It’s not even been a week since the season came crashing down, and there’s always a time and a place for a story to come out as to who should stick on a team’s roster for the following season. However, for the Colorado Avalanche, it felt as though a story like that wouldn’t have to be produced until late May, or early June, as opposed to early May.
Nonetheless, here we are, and the Colorado Avalanche have a number of difference makers due up for potential contract extensions. Some should be kept, some should be let go. Here, let’s examine a few of the players that should be extended for the following season. Just to clarify, the players brought up here are just the ones that are due up for contract renewals. Players like Matt Duchene or Gabe Landeskog are already locked up for years to come, and therefore won’t be mentioned here.
Locking up Ryan O’Reilly long-term should be the center of focus for Colorado Avalanche management this offseason.
“Factor”, as he’s known to the fan-base and to his Avalanche teammates, should be the first priority for Avalanche brass this offseason, for several reasons.
First and foremost, O’Reilly led the squad this past season with 28 goals. Yes, this was a team that benefitted from having five different players score 20 or more goals, but O’Reilly was the leader of the barrage. Not only that, he also contributed 36 assists to the lineup, giving him a total of 64 points on the season, good for third most on the roster. O’Reilly was tied for the lead on the team with six game-winning goals.
Going along the same lines, O’Reilly was a huge piece on the Avs power play. O’Reilly and Duchene were a dynamic unit together on the Avs 2nd power play unit, running a dynamic give-and-go from the half-boards and the near-side post that always left defenders scrambling. O’Reilly led the team this year in power play goals with nine.
Another interesting statistic on O’Reilly is the fact that he had the second-highest shooting percentage on the Avs roster for players who had more than 100 shots on the season (13.9%), trailing only Paul Stastny (16.7%).
One of the most important pieces to O’Reilly is his flexibility. O’Reilly came into the league as a center on the Avalanche roster. This year, however, he made the transition at times to play on the wing with, primarily, Matt Duchene at center. This allowed for the Avalanche to pack more talent onto their top two forward lines and create matchup nightmares for opposing defenders.
Arguably the most important piece to retaining Factor’s services is this: O’Reilly was nominated this year for the Lady Byng award, which goes to the player who shows the highest amount of sportsmanship, but also pair that with elite talent. O’Reilly displayed his elite talent for all of the previous reasons , but his sportsmanship shines through in a few major ways. O’Reilly led all players in the NHL with 83 takeaway’s this season, six more than Eric Staal who had the second-most in the league. In order to do this, however, players usually have to put themselves in a position to take the puck away, which would include having the stick near the feet and/or hands of the player with the puck. Doing this puts players in danger of taking penalties. That leads to the most impressive part of this statistic: O’Reilly only took 1 minor penalty this season, meaning only spending 2 minutes in the penalty box. In comparison, Eric Staal, second in takeaways, had 74 penalty minutes. And the sole penalty on O’Reilly was weak at best, as can be seen by the video below:
One final piece to ceiling O’Reilly as the main focus of the Avs offseason plans came after they had been eliminated from the playoffs. O’Reilly has such a passion for this team, and it shows in how hard he took the Game 7 loss to Minnesota, seen below:
SOLUTION: Re-sign Ryan O’Reilly to 8 year deal worth $52M ($6.5M annual cap hit). Yes, this is more than either Matt Duchene or Gabe Landeskog, but O’Reilly has all the goods, both on and off the ice, and never misses games, where as both Duchene and Landeskog have had their injuries in the past. O’Reilly has earned the right to be the highest paid player on this team.
Tyson Barrie quickly grew into the Avalanche’s best offensive defenseman this season, and is due a good contract extension.
Tyson Barrie can go into the offseason and expect the Avs to give him a good raise after seeing what happened to the team once he left the playoff series with an injury. For Barrie, the injury may be both a blessing and thorn in his side. The thorn is that he may never be the same player he was before he took the knee-to-knee hit from Matt Cooke. However, the blessing is that the Avs now realize how important a piece he is to making their offense tick.
