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The Colorado Avalanche’s regular-season opener against the St. Louis Blues Wednesday night will not be aired locally on NBC Sports Network, which previously said would carry the game exclusively.

Right now, the Colorado Avalanche are focused on the 2020-21 season. But just around the corner lies a different sort of obstacle: the Seattle Kraken’s expansion draft.

The highly-anticipated event will take place on July 21, potentially a month after the Stanley Cup is awarded, and each team (except the Vegas Golden Knights) will have to offer up a slew of players for Seattle to choose from.

The Seattle Kraken will the 32nd team in the NHL. Ron Francis is their GM, and will head their expansion draft strategy
Ahead of the Vegas draft three seasons ago, the Avalanche were in a different position. In mid-2017, they were the laughing stock of the league with few players that Vegas considered attractive. Any player that might have been appealing was covered by the protection list. Tody, the Avs have depth at every position and are bonafide contenders.

The protection list will offer the organization a little breathing room with who they expose. Daniel Blanda’s recent article outlined the intricacies of who teams can protect:

–The protection list can either be 1) seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie or 2) eight total skaters and one goalie.

–Players whose contracts include a no-movement clause (NMC) must be protected.

–All first and second-year players, as well as all unsigned prospects, are exempt from being drafted by the Kraken.

In 2017, the Avalanche chose to protect forwards Nathan MacKinnon Jersey, Gabriel Landeskog Jersey, Matt Duchene Jersey, Rocco Grimaldi, Blake Comeau Jersey, Sven Andrighetto, Matt Nieto Jersey, defensemen Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie Jersey, Nikita Zadorov Jersey and goaltender Semyon Varlamov Jersey; for those keeping track, only four of those players are still with the Avalanche.

For Vegas, the Avalanche left Carl Soderberg Jersey, Joe Colborne, Calvin Pickard, Eric Gelinas, and Mark Barberio Jersey unprotected; for those keeping track, only one of those players is still in the NHL. Vegas went with the goaltender Pickard, who never played a game for the Golden Knights. While the draft was a success for Vegas, they got nothing of value from Colorado.

The Seattle Draft and Erik Johnson Jersey
Seattle will be in a much better position to poach talent from Colorado. Here’s my projected list of players the Avalanche will protect:

F Nathan MacKinnon
F Mikko Rantanen Jersey
F Gabriel Landeskog
F Nazem Kadri Jersey
F Andre Burakovsky Jersey
F Brandon Saad Jersey (assuming he re-signs)
F JT Compher
D Cale Makar Jersey
D Samuel Girard Jersey
D Erik Johnson (No-Move Clause)
G Phillip Grubauer
The Avs are going to lose someone good to the Kraken. Upfront, it could be Tyson Jost Jersey or Valeri Nichuskin, or they might have to give up impressive, young goalie Pavel Francouz Jersey. But most concerning is who they could lose from their backend.

The Kraken, in this scenario, would have the right to take Devon Toews or Ryan Graves Jersey, both important pieces on the Avalanche blue line. Toews has yet to play a game in an Avs uniform, and losing the stability he is likely to bring would be gut-wrenching for fans and the organization. Graves has proven to be a valuable player who has spent a much of his career as the reliable partner to Makar. While his impact is likely not as high as Toews, he has become an integral part of Colorado’s renaissance.

The unfortunate obstacle in protecting at least one of those players is the eternally lovable Erik Johnson. He has been the only stable part of Colorado’s defense for the last decade. His leadership in the locker room has been well-documented. When he’s at his best, he’s a difference-maker at both ends of the ice. But his best might finally be behind him. He has been injury prone throughout his career, including during the bubble playoffs a few months ago. He has yet to report to training camp this season, though that may be due to COVID-19 exposure.

David Pastrnak, Erik Johnson
Boston Bruins’s David Pastrnak and Colorado Avalanche’s Erik Johnson (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
As younger and more impact skaters join the Avalanche blue line, Johnson’s role will diminish. If he waives his NMC, the Avalanche could protect one of those new players. However, Johnson has earned his NMC and the right to uphold it. He is loved in Denver, and he loves Denver. He loves his team. He named his horse Landeskog. He is “The Condor”. If he decides to allow a trade, general manager Joe Sakic Jersey and the Avs will be left with a few different options.

The first thing they could do is bite the bullet and expose Toews and Graves. I would be very surprised if Toews isn’t Seattle’s pick in this situation. But losing him would clear up some cap space in time for Makar, Landeskog and Grubauer to receive extensions. It would also clear roster space for young defensemen Conor Timmins Jersey and Bowen Byram Jersey, the latter of which just dominated at the World Junior Championships. While it would be painful to lose Toews after one season and two 2nd-round picks to get him, good could still come from this move.

