With July 1st and the draft quickly approaching, rumors about every team in the NHL are flying, but I have read few involving my beloved Avalanche. What is not a rumor is that the 2008/9 Avalanche roster is largely up in the air.
Jose Theodore is supposedly ironing out the details of his contract.
Fowards? Defense? Not so much.
Brunette, Sakic, Forsberg, Wolski, Svatos, McLeod, McCormick, Richardson, Parker, Finger, Foote, Liles, and Saur.
Half of the Avs' starting roster from last season could be playing in different sweaters come October. Hlinka has already headed back to Europe.
Among those players, the most interesting situation lies with Svatos and Wolski. Both are RFA's, but GM Giggy had better get them wrapped up by July 1 or we could have a Kevin Lowe lightning bolt hit the Pepsi Center. Add Cody McLeod as an honorable mention to that list. While no Thomas Vanek, he was was solid enough in last year's post-season, especially against the Wild, to possibly draw some interest from somewhere.
Finger and Saur were reported by the Denver Post to be getting their deals done, which is nice, but the other two guys, Foote and Liles, especially Liles, are exponentially more vital to the success of this team. The Avs held on to JML at the deadline last year, which was absolutely the right decision... unless he walks away next month for nothing.
I have read rumors the Bruno will not be coming back, which is not good news. Bruno has been the 2nd most consistent producing Avalanche player (after Sakic) since he joined the team. I think a lot of fans, myself included, too often take him and his work behind the net for granted. Bruno goes to work every night and puts points on the board. On a team where Hejduk, Arnason, Svatos, and Wolksi all pull the Houdini disappearing act from time to time, Bruno's play should not be overlooked or undervalued.
If Sakic plays, he will play for the Avalanche. But will he play? Probably, but with each day that passes, retirement seems more and more of a possibility.
Likewise with Forsberg, but the real kicker being what will he be paid if he plays? Without Peter Forsberg, the Avs don't make the playoffs last season, so if he can get reasonably healthy, the Avalanche need him A) for what he does on the ice and B) for what he does in the ticket office. I think we will see Forsberg do the Selanne/Neidermeyer trick this year.
Should Sakic, Forsberg, Bruno, Liles, and Foote all leave, the Avalanche have some pretty big skates to fill next season. Their departures would leave GM Giggy with a gigantic wad of cash to bring in some new faces. $25 million according to nhlnumbers.com.
T.J. Hensick and David Jones are ready to be NHL players. They are not ready to be every night, first line, NHL players. They showed good jump last year, but throwing them on a second line with the astonishingly inconsistent Ty Arnason doesn't sound so hot. The only certainty from that line will be TJ and Davey getting a dozen assists against the Canucks.
Rumors are that the Avs are interested in Brian Campbell (what NHL team is not?) I do not see the logic in signing Campbell for big money when Liles can bring you much of the same for less money plus his potential is huge. Puck moving defensemen are the hottest commodity in the NHL right now, so the Avalanche had better sign one of them.
Hejduk continues to be a solid two way player with great hands, but his Rocket Richard season numbers are not likely to return. Smyth is an outstanding player, arguably the team's best in the playoffs last year, but he is not a 40 goal scorer either. Paul Stastny is ready to carry to Avalanche torch should Sakic retire, but without some new faces around, the Avs have a long way to go before becoming legitimate contenders.
Forsberg, Foote, and Sakic? Sundin, Marleau, or Hossa?
The 2008/9 Avalanche could be virtually identical to the 07/08 Avalanche, but the possibility of big change is certainly out there.
The next few months should be interesting.