Colorado Avalanche: Reaction to the Avs' Free-Agent Signings Thus Far
Colorado's Greg Sherman has been a busy general manager over the past few days.
With several players scheduled to become restricted or unrestricted free agents in less than a month's time, Sherman has been working to first of all take care of the potential unrestricted free agents.
A few weeks ago, the the question of captain Milan Hejduk's future was answered when the Avs re-signed him for one more year at $2 million, as reported by The Denver Post.
On June 4th, the Avs extended scrappy winger Cody McLeod. Like Hejduk, McLeod's future with the Avs was up in the air after last season, but the Avs elected to keep his services around with a three-year deal worth $3.45 million.
McLeod is limited in terms of offensive production, but he is a guy who plays hard and has established himself as a leader within the Avalanche club. He wore the alternate captain's "A" on a rotating basis for the beginning part of the 2011-2012 campaign.
Despite the fact that he's signed for three more years, that certainly is no guarantee that the Highlander will still be here in Colorado during the summer of 2015. As a fourth liner, he will still be fighting for ice time and may be a buy or sell piece at any given trade deadline given his bargain cap hit.
The Avs' biggest concern going into this offseason is their wingers. They addressed that need in part by signing David Jones to a four-year, $16 million contract extension.
Hampered by injuries early in his career, Jones has established himself as a legitimate goal scorer in the NHL by posting two consecutive 20-goal seasons.
While $4 million per year may be a lot for a guy who has never scored more than 45 points in a season, Jones is a good fit for this Avalanche team and proved to have good, solid chemistry with linemates Paul Stastny and Jamie McGinn at the end of last season.
Sure, the Avs could have let Jones walk and tried to sign a big-name free agent who will hit the open market next month.
Devils captain Zach Parise and Washington's Alex Semin are among the two biggest names who will be out there, but both of those players will command a lot more money than Jones, and chances are slim that they'd pick Colorado out of 29 teams to begin with.
The Avs did not want to risk letting Jones walk and end up with nothing in return. The Avs let free agents Tomas Fleischmann and Brian Elliott walk last summer, and both had very good seasons with their new clubs.
In probably the most surprising move the Avs have made this summer, defenseman Matt Hunwick was re-signed for two years at $3.2 million.
This move is surprising given the fact that Hunwick was a healthy scratch for pretty much the entire first half of the season last year and only played in 33 total games.
Coach Joe Sacco was impressed by Hunwick's play down the stretch, and he was complemented by coaches and teammates alike for being a consummate professional during the time in which he was not in the lineup.
This move is also puzzling due to the Avs' core of young, up-and-coming defensemen like Stefan Elliott, Tyson Barrie, Cameron Gaunce and Duncan Siemens.
With Hunwick back, will one of these prospects ultimately be moved? And which of these players do the Avs see as future staples of their blue line?
I would not be surprised to see Barrie and/or Gaunce moved.
The Rest of the UFAs
Now, the only players who will become unrestricted players on July 1st are Shane O'Brien and Jay McClement.
I really hope they re-sign O'Brien for his size, physicality and leadership.
While McClement took a while to adjust to playing for the Avs, his play picked up as last season went on and he was an integral cog in the Avs' improved penalty-killing unit.
I wouldn't mind if they kept him around, just as long as they do not overpay for the fourth-line center.