Welcome to 2020 Vision, our new feature taking a look at how the roster of each NHL team may look three seasons from now when the 2019-2020 season begins.
Over the next month we’ll profile one team, in alphabetical order, each day and project what their roster (12 forwards, six defensemen, two goalies) will look like.
There were some ground rules for this exercise. We didn’t allow any blockbuster trades or free agent signings, but we did make assumptions about teams re-signing their own UFAs and RFAs.
Therefore, this isn’t intended to be a fantasy-like look at the league in 2019-20. Instead, since this is part of the THN Future Watch family, it’s meant to be a realistic, best-case-scenario projection for each team based on players already under contract, and prospects in their system.
The Colorado Avalanche are in for several years of darkness, there’s no doubt about that. This team needs to go with a scorched-earth rebuild right now because, as we saw in 2016-17, they are a bad team, and as this exercise shows, there’s not a lot coming down the pipeline.
One important thing to note about the projected roster we have below is that there are two very significant omissions: 1) Matt Duchene, and 2) the trade return for Matt Duchene.
Though he hasn’t been dealt yet, the Duchene trade rumors persist. It seems inevitable he will be traded soon. But let’s imagine for a moment he isn’t traded – he will still be a UFA after the 2018-19 season. He would be a highly sought after free agent still in his prime, so sorry Avs fans, either way he’s gone and not included on this roster for 2019-20.
In the event of a trade this season, Duchene would fetch a pretty decent return. It was reported GM Joe Sakic is seeking a young, top-end defenseman as well as a first-round pick. But we’re not allowing any fantasy-type trades or speculation of that kind for our purposes here.
The purpose of this series is to project what the roster will look like based on current contracts and what’s in the system, so that’s what we’re doing, and for now that doesn’t include Duchene, or any return.
And what’s currently in the Avs system isn’t great. The Avalanche prospect pool was ranked 14th in Future Watch, but there aren't a lot of Blue Chippers coming. You might need this expansive roster list to get acquainted with some of the names below. We're definitely throwing some darts here.
Up front, there’s some high-end talent in Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. Gabriel Landeskog is a potential trade candidate, too, but seems more likely to stay put. Tyson Jost will make a very good second-line center. He lit it up in his first season at North Dakota and had a six-game NHL stint at the end of this past season.
So the top-six isn't bad, but the rest of the forward group is comprised of mid-level prospects and veterans like Colin Wilson and Carl Soderberg.
The defense looks a little bit better thanks to the Avs getting Cale Makar with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2017 draft. He’s headed to UMass in the NCAA this season, but it’s not a stretch to pencil him in to the NHL lineup in 2019-20. Chris Bigras was the No. 88th-ranked prospect in Future Watch, but has been slowed by concussions. Erik Johnson has a near unmovable contract that keeps him in Denver until 2022-23. Tyson Barrie remains a stud, if they don’t trade him, too.
The goaltending cupboard is especially bare. The Avalanche inexplicably let Calvin Pickard go to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft, and Semyon Varlamov will be a UFA after the 2018-19 season, leaving a gapping hole.
Spencer Martin was a third-round pick in 2013 whose AHL numbers have been nothing to write home about. We’re reluctantly giving the backup spot to Joe Cannata, who will be 30 years old in 2019-20 and has currently never played a game in the NHL. We’re giving him the nod over a couple young, late-round picks (Maximilian Pajpach, 174th overall in '14; Adam Werner 131st overall in '16) who are still toiling in Europe. The Avs selected goaltender Petr Kvaca in the fourth round of this past draft, but the 2019-20 season is too soon for him to be in the NHL.
GOT IT: Two very good centers in their primes, and, I guess, hope – if they do the rebuild properly. MacKinnon, Jost, Rantanen, and Makar are good building blocks. But the Avs need to be bottom feeders for a couple seasons and load up on picks and start acquiring high-end prospects. Getting a top-three pick next season and selecting a defenseman like Rasmus Dahlin, or a sniper like Andrei Svechnikov would go a long way to turning things around.
NEED IT: Depth everywhere. Goalies can be found in free agency, as we saw this July 1 with the signings of the likes of Steve Mason and Brian Elliott. So let’s not worry too much about a goalie of the future – there will always be a decent UFA to pluck off the scrap heap. But the Avs need to continue to add pieces that could one day play in the top six up front, or top four on ‘D’.
CAP WATCH: They currently have seven players under contract for a combined $29.7 million in 2019-20, with some RFAs – most notably Rantanen – to lock up before then. There will certainly be money available, but other than grabbing a UFA goalie in 2019-20, the focus should be on acquiring picks and prospects, not being too active in the free-agent market.
BOTTOM LINE: As it’s currently constructed, this continues to be a very bad team, and the future is a little bleak. But if they get a good haul for Duchene and luck into a No. 1 overall pick or two, they could start to turn things around.
Up next: Columbus Blue Jackets