While the Stanley Cup finals are going on, and last night was an excellent game between the Pens and Red Wings, the Avs need to focus on their free agents to be, and start making decisions on who they should bring back, and who should be left to the free agent waters. I already started this offseason with looking at the Avs coaching free agent, and the Avs listened and let former coach Q go. (Of course they then re-promoted Granato, which didn't sit well with some fans.)
Now it's time to look at the players involved and the best place to start is in the crease, with the most internally controversial player in Avs history - Jose Theodore (who is pretty in pink).
Strengths: When he is on his game, Jose is very very good. There is a reason he won the Hart all those years ago. This season he played extremely well in the second half of the season backstopping the Avs to the #6 seed in the playoffs. The reason for his resurgence was his positioning. As he seemed to get his confidence back this season he started to come out and challenge shooters a lot more.
Not only was his positioning strong, but his technique seemed to be a lot stronger this season as well. Too often in the past Theo would be trying to be more like Hasek than Roy, making the great save instead of just making the save. As his technique improved this season his play did as well.
Weaknesses: He is inconsistent. He will give up soft goals, and a lot of times they are at inopportune times. He will have a great series of games (like the Wild series) but out of seemingly nowhere be awful for a few games (The Red Wings Series).
In a more technical sense, I still don't think his lateral movement is very good. He seems to have trouble going from side-to-side. Also while tips are extremely difficult for goaltenders, Theo seems to have a slower reaction to them than most.
Analysis: One thing that works in Theo's favor is that he is the top of the class of free agent goaltenders. Him and Cristobal Huet are the only real #1 caliber goaltenders on the market. After these two names like "Johan Hedberg" and "Jean-Sebastion Aubin", Jocelyn Thibault, Patrick Lalime, and those likes. There's some decent RFA's like Marc-Andre Fleury and Pascal LeClaire, btu the Avs don't have a 1st rounder to give even if they wanted to ttry and sign one of those guys to an offer sheet. The Avs could also deal for a guy like Jaroslav Halat in Montreal, or Gerber in Ottawa. They could roll the dice with Hasek too. (BWWAHAHAHAHAHAHA)
I don't fully trust Theo yet, it takes more than 1/2 a season of good play to earn my trust as a goalie. But he made great strides in '07-08. His miserable performance in the red wings series not withstanding he's pretty good, and the Avs have a reliable backup in Budaj if Theo falters again.
Verdict: Because of the extremely weak goalie market Theo could command a big payday. Jose seems to want to be back (even though agents always say that), and it would be the best fit for him. Hackett is an excellent coach and Theo still needs more time under his tutelage.
Tapeleg would like to see him test the free agency waters, but in my opinion any other option is just as risky as Theo. I think the avs should sign him. 2 years $4 - $4.5M/year sounds about right for a goalie of Theo's credentials, based on the current market (though I could see his price as high as $5.5M/year)
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