Saturday, June 30, 2007

Free Agency In T Minus 12

We are a mere 12 hours away from the free agent feeding frenzy and I'm cautiously optimistic. This year there are quite a few rumours surrounding the Avalanche and the rumours are on players I'd be quite happy to have. Of course, rumours are just that. Rumours. I've actually contemplated started a blog called "How often is Eklund right?" It would disclude times where he reports what another site has already reported of course.

Now, in case people hadn't heard the salary cap jumped to $50.4 million at the end of this week. Which, while below what the Avalance have spent in previous years, is far above what the Avalanche have committed to salaries so far. The current cap hit for the Avalanche, with 27 players under contract is a mere $31.691 according to Factoring in Svatos' QO, what will the Avalanche do with their $17.5M remaining?

The heaviest rumour of all has the Avalanche being front runners for Scott Hannan. He is definitely the type of defender that the Avalanche are craving. He routinely plays in the 20 minutes per game area, has a gritty, in-your-face shutdown style and readily sacrifices his body. And at only 28 years of age, carries himself extremely well as a leader. He's not the 6'5" 240 lbs defender that everyone craves, but at 6'1" and 225, he's certainly capable of battling it out in the corners.

The only issue I will have if the Avalanche sign him is the price that will have to be paid. As usual in the free agent market, the market price is inflated due to an intense and pressure-filled initial 2-3 hours on the big names. It's like waiting in line for an iPhone but you have to outbid everybody else in line. That being said, the market is what it is and with the salary cap leap that was announced yesterday, he's well within budget. Presuming Kroenke is willing to spend the dollars. Which I'm sure we all realize is a 99.99% certainty.

If Hannan were to sign for 5 to 5.5 million, which could even be low-balling it, that still leaves Colorado with 12 million to spend. The odds of the Avalanche landing two huge UFAs are pretty slim but if it were to happen, it could be the return of Captain Clutch, Mr. Chris Drury himself. I don't think this is as likely as getting Hannan, especially considering how many centers the Avalanche currently have signed, but I'd welcome it nonetheless. It would help undo what is considered the biggest blunder the Avalanche have ever made when they traded him away as a youngster.

A few other options are some less marquee names but still solid contributors nonetheless.

Tom Preissing - although he's another offensive blue-liner, I was extremely impressed with him this year and he could bloom into an elite defenseman.

Michel Ouelette - shown no love by Pittsburgh after having a breakout year, he could bring some grit and depth to the forward lineup.

Cory Sarich - he's no Scott Hannan but could come reasonably priced and open the way to trade off one of the current top-four if Finger can maintain a spot in the lineup.

Roman Hamrlik - he hasn't been talked about much but I just love him on the PP.

There are a fair amount more as this free agency has quite a bit of depth compared to the tier-1 talent available. And if the Avalanche can't land the tier-1 they want, they'll certianly look at pursuing one of the "lower-end" talents. Last year they snagged up Arnason and it worked out quite well as he re-signed on a two-year contract.

I will be attending a wedding tomorrow but should still be available for the first couple hours of free agency. So I have a shot at being able to do a post if the Avalanche manage to land someone early on. So keep refreshing this page to see late breaking news. Just kidding, follow if you really want the early scoop.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Avalanche Choose Kevin Shattenkirk 14th Overall

The Avalanche stick to their U-18 US hockey roots and choose the captain of the U-18 team, Kevin Shattenkirk. He's a 5'11" defenceman who currently weighs in at 193 lbs so he's a tad undersized. He put up 34 points in 48 games so is a very offensive undersized d-man. I can't quite put my finger on who it reminds me of but maybe someone can help me out.

The players that Colorado could have taken still included Alexei Cheraponov and Angelo Esposito who, by the way, is still unpicked 2/3 of the way through round 1. But if there's one thing the Avalanche have, it's a lot of quality up-and-coming forwards. The one thing they don't have is a lot of up-and-coming quality d-men. So stocking the pool a bit with a defenseman with obvious leadership qualities is a great move.

