UFA Options: Colorado Avalanche

UFA Options is a continuing series that gives a brief run-down of the unrestricted free agent market this summer, team-by-team. Our next team for consideration is the Colorado Avalanche.

The failure that was the Avalanche’s season resulted in the dismissal of general manager Francois Giguere, and may yet also cost coach Tony Granato his job. Whoever inherits the team (Patrick Roy?) has a few good assets, with most of the top-six locked up for another season, but he also will have a bunch of decisions to make on the bottom half of the roster. The team has eight regulars slated for unrestricted free agency; the headliner is captain Joe Sakic (great video above) but after him it’s a group of depth players.


  • Age is calculated based on how old the player will be during the 2009-10 season.
  • QualComp/QualTeam are the Quality of Competition/Teammates rankings from Behind the Net; the number appearing is each player’s ranking by position (forward/defense) on his own team.
  • Def/Off Faceoffs is a comparison of the total number of shifts starting in the defensive and offensive zones, courtesy of Vic Ferrari’s Time On Ice. A positive number indicates starting more in the defensive zone, a negative number the opposite.
  • All advanced statistics are courtesy of Behind the Net.

Joe Sakic

Vital Stats: 40 years old, 5’11”, 195lbs
2008-09 Cap Hit: 6,000,000 US$
2008-09 Basic Stats: 15GP – 2G – 10A – 12PTS, -6
2008-09 Contextual: 1st QualComp, 17th QualTeam, +8 Def/Off Faceoffs
2008-09 Advanced Stats: -8.4 Corsi/60, 1.67 EVPTS/60, 2.34 GFON/60, 4.68 GAON/60

One of the game’s all-time greats and a sure-fire future member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, at this point it seems likely that Joe Sakic will retire. Rumour has it that he’s simply waiting until after the Stanley Cup is awarded, not wanting to detract from the playoffs. If he does decide to play another season, it’s all but impossible to picture him with any club other than Colorado.

Tyler Arnason

Vital Stats: 30 years old, 5’11”, 204lbs
2008-09 Cap Hit: 1,675,000 US$
2008-09 Basic Stats: 71GP – 5G – 17A – 22PTS, -16
2008-09 Contextual: 5th QualComp, 10th QualTeam, -26 Def/Off Faceoffs
2008-09 Advanced Stats: -4.7 Corsi/60, 1.25 EVPTS/60, 1.95 GFON/60, 3.07 GAON/60

Since hitting a career high in goals and points (22 and 55, respectively) prior to the lockout, Arnason’s scoring touch has been getting less and less visible. His totals in every statistical category – goals, assists, points, and plus/minus – all represent career lows for the free agent centre. He was placed in a relatively difficult situation by coach Tony Granato this season, but even so he doesn’t add much of a physical presence and if he isn’t scoring than he’s simply not bringing much to the table. He’ll likely rebound to some degree, but at this point he’s a reclamation project. He was a healthy scratch at points during the season, and his NHL career may be in some jeopardy.

Ian Laperriere

Vital Stats:35 years old, 6’1”, 200lbs
2008-09 Cap Hit: 1,150,000 US$
2008-09 Basic Stats: 74GP – 7G – 12A – 19PTS, EV
2008-09 Contextual: 11th QualComp, 3rd QualTeam, +21 Def/Off Faceoffs
2008-09 Advanced Stats: -6.0 Corsi/60, 1.38 EVPTS/60, 1.92 GFON/60, 1.99 GAON/60

Ian Laperriere’s season has been favourably commented on by many; it isn’t hard to see why, either. He’s a tough veteran of more than 1000 NHL games, he kills penalties, he fights and always brings a physical edge. On the other hand, he really doesn’t bring much in the way of offense. He’s a good support player and an ideal fit on a championship team’s fourth line (although he can also be called upon to play a third line role). He’s also been remarkably durable over his career. The only reason for caution here is that he’s probably going to get some decent contract offers this summer, and not many teams can afford to add more money to their bottom six.

Brian Willsie

Vital Stats:31 years old, 6’1”, 202lbs
2008-09 Cap Hit: 600,000 US$
2008-09 Basic Stats: 42GP – 1G – 3A – 4PTS, -6
2008-09 Contextual: 15th QualComp, 7th QualTeam, +44 Def/Off Faceoffs
2008-09 Advanced Stats: -3.9 Corsi/60, 0.58 EVPTS/60, 0.87 GFON/60, 1.89 GAON/60

Brian Willsie’s a fairly generic fourth-line player, both for good and bad; he doesn’t add much offense, but he’s an honest player and knows how to make safe, conservative plays. He’s the kind of relatively cheap addition that can play whatever role is asked of him and isn’t hurt by long stretches in the press box.

Ben Guite

Vital Stats:31 years old, 6’1”, 211lbs
2008-09 Cap Hit: 475,000 US$
2008-09 Basic Stats: 50GP – 5G – 7A – 12PTS, +2
2008-09 Contextual: 13th QualComp, 2nd QualTeam, -41 Def/Off Faceoffs
2008-09 Advanced Stats: -4.7 Corsi/60, 1.44 EVPTS/60, 2.16 GFON/60, 2.04 GAON/60

I’ve always like Ben Guite, another plugger who has had an improbable NHL career after starting out in the ECHL and spending years as a relatively low-scoring AHL player. He put up unremarkable numbers in a sheltered role on a bad team and isn’t a liability. I’ve always been impressed whenever I’ve seen him play but he isn’t likely to ever be much more than veteran depth.