Barrie was arguably the most improved player on the Avs roster throughout the season. At one time, he was in Lake Erie, where he played 6 games this season. From that low point, he then rose to being arguably the Avs best offensive defenseman, scoring 13 goals and 25 assists in just 64 games. Erik Johnson had one more point than Barrie, but he also played in 16 more games.
One key to Barrie’s game was that he was not only successful on the offensive end of the ice, but he became very reliable – and not a liability – in his own end. Barrie led all Avs defensemen in the plus-minus category, with a +20 rating. This shows that while Barrie was on the ice, his team was scoring more often than being scored on.
Barrie was third on the team – the team, not defensemen – in game winning goals with five, including three overtime winners throughout the year.
Arguably the most important thing Barrie brought to the Avs was made excruciatingly clear in his absence from the playoff series – his ability to break the puck out of the defensive zone and get the Avs offense rolling. After Barrie was knocked out of the lineup, the Avs had a noticeably difficult time breaking out of their own end, as it was normally Barrie who would set the tempo for the offense.
SOLUTION: Re-sign Tyson Barrie to 4-year-deal worth $14M ($3.5M annual cap hit). Barrie would become the second highest paid defenseman on the roster and, with the deal being for only 4 years as opposed to a longer-term deal, he will be able to prove that he is still the same player even after the injury and possibly grow into a bigger contract once this one expires. It’s a win-win for Barrie and the organization.
McGinn has been a key contributor to the Avalanche roster, producing from his third line role.
Ginner was a pleasant surprise for the Avalanche this season, putting up 19 goals and 19 assists in 79 games, both of which are career highs. Mcginn has played in all but eight games the past three seasons, making him a very reliable player to pencil into the lineup night-in and night-out.
McGinn spent most of his time this season playing on the third line, paired with Max Talbot and another rotating player as the Avs dealt with injuries, but he also got some time playing up as a top 6 forward when other top forwards went down.
McGinn was a force on the power play for the Avs this season, scoring five goals, which was tied for third most on the team. He made his living crashing the net after others would put the puck on net, and banged in lots of rebounds for his goals.
An area for improvement for McGinn would be in the defensive end, as he did finish as one of the few Avs players to have a negative in the plus-minus category. However, he has improved in this area the longer he has been in the NHL.
SOLUTION: Re-sign Jamie McGinn to 3-year-deal worth $7.5M ($2.5M annual cap hit). This would make McGinn the 5th highest paid forward on the Avs roster, but would still land him on the third line where he could continue his strong work as a grinder and provide some much needed third line scoring.
Joey Hishon is finally in a position where he can contribute to an NHL roster, and he is worth the risk for the Colorado Avalanche right now.
Hishon is an interesting case for the Avalanche. Hishon was the Avs first round draft selection in the 2010 NH L Entry Draft, the year between drafting Matt Duchene and Gabe Landeskog. However, his track to the NHL was hindered by a brutal hit from Brayden McNabb while playing for the Owen Sound Attack of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). That hit can be seen here:
Since that time, Hishon has battle many injuries, but seems to have finally started putting the pieces together, earning him a call-up to the Avalanche roster for 3 games during the first round of the playoffs this year, where he produced one assist.
Hishon is a dynamic playmaker, and assuming that he has put his injuries behind him, he could be a major player for the Avalanche for years to come. The talent is there, but Hishon needs to prove that he can take a hit from the big boys before the Avs commit too much to him.
SOLUTION: Re-sign Joey Hishon to 3-year-deal worth $4.5M ($1.5M annual cap hit). This may be a bit of a reach for a guy who has not played in a single NHL regular season game, but if Hishon can return to the way he played for the Owen Sound attack for four years (110 goals, 145 assists in 214 games, or 1.2 points per game), this will be a steal of a deal for the Avalanche.
Clearly, there are some players missing from this list of re-signings for the Avalanche, and many will be quick to point out the absence of Paul Stastny from this list, but he will be on the list for the next article: Who should not return for the Colorado Avalanche. Stay tuned for that one in the next week. Go Avs.
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