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Again, thedoctor has free reign to comment on any of my suggestions.

(EDIT: Marty Reasoner is listed as a UFA here, so I was under the impression he was going to hit the market. Apparently he has been re-signed (as can be seen here), therefore I had to change some of the original post. I also fixed some math mistakes.)

After taking a look at the free agents from within yesterday, the Avs are left with a lineup of (green indicates RFA):

Forwards
Smyth - Stastny - Hejduk
Jones - Wolski - Svatos
The vortex of suckitude that is Darcy Tucker - The Ghost of Tyler Arnason (aka TJ Hensick) - Stewart
McCormick ????????? - TJ Galiardi (possibly) - McLeod

Defense
Hannan-Foote
Liles-Salei
Clark- Cumiskey


???????
Budaj

?????
?????
?????


Which leaves the Avs with some glaring needs. They need It may not be realistic, Even though I think the Avs should bring back Lappy and Guite, (and Willsie for that matter). I don't think they will. I think Sakic's retiring, which means the Avs will probably be letting every UFA they have go, meaning they are going to have to pay more for their replacements.


More than upgrading the roster though the Avs need to make sure they Keep Cap Space for next season. This should be Sherman's #1 goal. There are some attractive players coming into the '10 free agency and the Avs have a ton of expiring contracts (Salei, Clark, Tucker, Hejduk). The Avs will be loaded with Free agency money. And the cap is likely to come down meaning there could be some substantial bargains out there. Oh yeah the most underrated player in all of hockey, Ilya Kovalchuk, is likely to be a free agent next season. The Avs are poised for cap room next season, and they would be stupid not to try and take a run at this guy. Duchene and Kovalchuk on the same line in '10.... Sign me up.

In the meantime the Avs need to get some help without overspending.

So here's what the Avs presumably need for '09-'10 (in order):

- Offensive talent
-#1 Goaltender
- Checking Center (one who can WIN FACEOFFS DAMNIT)
- Defensive Depth

Why is Offensive talent ahead of Goaltender? because the Avs have no second line. Stewarts still developing. Jones hasn't been able to find the scoring touch he needs (if he does, look out). Wolski has been a 2nd line talent playing 3rd line quality offense (his defense is superb now), and Svatos is an enigma, which always belong on the 3rd line. Tucker and Hensick really don't belong on the ice based on last season's "effort". Wings are especially needed (as Duchene should fill into #2 or #1 center in a year or two), and LW is the most crucial.

With Budaj being re-signed and McCormick being let go, the Avs are now on the hook for $46.05M cap hit next season, leaving them with $10.74M to spend on free agents. Even though offensive talent is needed more, the Avs can't go into the seaosn with only 1 goalie, and we'll need the depth at center before moving onto addressing the offensive talent so we'll start in the crease and finish with offensive talent with whatever money is left over. :

Goaltender
The Avs have been pursuing Jhonas Gustavsson all summer, and by the time I publish this, this entire paragraph could be moot. I have a hunch Gustavsson won't sign with Colorado though, because Brian Burke is quite the used car salesman. So where would that leave the Avs. Gustavsson has delayed his choice, which probably puts him out of reach for the Avs -- we are the only suitor that must fill a starter role.

thedoctor did a great write-up on goalies a week ago, so i recommend you read his piece on goalies, as it's very sound. The only thing I'd like to add is that I think the Avs should trade for Kari Lehtonen.

But this preview doesn't do trades, because that opens too many parallel universes, and I think if I do anymore "Svats + 2nd rounder for Insert goalie name here" trades there might be a rip in space-time and the beast with 1,000 backs might come through and beat us all to death for proposing the same trade over and over again. So as for UFA goalies here's the scoop:

There's not much out there. There's Martin Biron, who reportedly wants $5M/year (not a chance). There's Khabibulin, who will be expensive. Then there's a lot of second tier goalies: Garon, Labarbera, Johnson, Conklin, Niittymaki. Or good goalies with a lot of question marks: Kolzig, Roloson (age), Fernandez, Legacy (injuries) Gerber (talent). The one really interesting player is Craig Anderson. He's 27 and has been a very solid backup in Florida. He's probably deserving of a starting chance, and the Avs could be an ideal situation for him.

