With already 22 contracts, and the soon to be signed MacKinnon, the Avalanche already had a full roster making for a slow free agency season. The Avs put both Hunwick and Zanon on waivers with the hopes that one or both would get picked up by another team. No one was interested, leading to Zanon being bought out earlier today. The Avs did not use one or their two compliance buyout, electing to use a standard meaning Zanon will earn two thirds of his remaining, 2.25 million, with 750k appearing on the cap hit for the next two seasons.
This officially frees up a roster spot and allows us to speculate on the possible target the Avs management have their eyes on.
With the top three lines already being penciled, the team’s needs look to be a 4th line RW and a Top 4 defenseman, which would be of higher priority as the 4 line RW can easily be filled out by either Bordeleau or McLeoad shifting to their off wing, or a promotion from Lake Erie, such as Mike Sgarbossa, a natural Center however, a right-handed shooter, who had a strong season in the AHL finishing with 19 goals and 44 points in 57 games as well as playing the the AHL All-Star game.
This brings me to the Top 4 Defenseman possibilities. Here are a few names management might make a bid on when free agency officially opens its doors.
Possibly the best UFA blueliner available this year, Ference ios coming off two strong seasons with the Boston Bruins. Ference is not the biggest d-men however likes to hit (1.9 hit/game this past season) and excels both in the PP and PK units.
Bigger than Ference, Hainsey is more of a shutdown defenseman who can also put up points. Although he has not found the back of the net in over two seasons, he has put up as many as 9 goals in a season and can log plenty of minutes, proven by is 22.86 average TOI this past season.
Another defenseman with more offensive potential, Gilbert has a good first pass out of the zone and could be a decent second pairing. Considered a big guy, Gilbert does not throw his body around much, with only 24 hits and 57 blocks this past season, and has just been bought out by the Minnesota Wild.
Similar style to Gilbert, with more offense and less defense, has seen him numbers drop since leaving Toronto however had the best season of his career only two years ago.
Possibility: Low (Former Red Wing, might not be welcomed)
Shutdown defenseman coming off a playoff run with Pittsburgh, hits a lot and a decent shot blocker, possibly the best mold to help the Avs after Ference.
Mentionables: Marek Zidlicky (Offensive-minded), Rob Scuderi (Defensive minded, likely to re-sign with LA)
The Defense being the biggest need to improve the team and with Zanon gone, the Avalanche should be targeting a shutdown defenseman after finishing 27th in the league in goals against. I would not be surprised however if a more offensive minded blueliner was signed considering the D had all of 5 goals for the Avs last season.
Tomorrow looks to be a quiet day for the Avs but look for them to make one signing to help the blueline next season.