Daniel Tjarnqvist


Vital Stats:33 years old, 6’2”, 201lbs
2008-09 Cap Hit: 750,000 US$
2008-09 Basic Stats: 37GP – 2G – 2A – 4PTS, +1
2008-09 Contextual: 8th QualComp, 8th QualTeam, -35 Def/Off Faceoffs
2008-09 Advanced Stats: +1.1 Corsi/60, 0.49 EVPTS/60, 2.08 GFON/60, 1.83 GAON/60

I’m an unabashed fan of Tjarnqvist, a very capable defensemen with some serious injury woes. He got into the NHL via expansion, spending three seasons with the Atlanta Thrashers before signing on with Minnesota post-lockout. He was quite good during his season in Edmonton, although injuries limited him to 37 games. Because of his injury problems he can’t be relied on to be more than a depth defenseman, but he comes cheap and when healthy is an above average third-pairing option.

Lawrence Nycholat

Vital Stats:30 years old, 6’, 200lbs
2008-09 Cap Hit: 550,000 US$
2008-09 Basic Stats: 19GP – 3G – 5A – 8PTS, +19
2008-09 Contextual: 6th QualComp, 2nd QualTeam, -1 Def/Off Faceoffs
2008-09 Advanced Stats: -9.2 Corsi/60, 0.34 EVPTS/60, 2.40 GFON/60, 2.06 GAON/60

Nycholat matched his career high with 19 NHL games this season, split between Colorado and Vancouver (although he was also briefly the property of the Calgary Flames). He’s an excellent AHL defenseman, bringing a combination of hard-nosed physical play and offensive ability. He’s not the most reliable guy in his own end, but is a good option as a reserve player and occasional callup. He could also help a club with an exceptionally young AHL blueline.

Andrew Raycroft

Vital Stats: 29 years old, 6’, 185 lbs
2008-09 Cap Hit: 800,000 US$
2008-09 Basic Stats: 31GP, 12-16-0, 3.14 GAA, .892 SV%

Raycroft, rather predictably, was not the answer in net for Colorado. Raycroft won the Calder Trophy in 2003-04, but fell apart after the lockout. Since the lockout he’s posted save percentages of .879, .894, .876 and .892 this season. At this point, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him make the jump to Europe; I doubt any NHL team would want him much higher than #3 on their depth chart.

  • ~sign that Raycroft kid, Peeters can turn him around just like he did with Salo, Conklin, Maarkanen, and Garon!~

    The only reason i would even be interested in seeing Arnason in Oiler silks is because he always seems to score against us. So I want to see if it's something in the Edmontonian water. Overall the Avs have some weak options for UFAs, NEXT!

  • Hard to believe how little production COL got out of that ~12 mil in cap room – got to think think they'll get better production out of some of that money next season when they spend that money on the UFA market. They probably get better goaltending as well.

    Nearly all of Sakic's freed up money (should he retire) money goes to Stastny's raise (another huge problem for COL this past year, Stastny only playing 45 games), so they've really only got 6-8 mil to spend, probably looking for a goalie, a top 9F and a D of some sort. COL has a very simple summer coming up though, no pending RFA's or UFA's of huge significance to deal with.

    I suppose if they draft Duchene, and feel he's ready to play as an 18 year old, that would take a bite out of their available cap room since he'll probably carry a 3 mil cap hit. I think teams are allowed to go over the cap for bonuses, but it wouldn't surprise me, if they draft Duchene, if they send him back to the OHL anyways, see how he does without Hodgson (who, presumably, will make the Canucks).

  • meant to add that I remember reading, somewhere, that teams will be allowed to go over the cap again for bonuses in 09/10 (unlike last year, the first year they weren't in the new CBA), but I haven't actually seen that confirmed anywhere.

  • I'm pretty sure Tjarnqvist recently signed with a team in Russia.

    Laperriere is really the only Colorado UFA I'd like to add. He can play center and wing, by all accounts he's always been well respected and liked in the locker room, and he makes life hard on opposing teams' players. Plus, if he's an Oiler, Moreau won't have to fight him every game. He's no spring chicken though, so a 1 year deal would be all I'd be willing to commit to him.

    Like you, I've always noticed Guite whenever I've watched the Avs play. He's one of those guys who's nice to have as a 4th liner/13th forward, but that's hardly a need at this point. I'm thinking we could probably get the same out of a number of players already in our system.

  • For a career-AHLer, Nycholat does put up some impressive numbers: 19 games, 8 points, and an exceptional +19 — with Colorado, I don't have to add.

    With a team possessing reasonable depth on defense, this guy might be able to make a notable contribution as a third-liner at a very reasonable price.

  • Just a thought:
    Both Cogliano and Wolski are late first round draft successes. Both Cogliano and Wolski are under contract next season before heading to RFA status. Both Cogliano and Wolski have been held back due to organizational depth at their respective positions. The Oilers need a first line L.W. with size/finesse to play with Hemsky. The Avalanche need a speedy/skilled center to play down the depth chart from Stastny after Sakic retires. Why now swap?