If the Avs can't trade for a goalie, they probably aren't going to get their goalie of the future this summer, but they might be able to get a bargain on a guy whose a little better than his career has gone.

Verdict Anderson of FLA 2 years @ $2.5 - 3.0M/year. He's young (27), and he's played pretty well the last few years in Florida. (We don't have Ice girls, so we may even have to overpay a little.) I am warming to the Anderson option as well. I like his youth and love for scantily clad females.

Note One thing I keep forgetting is that the Avs can offer Josh Harding (MIN) a RFA contract, and pay in compensation if he accepts. The Avs can offer Josh Harding $2.6M/year and only give up a 2nd round pick for it, if Minnesota decides not to match. I think this is as good an option as Anderson, and I'm for either one.)

A quick note that I just saw on hockeybuzz.com, of all places, while the cap didn't go up this year, the average salary of the players DID, and that's what the RFA numbers are linked to. So the 2nd round compensation number now maxes at just over 3m. It's that much easier to offer sheet Harding now, imo.

Plan "B"'s Conklin, Garon, Niittymaki

Dear God No: Gerber, Kolzig, Fernandez, Clemmenson

Checking Centers
The Avs need someone who can penalty kill and win face-offs. I looked at soem stats and there are three guys who fit this need perfectly.

Sammy Pahlsson (CHI) led the league for centers in SH TOI/game at 4:11 per game. He also is listed 19th in the league in face-offs at 53.5%. The guy also shold have won a Selke a couple years ago. He may have lost a little, but I think he'd bounce back, as he's only 31. (Note: Mirtle casually mentions he thinks Pahlsson will be getting close to $4M/season, which just strikes me as too much for a 19 point forward, even if he should be a Selke candidate every season. We'll see, but I don't think the Avs should go any higher than $3M for him for sure if they want him)

Marty Reasoner (ATL) won 52.8% of his face-offs and averaged 3:33 SH TOI/game for the Thrashers last season, and is also an UFA (and 32 years old)

Dominic Moore (BUF) only has 2:11 of SH TOI/game, which isn't terrible, and won 54.1% of his face-offs last season. He's the youngest at 28 years old.

All three Both of these guys can be had for a very reasonable price, even though I expect Moore to fetch more money. I'd be happy with all three.

Verdict Frankly I've changed my mind on which one of these three I'd want more for 2 days now. I change my mind every time I think about it. I like all three both candidates here, a lot, but I 'd give the edge to Marty Reasoner, mainly because he scores more than Pahlsson and PKs better than Moore and I think he'll be cheaper than both of them. 3 years @ 1.5M/season. (If we're giving Lappy's money to someone else, it better be someone that upgrades the team). I think I'd select Dominic Moore, over Pahlsson. He's not as good a defender, but I think he's going to be a little cheaper, and he does put up more points. 3 years @ 2.25M/season

While I agree the Avs need help here, I don't see them acquiring anyone this expensive. They're still most likely operating at a self-imposed spending limit well below the cap. I betcha they go with a youth movement after seeing their release of Guite and McCormick.

If they did go this route, I'd love to see Manny Malhotra considered too. He might be cheaper than either of Moore or Pahlsson, and he's bigger as well. Marcel Goc is also out there after his release by the Sharks, and posesses some offensive potenial and upside as well as 2 way acumen. Goc especially might be a cheap option that the Avs might actually be able to afford.

Plan 1-A: Pahlsson

You've got to be kidding: Tyler Arnason

Defensive Depth

I don't think the avs need to get really fancy here, but they need a 6th/7th defenseman who can split time with Cumiskey. I don't think Cumiskey is ready for an everyday spot, but I think it's time to start giving him some starts and see what he can do.

So the Avs need a 7th journeyman defenseman to take some pressure off the kid. Frankly there's 100 guys out there who could fit this role, so i won't spend too much time scouting them. I think Tjarnqvist was a good pick-up last season, and someone like him would be fine.

