.Now that the Stanley Cup has been lifted by the St. Louis Blues, the real off-season has begun. This might be one of the most exciting and active off-seasons we see in a while because of the dynamite that has hit the open market. Featured are the likes of Artemi Panarin (LW, Columbus Blue Jackets) and Mitch Marner (RW, Toronto Maple Leafs). When speculating what teams will land these prominent names, the rumors are in favor of teams such as the New York Rangers or the Florida Panthers. This is because both teams are in their rebuilding stages and are in a position where they can spend big bucks. However, there’s an ice-cold organization that could slide over the rest of the league, and it is a team you may not expect – the Colorado Avalanche.
I believe the Avs are the team to keep an eye on this offseason. They are in a great position because of the two words that every fan base loves to hear: cap space! According to spotrac.com, the Avs have the most cap space in the league right now with $37 million. The fact that they have the most cap space and that they aren’t a bottom-of-the-barrel team makes them kind of an oddity at the moment. But it also makes the Avalanche dangerous. Let’s look at how the Avs got here.
The Avs have come a long way since their terrible, horrible, no good, very bad 2016-17 season, which carried a record of 22-56-4. It was not only the worst in the league at the time, it was the worst season the NHL had seen in 17 years. That meltdown had some believing that the team would be an eye sore for a while. As an unexpected surprise, they returned to the playoffs the next season. Even though they lost in the first round to the Nashville Predators, it proved that they were back in business. This season, they made the playoffs as the second wild card team in the Western Conference. During the first round, they beat a number one seed, the Calgary Flames. Again, another unexpected surprise. They went on to lose in the second round to the San Jose Sharks, but one thing holds true about this team: they never fail to keep you on your toes.
Another thing that holds true about the Avs is that they have all the ingredients to be serious Stanley Cup contenders. They have one of the best first lines in hockey with Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Mikko Rantanen. They have hot goaltending from Philipp Grubauer and they have a young and fast team. Moreover, the position the Avs are in now is to the credit of their General Manager, Joe Sakic. When he traded beloved center Matt Duchene to the Ottawa Senators, they got a first round pick as part of the return. The Sens were the worst team in the league this season, which would have put them in the draft lottery. The lottery determines the teams that will pick 1-15. However, because the Sens gave the Avs their pick, the Avs were entered into the lottery instead. Although the Avs didn’t win by getting the 1st overall pick, they got the 4th overall pick in this year’s draft, which is not too shabby. They selected Bowen Byram, who was considered to be the best defenseman in the draft. So, when you have good, young players, cap space, and a top 10 draft pick:
One thing that is intriguing about the Avs is that after their ugly season, they could have kept snowballing in the wrong direction. Instead, they did the opposite. All of these things can make really good selling points for free agents. From the looks of it, it seems like all they need to do roster-wise is to enhance what they already have. They have all the means to play a significant role with big free agents and through trades. Could they be in the mix for someone like Artemi Panarin? Who knows.
Overall, there are snowflakes forming from all these intricacies that may soon make the Avalanche a force to be reckoned with. I would encourage you not to sleep on this team because they could be the ones to make the most noise this offseason, and beyond for that matter. Keep your expectations high, Avs fans, and keep your hockey sticks low.
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