Another route the Avs could take is to cut a deal with the Kraken. This was a maneuver used by several teams in the Vegas draft. The premise is simple: give Seattle a prospect and maybe a pick if they promise to take or not take a certain player.

This is a horrible strategy. Paying extra to lose a pick or player did not work in 2017 and it will not work in 2021. Vegas was practically given Shea Theodore, Reilly Smith, Alex Tuch and William Karlsson because of moves like these, and they became the core that drove the team to the Cup Final the very next season.

Colorado could also buy out Johnson’s contract to free up a spot. This would also be a bad option, with financial and personal implications. The move would cost the Avalanche $2 million against the cap through 2025, precious room that they need for those big extensions and roster tweaks. It might also hurt the relationship between the player and team and leave a bad impression on other players in the organization.

Erik Johnson Colorado Avalanche
Erik Johnson, Colorado Avalanche (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)
Observing these options, it seems best to hope Johnson waives his NMC or just let the draft come without any trickeration. If Johnson does waive, I don’t believe Seattle would take him over Graves, Nichuskin, Jost or Francouz. But if he doesn’t waive, Colorado has a chance to show loyalty to their players, as well as free up some money and roster spots.

The Avalanche are going to hurt after this expansion draft. Erik Johnson’s next move will help determine what that pain looks like.

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NHL formally announces Lake Tahoe outdoor games; Avalanche to play Vegas on Feb. 20
New age of an NHL defensive pairing looks like Avalanche’s Cale Makar-Devon Toews Jersey
Avalanche notebook: Often-injured Matt Calvert Jersey taking preventative measures; Philipp Grubauer Jersey named No. 1 goalie; taxi squad identified
With Erik Johnson still “unfit,” Conor Timmins “has looked fantastic” in Avalanche training camp
Chambers: Colin Wilson Jersey has a lot to say about Avalanche, OCD
For viewers in the Avalanche’s market, the game at Ball Arena will only be broadcast on team-owned Altitude TV, which is not available to Comcast and Dish Network subscribers.

According to Ken Miller, Altitude’s executive vice president/general manager, the game will be available on NBCSN outside the Avalanche’s market but blacked out locally. It will be produced by Altitude with NBC commentators using Altitude’s feed.

“They sent us an email that they were not going to produce the game as an exclusive and would need us to broadcast it so they could take our world feed,” Miller told The Post.

Altitude released its 56-game television schedule Monday. The regional sports network will carry 50 games exclusively, with the other six on NBC. Miller said NBC can be exclusive on as many as seven games, and he believes it pulled out on Wednesday to carry an important game late in the season.

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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
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.


Retained Salary Transactions

Still To Sign

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.

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Happy Wednesday to all. Let’s hope we get a nice advance Christmas present soon, with an announcement of an upcoming NHL season. With that formality out of the way, let’s get to another Avalanche Mailbag, starting with a question about the captain, Gabe Landeskog:

David, first off, thanks for the compliment on how young I look in that picture above. I’ve been working out a bit lately, so…well, on Landy’s contract, I think there’s no question that a flat cap and a Covid-19 shortened season hurts guys such as him a bit. But maybe not that much, because any extension he might sign before next off-season wouldn’t go into effect, cap-wise, until 2021-22. I would think fair market value for Landy would be something on the order of $7 million per. How many years the Avs would want to go might be a stickier question than the AAV number. I would think Landy’s got another five good years in him, but I probably wouldn’t go any longer than that. He’d be 33 after a five-year deal (34 after a five-year extension that wouldn’t kick in until 2021-22) and, well, that’s getting long in the tooth in today’s NHL.

So, I’m gonna go five years, $35 million for the captain. That’s a decent raise over what he’s making now, but it’s not a contract that would potentially cripple the Avs either way. I think there will be an extension at some point this season, but maybe not until NHL owners get a little more cost certainty vis a vis the virus, etc.

I’m gonna be the optimist here and say 100%, on at least some fans being in the stands at some point. Full buildings? Almost certainly not, not with full administration of vaccines still likely weeks/months away (in the good ole US of A anyway. I just read how Canada will start a mass vaccination program in the next two weeks, but as always, we lag behind because of our lumbering bureaucracies).

I don’t see why at least some fans – and they will probably pay a pretty penny to attend – won’t be allowed into buildings by, say, spring. But I’m not the CDC, so I probably should shut up now.

