lofty offensive levels of his linemates but the captain has nonetheless been an integral part of their forward group for the last nine years. He’s only 28 and should be able to get close to a max-term deal on the open market if he gets that far. Even with the UFA market being unkind to most wingers this year, Landeskog should be able to buck that trend and pick up a million or so on his AAV on his next contract. That may not be doable for Saad, however. His second go-around with Chicago was not as productive as his first and he is viewed as more of a middle-six player than a top liner. The latter are still going to get paid but the former will feel the squeeze so he has a lot at stake with his new team this season to restore some value. Calvert and Bellemare are useful role players but with the cap staying flat, they are in spots that will need to be replaced by cheaper options in Colorado and with other teams feeling the crunch as well, both will almost certainly have to take a less-expensive deal next summer. Jost accepted his qualifying offer after three relatively quiet seasons. He’s too young to write off but they’re expecting him to take a step forward and play his way into a bigger deal. A repeat performance may not be enough for a non-tender but his value around the league will take another dip if he doesn’t show some offensive improvement.

Cole has been an effective veteran on the third pairing and he’ll be asked to play that role again this season. It’s a premium price for the role but it’s one they can afford for now. That won’t be the case next year as he’ll almost certainly be replaced by Conor Timmins Jersey or Bowen Byram Jersey, players that likely won’t see much NHL action this season but should be ready for a full-time spot in 2021-22. Cole, meanwhile, could see his price tag cut in half if not more with teams looking to go cheaper on the third pairing.

Grubauer was brought in to be the goalie of the future but even after Semyon Varlamov Jersey left to join the Islanders, he wasn’t able to really step into that number one role. Injuries certainly played a role in that, including in the postseason as well. He certainly hasn’t been bad by any stretch in his two seasons with the Avs but he has yet to establish himself as a full-time starter either. If he can do that this year, he could add a couple million to his price tag but if not, he may not be able to command much more than he’s getting now.

Two Years Remaining
F Andre Burakovsky Jersey ($4.9MM, UFA)
G Pavel Francouz Jersey ($2MM, UFA)
F Nazem Kadri Jersey ($4.5MM, UFA)
F Valeri Nichushkin Jersey ($2.5MM, UFA)

Burakovsky struggled with consistency in Washington but things certainly came together in Colorado as he had a career year offensively by a significant margin despite the pandemic cutting things short plus missing another 13 games due to injury. The fact that he signed what amounted to another bridge contract coming off of that signifies that neither side is entirely convinced about what his offensive ceiling may be. If he reverts back to his previous level of production, he’ll be looking at a big pay cut two years from now but continuing at that pace should have him in line for at least a small raise and perhaps more importantly, a long-term deal. Kadri is another player that did well following his change of scenery. While his output didn’t jump like Burakovsky’s, he had a key role on the second line and played extremely well in the playoffs. Impact centers are always in high demand and low supply so even in a deflated marketplace, Kadri should be able to land a decent-sized raise two years from now. Nichushkin’s return to the NHL was a successful one as he was a capable secondary scorer as the change of scenery certainly worked for him as well. Given his relative inexperience, Colorado is certainly hoping that he can still take another step forward offensively. If he doesn’t, it’s hard to see him getting much more than this on his next deal.

Francouz’s first full NHL season was a strong one as he actually outperformed Grubauer from a statistical standpoint (2.41 GAA, .923 SV% compared to 2.63 and .916) with a similar workload. Things weren’t as good for him in the playoffs before injuries forced him out of the lineup as well. His inexperience didn’t give him much leverage in talks but if he performs even close to this level for the next two years, he’ll be well-positioned for another million or more on his next contract.

Three Years Remaining
F J.T. Compher Jersey ($3.5MM, UFA)
F Joonas Donskoi Jersey ($3.9MM, UFA)
D Ryan Graves Jersey ($3.167MM, UFA)
D Erik Johnson Jersey ($6MM, UFA)
F Nathan MacKinnon Jersey ($6.3MM, UFA)

MacKinnon’s contract has turned into one of the biggest bargains in the NHL in recent years with three straight seasons of more than 90 points under his belt. As things stand, he should be in a position to command more than $10MM per year on his next deal and considering he’ll still only be 28 at that time, he’s a near-lock for a max-term contract as well (eight years with Colorado, seven years if he goes elsewhere). GM Joe Sakic Jersey will certainly be planning around what this deal will cost as he continues to shape his roster. Donskoi’s contract seemed a bit pricey when he signed it although he hit a new career best in points per game last year. Nonetheless, it’s still a bit on the high side and it wouldn’t be too surprising if he would be a player that gets dangled if they want to free up some cap flexibility over the next three years. Compher’s offensive numbers have been relatively consistent over his three full NHL campaigns where he has produced like a third-line center. However, the fact he can play down the middle certainly boosts his value. He’ll need to get into the 40 or more point range to have a chance at landing a bigger deal on the open market.

Johnson’s contract held up better a few years ago than it does now. He once was their top defender but his ice time has been reduced the last couple of seasons while staying healthy has been a challenge. With a no-move clause and an 11-team no-trade clause, this could be a difficult deal to try to get out of, especially as their younger defenders move up the depth chart. Graves fit in well alongside Makar, earning him a big raise after spending the previous two seasons on one-year, two-way contracts. If he can hold down a top-four role, they’ll get a good return on this deal but given his relative inexperience, it does come with some risk as well.

Four Or More Years Remaining
D
Samuel Girard Jersey ($5MM through 2026-27)
F Mikko Rantanen Jersey ($9.25MM through 2024-25)
D Devon Toews Jersey ($4.1MM through 2023-24)

Rantanen is coming off an injury-riddled year but he is a key cog on their top line and had surpassed the 80-point mark in two straight seasons before 2019-20. In the current marketplace, it may be a little high but at the time, it was fair value for a player on the rise. In the meantime, if you’re looking for the starting point on MacKinnon’s next deal, start with this and add from there.

Girard is far from the biggest player out there but as a mobile defender, he fits the direction that many teams are trending towards where skating ability means more and more (and he has plenty of it). A $5MM price tag for a top-four defender with room to improve is certainly a team-friendly one for Colorado. Toews was brought in from the Islanders over the summer with them needing to free up cap space. His NHL experience is limited but if he plays at a similar level as he did with New York, this should also be a team-friendly contract rather quickly.

Buyouts
None

Retained Salary Transactions
None

Still To Sign
None

Best Value: MacKinnon
Worst Value: Johnson

Looking Ahead
Colorado fans should enjoy being in a comfortable salary cap situation while they can as it’s not going to last. They’re in good shape for this season and if they’re able to bank most of their projected cap room throughout the year, they should be able to add someone of note at the trade deadline, as long as that player is on an expiring contract.

With Makar (RFA), Landeskog, and Grubauer needing to be re-signed or replaced, that will take up a big chunk of the roughly $26MM they have in cap room for 2021-22. By the time they do those deals, they’ll be facing a bit of a crunch as they look to round out their roster. They also know they’ll have another big-ticket deal on the horizon in MacKinnon although they at least have some other expiring deals to help absorb the increase. It’s not a situation where they will have to start shedding players to get cap-compliant but they also won’t be able to afford to add to their roster like they have the last couple of years either.