The much anticipated free agency review is finally here. I delayed it because the Avs have been curiously quiet with their re-signings until now. After learning that they were talking to both Sauer and Finger they went and re-signed Liles and Foote, leaving little to no room for Finger or Sauer (and no room for both of them).
The first step to having a solid free agency signing period is to identify needs and means. First the means: NHLnumbers has the Avs cap commitment next season as $28.08M. This doesn't include either the Foote or Liles signing, or any of the money set aside for the RFAs (Wolski, Cody Mc's or Svats Machine). That adds another ~$7.1M for Foote and Liles and ~$5.5M for the RFAs (I can't find what the qualifying offers are, I know it's out there, but I thought it was $3M for Wolski, $1.2M for Svats and $750k for the Mc's. If anyone knows the numbers i wouldn't mind a correction). This leaves the Avs with about $15.5M for free agency, most of which should go into the forwards.
Addendum 1: Thanks to comments stalwart the doctor (matt) I have some numbers for the Avs qualifying offers: I was firthest off on Wolski whose offer was $900k which is way off from my original estimae of $3M. Add another $2M or so on the available money. the Mc's were closer to $500k than $750k too. Svats was ~$1M meaning the Avs will probably spend a grand total of $3M not $5.5M on RFA's.)
Now that we've identified the means we should start looking at the needs and the strategy. We'll work from the back out.
Disclaimer: Many of the Free Agents have been re-signed with their teams. I tried to keep up-to-date on all these, but there was a lot going on, both in hockey and my life. It's possible I have a UFA listed when they are in fact re-signed by their team.
Since Theo seems intent on testing the Free Agency waters it looks like the Avs will be looking to see if Budaj can grab the #1 goalie job. I think he can, but it's far from certain. The Avs have 3 options:
a) Sign a #1 caliber goalie. These consist of Emery, Huet and Theo. Emery's a headcase and Huet is probably going back to Washington. The avs could gamble with emery, but it doesn't seem like a good idea. Besides why would any of these three want to come in and compete for the #1 job when they can be the #1 in many places.
b) Trust the backup spot to Weiman or Wall. The problem with this is that Weiman and Wall aren't exactly rated as high prospects. If the Avs had Martin Brodeur on the team, i'd say yes... but they don't.
Addendum 2 I completely forgot about Avs goalie Bacashihua who may just be a young capable backup. He has some NHL experience with the Blues too. This is a better option than Weiman or Wall, but I'd still be more comfortable with option "c" below
c) That leaves the last, and best, option. Sign a capable backup that could start if Budaj falters. The problem is that the list of available goalies looks about as appetizing as week old seafood buffet. Out of the list linked to above the names that "stick out" (and I mean that in the loosest sense) are Johan Holmqvist of Dallas, Stephane Valiquette of the NYR, and Jocelyn Thibault of Buffalo. If you look at the '08 cap hit for goalies of this caliber I would put them in the Legace/Raycroft/Osgood/Hiller territory. In fact I think slightly more than Hiller money is appropriate for these guys.
Should be targets:
Holmqvist or Valiquette for 3-years @$1-1.5M/season
Thibault, Lalime, Joseph
Dear God stay away from:
Hedberg, Raycroft, Emery
The Avs have an extremely solid top 6 defensemen for next season. They have also have Cumisky waiting in the wings and will see some time this season (especially once Leoprone has his annual 2+ week injury). The problem is depth here. The Wild and Canucks both had their season ended prematurely basically because they didn't have enough depth on the blueline to deal with injuries. The Avs season was extended mainly because they had that depth (and traded for it too). I would like to see the Avs re-sign Finger today but he very well could look to go to a team where he won't be the #7 guy (and frankly he would deserve it). If they can't sign Finger the Avs should go after some scrub like Rory Fitzpatrick or some other no-namer.
Should be target:
Finger (3 years-$0.75-1.5M/season)
For the love of god, don't sign
Sean Hill. Anyone other than Finger who wants more than about $600k/year
Now it gets interesting... and since I've babbled on enough we'll make this it's own separate post. It deserves it.