NHL Free Agency: What Will Free Agent Day Look Like for the Avalanche?

Kevin Goff@@BrgBrigadeKevinContributor IJune 25, 2011

With the conclusion of the NHL Draft, the focus shifts from who is my team going to draft, to who is my team going to make a run at in free agency?

The NHL announced just before the draft that next season's salary cap is going to take quite a large jump up to $64.3 million.

With this new number, and with the recent trade that sent long-time Avalanche defenseman John-Michael Liles to Toronto, the Avalanche now sit with an astonishing $34 million of cap space.

This looks a lot like where the Avalanche were just before free agency last season, which, of course, sent fans into an absolute cluster of speculation and desires for who the Avalanche should sign coming into free agency.

The Avalanche still have a few free agents to deal with from their own roster, so let's talk about what is going to happen there first.

At the moment, the Avalanche have the following restricted free agents:

T.J. Galliardi, David Jones, Kevin Porter, Phillipe Dupuis, Ryan O'Byrne, Kyle Cumiskey, Ryan Wilson, and Brian Elliott.

Galliardi, Jones, Porter, O'Byrne, Wilson, and Elliott are the players that I see as the most likely to be re-signed by the team.

The Avalanche have a lot of centers right now, so Dupuis could be expendable or good trade bait, or just might be sent down to Lake Eerie if he is re-signed.

Cumiskey has had several chances to prove that he is a worthwhile part of the team and has only shown the ability to be useful in short bursts that are never very long-lasting.

Plus, he's injury prone and spent the vast majority of this past season on injured reserve and was completely ineffective when he was in the line-up.

I was highly disappointed with the Avalanche when they re-signed waste of space defenseman Matt Hunwick to another one-year deal, but in my mind that makes Cumiskey all the more expendable.

The Avalanche have to realize that they were far too small on defense last year, and keeping Cumiskey would only prolong their problems on the blue line.

Elliott is really 50/50 for me, in that he might stay, but he might stick around. Whatever he does, he is not a long-term solution in net.

The unrestricted free agents on the roster are Tomas Fleischmann, David Koci, and Peter Budaj.

Peter Budaj seems to be a foregone conclusion that he will no longer be with the Avalanche next season.

No real surprise there as Budaj has never shown to be anything more than a back-up that could never put it together enough to be a starter.

David Koci put in some good minutes on defense towards the end of last season, but I would be shocked if he is re-signed.

Koci mostly served as the message Joe Sacco wanted to send to a player on the roster: "I'd rather play Koci for four minutes than you for whatever your usual amount of time is."

Tomas Fleischmann is a hard one to predict. I want him back on the roster because of the amazing chemistry that he had with Matt Duchene.

He scored 21 points in 22 games and had the offense really clicking before he went out for the season with a pulmonary embolism.

At the moment, the Avalanche have not yet offered him another contract and may be expecting that Peter Mueller will fill his void for next season, provided that he doesn't get another concussion that keeps him out for the year.

Draft pick Gabriel Landeskog should be signed to the rookie maximum with no problems, and Avalanche fans can most likely expect to see him dawning the burgundy and blue at the start of next season.

So what will the Avalanche do with free agency?

Probably not a lot.

I know that Avalanche fans don't like to hear that, but about the only thing that we can expect from the Avalanche either on free agent day or before free agent day, is for them to get a solid starting goalie.

Top on the prospective goalie free agent list is current Florida goalie Tomas Vokoun, who apparently wouldn't mind it too much if the Avalanche did offer him a contract.

Outside of Vokoun, the Avalanche have choices of Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Marty Turco, or possibly even Mike Smith from Tampa.

If the Avalanche don't want to spend money on those guys in free agency, then they would really have to trade for a goalie as it is still far too early to bring in highly touted prospect Calvin Pickard into the NHL fray.

Outside of goaltending, this year's free agent class really does lack the flashiness of last year's group with the exception of Brad Richards who will most likely end up in either Toronto or New York.

The Avalanche could try and make a run at veteran defenders like Kevin Bieksa to help shore up the blue line, but the Avalanche do currently have a lot of defenders on the roster.

They could, however, use that to their advantage and try and set Ryan Wilson as some type of trade bait.

The Avalanche could also use some more size on their checking lines and might consider going after somebody like Chris Higgins or Joel Ward, both of whom play wing and had pretty good playoff performances.

At the end of the day, I think that the Avalanche will once again play it very slow in free agency, with the exception of finding a goalie.

Something that will no doubt frustrate Avalanche fans, but will also stay true to their "build from within" philosophy.

Don't forget, Matt Duchene will be up for a new contract at the end of next season, as will Ryan O'Reilly and Erik Johnson. So leaving some space to re-sign all of those guys long term is a smart move.

So while the slow pace of free agency will no doubt frustrate fans of the Avalanche, and I'm sure it will frustrate me as well, this could actually be the right way to go.

Build it to last, not for a one and done.


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