This pick won't make any of the current d-men any more expendable than they already were as Shattenkirk will be playing for Boston University come fall. So this move likely picks at the nerves at some fans as it doesn't bring immediate relief to the defensive corps. However no pick would have helped them out this season.

Shattenkirk will put on more size as he will easily bust past the 200 lbs barrier and has a chance at clocking in at 210. He is known to be a very smooth and mobile defenceman who is extremely smart and aware of where he is at all times. Reminds me a little bit of someone else. A man who's thinking of retiring after doing it all in hockey this year.

No, I'm not comparing Shattenkirk to Niedermeyer. In fact, I hate the "He reminds me of..." talk. But, this is a good pick and has a chance at turning into a great pick 2 or 3 years down the line. So why did I say it? Well, it seems it's the thing to do. Just ask Mr. McGuire who can't talk about any prospect without comparing them to a pseudo-random possibly soon-to-be/current hall of fame player.

Here are some scouting reports on Shattenkirk, in case you don't want to take my word for it. But why wouldn't you?

And a chat with the young man himself:

EDIT: Esposito finally went at #20 to the Penguins. Good thing b/c they don't have enough young centermen.

Avalanche Re-sign Arnason for Two Years

Today the Colorado Avalanche announced that they have re-signed Tyler Arnason for two years. Terms of the deal have not yet been disclosed but it's likely for around 1.2-1.5 million a year. He was sixth on the team in scoring, putting up 16 goals and 33 assists over 82 games while centering the third line.

Arnason is not at the age where you can tie incentives into his contract which is unfortunate as he has been known to be prone to laziness and was certainly a streaky scorer with the Avalanche this year. Some nights he would chalk up 2 or 3 points but would follow it up with a 4 game point drought. On average he's putting up just over a half point a game while skating on the third line so there isn't much to complain about. If he can raise his level of consistency, this will be a great signing for the Avalanche.

EDIT: He was signed for 3.35m/year which is a cap hit of 1.675M. A bit more than I expected but I'm a lowballer by nature. This is still a good signing for the Avalanche.

Stay tuned for more draft day coverage as news breaks, including an analysis of the first overall draft choice for the Avalanache, whomever it may be.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Guite and McCormick Signed

The Avalanche announced today that they have signed Ben Guite to a two-year contract and Cody McCormick to a one-year contract. So the signings keep on trickling in which is good to see. As for these two signings, I give two thumbs up to Guite and two thumbs at neutral position on McCormick.

Signing Guite for two-years was a great move for the organization. After being called up as an extra body, he solidified his spot in the lineup with his hard-working, gritty playing style. He was put on the penalty kill unit shortly after joining the team and never looked back. In fact, his first NHL goal was a shorthanded goal against the Dominator. He also led the Avalanche in faceoffs and showed some other other players on the team what it meant to finish your checks.

Ben Guite has seen his way around the league. He was drafted by the Canadiens in '97, was picked up as free agent by the Islanders in '01, was then dealt to Anaheim in '02, then signed with the Rangers in '03, then went to Bridgeport in '04, got signed by Boston in '05 and then finally by the Avalanche in '06. However, his only other game played as a non-Avalanche was with Boston in '06. So for all intents and purposes, we can claim him as our own.

He will likely find a home on the PK unit as well as being a third or fourth-liner who can also be used in key faceoff situations, likely when the team is defending a lead towards the end of a game. Either way, I'm happy to see him in the lineup and fully expect him to be a starter after training camp.

Cody McCormick signing is more about having enough players for their new AHL team than anything. He wasn't able to crack the lineup for more than 6 games last year and unless his game has vastly improved, I doubt he'll crack it for much more than that this year. He's got some grit for sure but he doesn't really have much aside from that. The Avalanche already signed Parker for their token fighter and with Guite being a better version of McCormick...well I think that's all that needs to be said.

Of course that being said, it's not improbable that he could find a home playing winger on the fourth-line. It would depend on exactly what Colorado's other three lines look like in the end. If they have enough depth on the first 3 lines that they don't need to worry much about the fourth line (I'm looking at you Anaheim), then he could be welcomed there as a cheap player who tosses bodies around.