Sakic walking fine line in free agency as big deals loom
DENVER (AP) - Joe Sakic's Wishlist for Free Agencies: Depth and More Depth.
That's no real surprise after Colorado's injury-related season.
The hard part for the Avalanche general manager is growing an already talented cadre during this time with a flat salary cap ($ 81.5 million) that could be extended.
Sakic is well aware of the budget considering what's ahead of us next season - upcoming deals for captain Gabriel Landeskog, rookie of the year Cale Makar and goalkeeper Philipp Grubauer.
Because of this, the forward-looking Hall of Fame team leader is walking a fine line to improve on a team knocked out in the second round in the last two seasons.
"You have to be really careful about the future," Sakic said on a video call Monday. "You have to have depth to win. ... We feel like we are trying to put together the deepest possible team to make a run this year."
The Avalanche strengthened their blue line on Monday by picking up defenseman Devon Toews from the New York Islanders in exchange for being selected in the second round in 2021 and 22. The 26-year-old Toews had six goals and 22 assists in 68 games in 2019-20.
Colorado also took a big step over the weekend by acquiring die-hard striker Brandon Saad and defender Dennis Gilbert in a deal with Chicago. In return, the Avalanche sent defenders Nikita Zadorov and Anton Lindholm to the Blackhawks. Chicago will also keep $ 1 million from Saad's $ 6 million salary for the next season.
"We think he'll be a good fit," said Sakic of Saad.
Colorado also signed restricted free agent strikers Andre Burakovsky and Valeri Nichushkin on two-year contracts. Burakovsky received $ 9.8 million and Nichushkin's deal is worth $ 5 million.
In the contract area, Sakic has already started preliminary talks with Landeskog, who is entering the final year of his contract. Discussions began during the reboot in Edmonton, where the injured Avalanche reached the semifinals of the Western Conference before being eliminated by Dallas in extra time in Game 7.
"We want something to be done during the year," said Sakic. "But if it has to go through the year, we're confident - we have a pretty good relationship with Gabe - that we can find out something by next year."
"Everyone is figuring out where the landscape will be here in the next few years."
Makar is also soon to face a new deal, and its market value rose after a season that culminated in winning the Calder Trophy. He had 12 goals and 38 assists in 57 regular season games. Makar, who turns 22 on October 30th, did it again in the postseason with four goals and eleven assists.
According to CapFriendly, Grubauer can become an unrestricted free agent after the next season. He went 18-12-4 when dealing with complaints.
"Whatever we do this year, we wanted to make sure we kept our flexibility to sign the guys we had to sign from our own group," said Sakic. "It's a different situation. It becomes more difficult for many teams. You see it in the marketplace, in the free agency. In other years, many people who are just out there would have signed up by now."
Saad certainly likes what he sees in the emerging avalanche. They remind him of the two Stanley Cup teams he was on with the Blackhawks.
"Just the elite talent they have," Saad said. "It's one of those teams where they can't even have their best night, but they can only get away with talent." ... you have a good system. They also have a lot of depth. All of these result in championship teams.
"When we won in Chicago, it was kind of a formula where you have that depth every night that someone will pull through."
Those who have already reached Saad include defender Erik Johnson, successful goalscorer Nathan MacKinnon and Landeskog.
"You have played them for the last few years and you know they will always be a tough group," said Saad, who scored 21 goals and 12 assists in 58 games last season. "I couldn't be more excited." Join a great ice hockey team. "
As a replacement for Zadorov's physical presence, Sakic said it could be Conor Timmins or Bowen Byram, the team's fourth pick in 2019.
Now there are Toews in the mix too.
"We're always trying to improve. It will never stop," said Sakic. "We'd like to try to add (defense) there for deep purposes too. We had a lot of injuries in the playoffs and we want reinforcements. "
NOTES: Colorado has redeemed defense attorney Ryan Graves for three years to avoid arbitration. ... Sakic said the team sent an offer to restricted free agent striker Tyson Jost.
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