5 Avalanche Players Probably Won’t Return Next Season

After a slow (4-5-1) start, the Colorado Avalanche are the hottest team in hockey. They have won 13-2-1 in the last 16 matches, won the last 5 matches in a row. Most impressively, they have managed to do this while still battling injury, with captain Gabriel Landeskog and top defender Devon Toews being the latest to be sidelined. In short, the team is finally using its skill and depth to fulfill its aspirations of winning the Stanley Cup.

That’s a good thing, because Avalanche is built to win This year. Five players will become an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the current campaign and six more will be UFA or restricted free agents (RFA) at the end of the 2022-23 season. Because some players are having many years of careers and the team will need to negotiate a new blockbuster contract with the superstar center. Nathan MacKinnon Before July 2023, Joe Sakic, Colorado’s executive vice president and general manager, will have some tough decisions ahead of this year’s trading deadline and again in the off-season.

With that in mind, here are five players I predict won’t wear an Avalanche sweater when the 2022-23 season drops.

# 5 JT Comper

In his sixth season with Colorado, JT Compher is having the best year of his career. But even with that, 120 points in his 286 games shows he is a key player. A good player, but a role player nonetheless. With steady improvement, Alex Newhook and Logan O’Connor are both committed to Avalanche for a lower price next season and with a group of strong prospects in the team’s minor league system (Oskar Olausson, Shane Bowers, and Sempo Ranta to name a few), Sakic will have the luxury of moving Compher out.

JT Compher Colorado Avalanche
JT Compher, Colorado Avalanche (Jess Starr/ Hockey writers)

With one year left on his $3.5 million contract, Avalanche could extract some value from Compher by trading for him prior to the start of the 2022-23 campaign. Still only 26 years old, he is a proven commodity and will be an attractive prospect for a number of teams.

#4 Andre Burakovsky and #3 Nazem Kadri

All three skaters on Colorado’s second line – Nazem Kadri, Andre Burakovsky, and Valeri Nichushkin – become UFA at the end of this season, posing a unique challenge for Sakic. Given MacKinnon’s new contract will likely cost $11 million (or more) and the need to re-sign Darcy Kuemper or find a comparable goalkeeper in the off-season, that will likely cost $5 million (or more) , just not ‘ There is no way to retain all three members of the second line, and probably not two.

Colorado Avalanche Executive Vice President Joe Sakic
Colorado Avalanche Executive Vice President Joe Sakic
(Photo by RJ Sangosti / The Denver Post via Getty Images)

At 31, Kadri is not only having the best season of his career, but he’s also playing brilliantly. His 1.61 points per game is the fourth best in the league, and more than double his pre-season average (0.637 points per game in 667 games from 2010-11 to 2020-21). If he maintains this amount for the balance of the season, or even closes to maintaining it, he will make money next year.

But players in their thirties didn’t suddenly double their output. It is said, water seeks its level, so you must expect Kadri to return to Earth. The possibility that he might recreate this endeavor in the future is a strong objection. Unless he takes a huge discount back home (which is highly unlikely), expect Kadri to sign with another team for the season.

Like Kadri, Nichushkin is also having a start-up year. His most productive season as a goalscorer was his new season (2013-14), when he scored 14 goals in 79 games. He has nine goals in just 17 games this season, putting him on pace to score 43 for the season. If he calculates even half that number, he will get better results than expected. He has also established himself as an elite boxing assassin, showcasing the variety in his game.

Related: Avalanche’s Gamble on Nichushkin is paying dividends

Nichushkin is 5 years younger than Kadri, which means a lot of advantages and possibly at a much lower price point. Out of the three second line strikers, he is the one most likely to stay.

That raises the more complicated question of what to do with Burakovsky. He is an efficient goalscorer who filled the team’s top list when one of the big three (MacKinnon, Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen) was injured. But he can be a constant player and will also be looking for a higher pay day. If Nichushkin isn’t producing at the elite level, I think Avalanche’s retention of Burakovsky is indisputable. But Nichushkin is suitable for Burakovsky production and will cost less. Given the limited space problems created by the MacKinnon contract and the need to score goals, I think Burakovsky will be outside looking in.

#2 Erik Johnson

When this season ends, Erik Johnson will have a year left on his $6 million contract. The need to free up limited space makes him not only spendable, but also a debt.

At 33 years old, Johnson is definitely on the decline of his career. His average time on the ice has dropped steadily, from 25:26 in the 2017-18 season, to 21:03 in the 2019-20 season, to just 18:38 so far this year. With that comes the possibility of injury – he’s played 70 or more games just four times in his 10 years with Colorado – and it’s hard to make a case for keeping him on the team.

Unless he retires, Sakic will need to transfer Johnson during the off-season. Either way, don’t expect him to be burgundy and blue next year.

#1 Tyson Jost

First round pick in 2016 (10th place overall), Tyson Jost never lived up to his potential. In a way, he came to Avalanche what Valeri Nichushkin went to Dallas Stars. He has four goals and five assists in 26 games this year, and just one goal and one assist in the team’s last five win streak. And this is a team that averages 4.31 goals per game.

Tyson Jost Colorado Avalanche
Tyson Jost, Colorado Avalanche (Jess Starr/ Hockey writers)

Still only 23 years old, and with a reasonable $2 million contract set to expire at the end of the 2022-23 campaign, another team will likely see potential in Jost and Avalanche would be wise to move he. I expect Jost to leave before the trade deadline and have full confidence that he will start the 2022-23 season in a different sweater.

On the bubble

Some players are also on the bubble. The biggest is Darcy Kuemper. The injured goalkeeper is the UFA at the end of the season. How he performs in the current campaign, and how many games he can play, will determine whether he gets a new contract, or whether Avalanche needs to be looked elsewhere. It’s a similar story for the backup netminder Pavel Francouz. Also a UFA at the end of the season, his $2 million signing and injury history make his return a question mark at best.

And then there’s a bunch of players who’ve signed one-year contracts with Colorado, most of whom I doubt will return, including Darren Helm, Jack Johnson and Kurtis McDermid. I also polled other writers on Avalanche to see who they think is leaving:

Marko Zlomislic – Andre Burakovsky, Darren Helm, Erik Johnson, Nazem Kadri, Kurtis McDermid
Craig Jones – Darren Helm, Erik Johnson, Jack Johnson, Nazem Kadri, Valeri Nichushkin
Consensus (all three of us agree) Choice – Darren Helm, Erik Johnson, Nazem Kadri

Colorado is back in action tonight when they faced the Predator in Nashville.



https://thehockeywriters.com/5-avalanche-players-not-returning-2022-23/ 5 Avalanche Players Probably Won’t Return Next Season

Subhankar Mondal

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