My man Joey, good question. Well, you obviously can never guarantee health from day to day. But obviously, one thing the Avs will need to do is not overwork one of their goalies too much. I suspect we’ll see more of a pure platoon situation between Grubauer and Frankie over a shortened schedule. The NHL wants to get everything with a 2020-21 season wrapped up by the Summer Olympics in July, so, yeah, there will be a lot of back-to-backs in the regular season. While most “starting” goalies like to play a lot, you can’t play your No. 1 guy four games a week.

No doubt, we’ll probably see expanded rosters and, because of that, we’ll probably see some regulars get more nights off occasionally. No doubt, we’d see someone like an Erik Johnson or an Ian Cole Jersey



get a night off in favor of, say, a Conor Timmins Jersey or another depth D guy. Same with some of the older forwards, like a Kadri or a Bellemare or a Calvert and probably others too, like a Landeskog. I imagine Jared Bednar will have to cut down on some of his practice times/day with a shortened schedule too, to give his tired players more rest. But every team will be in the same boat.

Gotta go with Chris Drury Jersey here. That 2002 deal, to Calgary along with Stephane Yelle Jersey for Derek Morris, Jeff Shantz and Dean McAmmond, was obviously a bust. In an amazing GM career for Pierre Lacroix Jersey in Denver, that was his one real turkey of a trade. After Ray Bourque Jersey retired and the Avs lost in Game 7 to Detroit in 2002, Lacroix wanted to still have a “three-headed monster” on defense, and at that time, Derek Morris was considered one of the better young two-day D-men in the league. I understand Lacroix’s reasoning in making the deal. But losing Drury (and Yelle) was a killer. I mean, Drury was Mr. Clutch and Yelle was the third-line center on a Calgary club that went to Game 7 of the Cup Finals just two years later.

I also think the Avs would have had a better shot at winning the Cup in 1997 if they’d had Chris Simon Jersey on the ’96-97 team, but a contract dispute sent him to Washington (and the Caps made the Cup Finals a year, with Simon playing on the top line). The Avs had only Brent Severyn as an enforcer that season, and it cost them, even though Sevvy did the best he could. Simon truly scared opponents, though, and that mattered back then.

I think it’s a lead-pipe guarantee we’ll see ESPN and the NHL reunite, starting next season. It might be a split deal, with NBC, but I think both sides would like to do business with each other once again.

And, yes, I’ve always felt bad about Quebec losing their team. But they are a proud bunch of citizens there, and I think they’ll get a team back eventually.

I’m gonna say J.T. Compher Jersey has something of a breakout year. I mean, we’re not talking a point-a-game here, but let’s say, in a 56-game season, I see something like 15-25 40 for J.T. That might be a tad ambitious, but I think he’s capable of it.

I’m not predicting a slump, but a guy like Andre Burakovsky Jersey is someone I probably worry about a little more than others. He’s a streaky scorer, though he played pretty consistently through the playoffs I thought. I expect him to start the season on a line with Kadri and Saad, and it might take a while for some chemistry to develop between those three. Then again, maybe not.

Only if the rosters are expanded, but yeah I think we’ll see him play at some point. He’s currently playing in Sweden for MODO, but he can come back to the NHL when the season starts up again. He wouldn’t crack the top 12 right now, but with expanded rosters and injuries that no doubt will happen at some point, I’m sure we’ll see Kaut play at least some games.

No. Can’t find one ANYWHERE and I’m a guy that has a connection or two in the industry. My 6-foot-6 16-year-old son, a jersey hound, really wants a men’s XXXL, but there are simply none to be found right now.

Congrats to all those who have theirs by now but here in the Dater household, we are Reverse Retro deprived.

Russo and I have been friends since 1995, when we both started covering the league together. He’s The Man.

Ranta had a really good game the other night for the Golden Gophers, and I know the Avs are high on him. The rich get richer…

Nigel, it’s a good and fair question. I do think the Dallas Stars bullied the Avs too much in the playoffs and that it was a factor in the series. The Avs got hemmed in their own zone far too often, and just didn’t seem big or strong enough to deal with Dallas’ big forwards at times. I also think the injuries the Avs had – especially losing guys like Erik Johnson Jersey and Matt Calvert Jersey – hurt in that area.

I don’t think the Avs are a “soft” team, but I do think a lack of size is still something of a factor with this team. That said, I didn’t see Big Z scaring too many Stars out there in the second round. I think opponents are always on the lookout for guys like Big Z, but I don’t think Big Z was truly an intimidating physical force out there in regular situations. Sure, he could line up a guy for a big hit sometimes, but that only happened occasionally. Frankly, I think Big Z got outworked in front of the net too often and didn’t use his size and strength enough around the net in too many situations. So, I don’t necessarily worry about his loss from a “grit” standpoint. What I worry about with the Avs otherwise is still a lack of size up front, expecially on the bottom two lines, and somewhat still on the back end too.