2012 NHL Free Agents: Players the Colorado Avalanche Should Target

Kevin GoffContributor IJune 11, 2012

2012 NHL Free Agents: Players the Colorado Avalanche Should Target

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    The Colorado Avalanche are very close to being a playoff contender in the Western Conference, and they showed that this season.

    The Avalanche were well-within striking distance of a playoff spot, only to fall just short in the final weeks of the regular season.

    The Avalanche have their core in place. In order to make the next leap from rebuilding franchise to young contender, Colorado could look to free agency to address their biggest needs.

    Who should the Avalanche target during free agency?

What Do They Need?

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    The Avalanche have two main needs for the upcoming season.

    The largest need for the Avalanche is a true scoring winger to play in the top six forwards and give that offense some power.

    It's important this happens also to help the younger players on the Avalanche see what they need to do to be big-time scorers in the NHL.

    The Avalanche have several players with the potential to score 30 goals a year, but they don't know how to do it yet.

    The next biggest need for the Avalanche is the need for a solid number-two defenseman to play alongside Erik Johnson.

    The Avalanche have a lot of up-and-comers in their system and low-tier defenseman that shouldn't be out there for 20-plus minutes a game. Matt Hunwick being a perfect example.

    Hunwick played alongside Johnson during most of the second half of the season, but is not a top-pairing defenseman by any stretch of the imagination.

    To maximize Johnson's considerable ability, he needs another top-level defender that he can count on as a partner.

Zach Parise

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    Zach Parise is the prize of this year's free agency extravaganza, and he has gone out of his way to show why during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

    Parise will no doubt command a large salary from whatever team eventually ends up signing him. If Colorado doesn't at least make an attempt to bring Parise to Denver, they are doing their team and fans a huge disservice.

    Parise is an elite player in the league. He has cracked 40 goals in his young career and is the type of hard worker you want to have on the team. He never quits on any of his shifts and he brings consistency to a team that desperately needs it.

    Plus, Parise has connections to two of the other big-timers on the Avalanche roster.

    Paul Stastny and Erik Johnson were both part of the United States Men's Olympic team that won a silver medal in the Vancouver Olympics.

    Parise even played on the same line as Paul Stastny for what was arguably the Americans' best line.

    He is absolutely everything that the Avalanche need from a scoring winger, and the Avalanche must make some kind of effort to bring him to Denver.

    Whether or not the stingy Kroenke's will loosen the purse strings for Parise is another matter.

    It isn't as if the Avalanche are hurting for cap space, and the Kroenke's could do a lot to bring a large fan movement back to the Avalanche by acquiring the best player available in the NHL.

    Could it happen?

    Sure.

    Will it happen?

    I'm guessing not.

Ryan Suter

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    Ryan Suter is the best defender available on the free agent market this season, and will also fetch a hefty price.

    Suter would be a perfect compliment to Erik Johnson. The two would make a fantastic shutdown tandem.

    He's primarily a defensive defenseman, but he has been known to flash some pretty solid offensive skills as well.

    Not only would Suter fill out the top defensive pairing nicely, he'd make a great quarterback on the second power play unit.

    The Avalanche penalty kill was greatly improved this past season, but Suter would help it become immediately better with his ability.

    As the top player available, Suter will cash in on a big contract. This brings up the same issue as it would with Parise. 

    Avalanche ownership, which the Avalanche themselves are not strapped for cash, seem to prefer to stick around the cap floor rather than make any type of commitment to a top player.

    Even if that player would be a perfect fit to their team.

    Could Suter end up in Colorado?

    Financially speaking, yes.

    Will he? Doubtful.

    My bet is that Suter ends up in Detroit.

Alexander Semin

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    Semin is another very talented forward who has crossed the 40-goal mark in his career. But, he has had a couple of down seasons offensively with the Capitals.

    There has been a decent amount of talk about Semin heading back to the KHL, rather than sticking around the NHL.

    Money might be a part of this decision, as Semin is unlikely to command the $6.7 million cap hit that he currently has with the Capitals in the NHL.

    Still, the NHL is the best league in the world. Players want to be challenged against the best of the best.

    Semin certainly could fill the need of a scoring winger if he comes in and starts lighting the lamp like he is capable of doing. He is also a roll of the dice.

    The big hit on Semin is that he isn't very disciplined, taking a decent amount of penalties as a result. He's also thought of as a one-way player who doesn't do very well defensively.

    Semin helped his cause during this past playoff season as far as the defensive issues are concerned. He was frequently seen blocking shots and hustling back to make a solid defensive play. 

    Perhaps he can be coached and play a complete game. That is what the Avalanche would have to gamble on in signing him to any type of contract.

    Will you get the Semin we saw in the playoffs, or will we get the one we've seen in the regular season the past two years? 

Matt Carle

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    Matt Carle is a more defensive-minded defenseman who could allow Erik Johnson to more fully explore his offensive game.

    Carle also has played for the Philadelphia Flyers for the past three seasons. This might not mean much to others, but the Flyers expect all of the players on their roster to play with a certain edge to their game.

    That edge could benefit the Avalanche greatly.

    During the trade deadline, when the Avalanche acquired Steve Downie and Jamie McGinn, the big catch phrase tossed around by fans and media alike was that the Avalanche needed players who made the team difficult to play against.

    Carle would do just that.

    Plus, he has an offensive upside and is a guy who can stay healthy. In the past three seasons that he has spent with the Flyers, Carle has put up 113 points, blocked 458 shots and missed only two games.

    He is consistent everywhere and stays healthy. This is a guy anyone would want on their blue line.

Shane Doan

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    A little bit of a stretch, but not as crazy as one might think—Shane Doan might be one of the sneakiest but savviest ideas out there.

    Doan would give the Avalanche more size up front, something that they are definitely lacking. He would give them a lot more grit and would make the team much more difficult to play against.

    He raises the intensity level in the locker room, as he is one of those guys who will say things when they need to be said.

    At the same time, he's a team guy who will stick up for any of his teammates at the drop of a hat.

    Put Doan with either Matt Duchene or Paul Stastny and watch both of their numbers skyrocket. Plus, he's a guy who has been a part of a franchise that has been not very good for a while.

    He would be coming to a team that is learning how to win.

    The mentality of "winning is the only result that is acceptable" is something that the younger players on the team would take a great deal from. 

    Doan's potential value to the Avalanche would go leaps and bounds above just the production he would bring. His mere presence would make this young team much better.

    Doan is a loyal guy and he would have to be convinced that there is nothing left for him in the Coyotes organization for him to leave.

    Of course, the ownership situation being what it is in Phoenix could be enough to send Doan looking for more stability.

Barret Jackman

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    Barret Jackman is a physical defender who has been laying punishing hits on opponents ever since he came into the league.

    Jackman is a stay-at-home kind of guy who could let Erik Johnson explore his creative side more often.

    His ability to get mean might also rub off more on Johnson, which would not be a bad thing. Johnson can sometimes try to be too much of a finesse guy. He should just realize that he's 6'4" tall and 232 pounds and just demolish a player.

    Not to mention that these guys have a history, having played on the Blues together.

    Is Jackman the right guy to be on the top defensive pairing?

    That is something not totally clear, but it would be worth it for the Avalanche to at least take a look at him.