Chris Stewart has been cut from the Avs roster and will play for Lake Erie at the start of the season. You could see that coming. Stewart was, besides Per Ledin, the only player remaining on the Avs roster who has never participated in an NHL game. He did not have to clear waivers and is on a two-way contract which made the decision for coaches and management easier to send him down. Stewart was very impressive in this year's pre-season scoring two assists in five games. After being part of the first roster cut last year Stewart was able to almost stay until the end. In the end, however, I think it will be the best for everyone if he gets to play some games in the AHL. He probably would have played 8 to 10 minutes a night and would have been rarely used on the power play and penalty kill. He gets to do all those things with the Monsters. He will get a lot of quality ice time down there and can work on the little things he needs to do better in order to survive training camp next year. If his progress continues in Lake Erie he might be called up at some point during the season (there are always injuries) and could take his chance to stay on the roster until the end of the year. Much like Cody McLeod or David Jones did last year.
What does this cut mean for the Avs? There are 27 players left. 8 of them defensemen. I think, Cumiskey will have to swallow the bitter pill and start the season in Lake Erie again. The battle up frong is pretty tough. Of the 17 forwards, three need to pack their bags and will face the same challenge as Stewart. There are some 'candidates' who are still fighting for the last spots on the roster. Those players are probably: Cody McLeod, Cody McCormick, Scott Parker, T.J. Hensick, Brian Willsie. Per Ledin, in my opinion, is save. They would have brought him over if they were not convinced that he could deliver at hockey's best level.
Parker is the designated heavyweight, which might put him ahead of some other guys. McLeod and McCormick play very similar styles of hockey. If Ledin stays, one or both of them might go back to the AHL this year. Hensick would be ready to play in the NHL but it is hard to find a spot for him on the roster. Sakic and Stastny center the top lines. Arnason is likely to be the center of the third line. The wingers for the top-six will be Smyth, Hejduk, Svatos, Wolski, and either Tucker or Jones. That does not leave a spot there for Hensick. Going back to Lake Erie would mean that he, like Stewart, could play a lot of quality minutes and improve his defensive play. If a player on the first two lines gets injured, expect Hensick to be the guy called up from the Monsters.
The last player fighting for a spot is Brian Willsie. Willsie would be a 14th forward and would only play if there is someone hurt or coach Granato wants to scratch someone because he is not pleased with that guy's play. I personally do not see any other role for Willsie. If he ends up making the roster he deserves the shot to prove that he belongs there, but if there is a player in Lake Erie playing better than Willsie he might find himself placed on waivers and may be some team will grab him there like Washington did in 2003 when Colorado left him unprotected in the waiver draft.