Verdict Ken Klee. Mainly because watching lead foot one night and wheels the next would provide at least mild amusement.

Hard to justify signing anyone here without trading away one of our big contracts. Maybe if it's a way to keep Cumiskey in LE for the whole season to finally develop...

Forwards: At this point the Avs essentially have two roster spots left, sort of. Galiardi could be given a permanant role, and Stoa could be given a chance to play on this team. And I guess there's this Duchene kid that might make the team as well. It's also possible Sakic could still come back. I'm not sure if Hensick can start the season in Lake Erie, or if he would have to go on waivers, but the Avs should start him there if possible.

Worst case scenario is that Duchene and Stoa/Galiardi are given roster spots and the Avs go young and save some money against the cap.

But I don't think that's the best plan, and I think the Avs should go after a free agent forward to help the team out. I'd love them to go get former Av Alex Tanguay, but I think he's going to be just out of their price range. The Avs need to make sure they save a little room so that Duchene can be called up and make roster bonuses. The Avs should stay away from centers, since they have a bit of a logjam there.

At this point the Avs have $50.7M tied into their Salary cap, leaving $6.1M and 1-2 spots open. If Sakic comes back, that's all tied up, but if not they have a nice chunk of change to sign someone to help out. I think a true second line player, like Erik Cole, Steve Sullivan, Brian Gionta, and Alex Tanguay, will be just out of the price range for the Avs. The Avs should certainly try for one of these guys, but I don't think they can make the best offer.

This leaves guys like Ales Kotalik, Ruslan Fedetenko, Taylor Pyatt, Radek Dvorak, Petr Sykora, and Mikeal Samuelsson.

I've long said that I don't think the value of a power forward is reflected well in their stats. I think Ryan Smyth's 60 points per season don't reflect how valuable he is to the team, and until they start giving assists to guys when they screen a goalie which turns an easy save into a goal, I don't think they will be properly evaluated. Smyth probably did that 15 times last season, which would make him a 75 point guy. In my book that's an assist.

Taylor Pyatt is a poor man's Ryan Smyth. He's a left wing, and those deflated point totals mean the Avs could pick up a someone more valuable than his point totals reflect. Last season was miserable, but he's sitting at 37 points per season the 2 years before. That's a decent haul.

Verdict Pyatt: 3 years @ $1.75M/season

I'd prefer to see some youth tried here -- Galiardi, Stoa, Mercier, even Hensick as a LW. No need for a risky signing when we have cheap young options begging to be tried out.

Notables Fedetenko, Dvorak, Kotalik

Pigs be flyin' Todd Bertuzzi.

An offseason with these basic signings leaves brings the Avs total from $46.05M to $53.85, leaving just under $3M in cap room to spare. This gives the Avs some flexibility in bringing up Stoa or Galiardi (~$875 k apiece) or Duchene (Somewhere in the $2M range, maybe. I’m not sure how his salary would work with bonuses that he may or may not earn. ). If Sakic has decided to return the Avs would not be able to sign Pyatt, but I’d trade Sakic for Pyatt every day of the week.

Avs with $4.35M in cap room to work with going forward, which gives the Avs plenty of room. If I've under-estimated the salaries some of these may command (like Pahlsson, Reasoner or Anderson) there's some cash to sweeten the pot and get up to market value. They could bring Sakic back if he changes his mind. They could play Duchene, bonuses and all.

Most importantly I think these signings would improve the team substantially, while also leaving room for free agents next season.

The roster for '09-'10 would look like this (RFAs in green, Jibble Free Agent signings in blue)

Forwards
Smyth - Stastny - Hejduk
Pyatt - Wolski - Jones
McLeod - Reasoner Moore - Stewart
Stoa/Votex of Suck: Tucker - TJ Galiardi/ Ghost of Arny - Svatos


Defense
Hannan-Foote
Liles-Salei
Clark- Cumiskey (if I have to fix your spelling of this one more time, I'm quitting!)


Anderson
Budaj

Press Box
The vortex of suckitude that is Darcy Tucker
Ghost of Tyler Arnason (Tucker)
Ken Klee