There’s only about a week until the Colorado Avalanche are expected to kick off the 2013 season and the storylines are already starting to take shape.
But before the season can start, plenty of things have to happen.
While the team was participating in a captain’s practice in Colorado on Friday, head coach Joe Sacco took some time to speak with members of the media about the upcoming season (via Mike Chambers of The Denver Post).
Ryan O’Reilly’s Contract Status
Ryan O’Reilly means a great deal to Colorado and losing him would be drastically detrimental to the overall caliber of the Avs. He’s currently a restricted free agent without a new deal in place for 2013.
“He is not available, and that’s a situation that will be with Greg Sherman, our general manager, and Ryan’s representatives,” Sacco said. “I think you all know how I feel about Ryan. He’s a good teammate. He’s a good player. From a coaching standpoint, we have 26 players here in camp, so it’s not much different when you have a guy injured. My focus is on the 26 guys that I have available.”
It’s unclear as to when O’Reilly’s representatives and Sherman can begin negotiating a new contract for one of Colorado’s top forwards, but once they do, things might not happen so quickly.
Chambers reports (via Adrian Dater of The Denver Post) that O’Reilly is seeking a five-year deal and Colorado is offering just three years. In essence, these negotiations might not be as smooth as one would hope.
O’Reilly was Colorado’s points leader in 2011-12 with 18 goals and 37 assists.
Who Makes the Roster?
Of the 26 players in attendance on Friday, six were players from Colorado’s AHL affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters. The team’s official Twitter noted that those players were Tyson Barrie, Stefan Elliott, Mark Olver, Patrick Bordeleau, Mike Sgarbossa and David Van der Gulik.
Sgarbossa is tied for the most goals on Lake Erie with 13 and sits second behind Andrew Agozzino in points with 28. Barrie, Van der Gulik and Olver all follow Sgarbossa in points with 27, 23 and 22, respectively. Bordeleau has accumulated seven points in 29 games for the Monsters.
Elliot hasn’t had a very good year with Lake Erie—racking up eight points in 33 games with a minus-five plus/minus rating. Despite the poor numbers, 48.4 percent of voters recently felt that he has the best shot at playing in the NHL this season over Duncan Siemens and Sgarbossa.
Per the team's Twitter account, Sacco said, “There will be some healthy internal competition on the ice for [roster] spots.”
With an overload of defensemen already expected to make the team, it will be tough for Elliott to sneak on. As it looks now, Sgarbossa most likely has the best shot at cutting the Avs' final roster.
What Will the Lines Look Like?
It’s going to be interesting to see what the lines will look like once the Avs take the ice next weekend, especially if O’Reilly is still unsigned.
“I’m going to try some different combinations over the next 5 days,” said Sacco (via Twitter). “It will play itself out.”
The first line of forwards is what’s really going to be up for debate until Colorado plays its season-opener. One combination that could work—without O’Reilly—would be Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene and P.A. Parenteau. Parenteau and Downie could also end up being wingers alongside of O’Reilly and Landeskog.
If O’Reilly does end up signing before the start of the season, he’d be a great candidate to play on the first line. If he is on the front line, he’ll likely play with Jamie McGinn and whoever isn’t on Duchene’s line, which could mean Landeskog, Downie or Parenteau.
As the season draws nearer, we may get a better picture from Sacco as to who will play on which line.