Picking the Avs man-meat acquisition(s) for '08 (i.e Free Agency-Part 3)

Addendum See last post for updates to salary structures

Time to look at the forwards. After sifting through the Defense and Goalies the Avs will be left with approximately $13-13.5M $15M for free agency. The Avs have several issues at forward, but first let's quickly recap the Sakic situation (despite talking about it plenty last week):

Despite the panic at the Denver Post, where every scribe seems to think this is "messy" and has handcuffed the Avs, the solution is eminently workable considering the Avs shouldn't be looking to go after one of the really big free agents this season. The only way it handcuffs the Avs is if Sakic wants last seasons salary. Considering he had an off season hampered by injuries and he's 38 it would be unreasonable for him to expect last years pay-day anyways (Remember he was coming off a 100-pt season for last years contract). Now factor in his retirement waffling and his desire to win one last cup with the Avs and the chances that he is getting $6M+ is minimal. I am positive FG and Sakic have talked and a strategy has already been developed. I think it means setting aside $4M for Sakic and using the remaining money for free agents. It's really that easy.

The Avs shouldn't be looking to eat up all their cap space anyways, because next season Stastny will want an extension and signing a big name this season could hinder that effort, which is a doomsday scenario. So keeping $4M around that might not get used isn't the worst idea anyways.

So here's the Avs depth chart in forward right now (assuming the RFA's re-sign here):

1st- Smyth Statny Hejduk
2nd- Wolski Arnason Svats
4th- McLeod Hensik Jones
CHK- McCormick Guite Lappy

So with the Sakic money set aside the Avs have about $9M $11M to spend. Even if the Avs get Sakic back, they could really use another center. Arnason had a stretch of 22 games last season where he scored 4 points (3 of those against the Oilers). That won't cut it on an NHL roster. Hensik looks like he needs one more season platooning back and forth from Erie (even though DD makes the solid case he should be getting good minutes) but I don't think anyone thinks he is good enough for 2nd line centering duties yet.

Dater also thinks a center upgrade is needed, although he thinks a checking line center is more appropriate. He mentions Yelle (one of my all-time favorite Avs) and Peca:

I’d really look hard for a third-line center, a guy who can play some defense, a guy with speed. Is Mike Peca a little long in the tooth for such a role? Perhaps. But he’s a guy I might think about pretty hard. He played in the Cup Finals just two years ago with the Oilers, and he’s got talent. The problem is, he’s getting older and he’s hurt a lot.

But I definitely think the time has come to dump Tyler Arnason from a third-line role, and just get a guy in there who wants to check and play good defense. The Avs need a shutdown, checking line, period.

Stephane Yelle is also going to be available. Does Yeller still have something left in the tank? I think he could give the Avs a good year, for sure. Don’t be shocked if that happens. He still has a place in the Denver area, by the way, and I know he never liked leaving here.
I think Guite is well suited to checking line center duties and finding a center who plays defense and chips in with some points is ideal. He needs to be able to fill that 2nd line role if called upon (considering both Sakic and Stastny had significant injuries last season, that is not far-fetched.) I took Mirtle's list of top scoring forwards and broke it down a little more. I added some players who intrigued me, cut out RFA's and calculated the points per 20 minutes of ice time (p/20). Here's how they fared:
Name ES-Points
PP-P PP-P/20
Mats Sundin 48
29 1.77
Martin Straka 31
9 0.86
Joe Sakic 21
19 1.65
Jason Williams 17
19 2.03
Curtis Brown 9
0 0.00
Josef Vasicek 28
5 0.88
Sergei Fedorov 22
17 1.28
Brenden Morrison 11
14 2.14
Yannic Perault 12
1 0.44
Michael Peca 19
14 1.66
Stu Barnes 17
0 0.00
Stephane Yelle 11
0 0.00

A few interesting names pop up here. The most intriguing to me is Brenden Morrison. He wore the "C" in Vancouver and would be an ideal fit between two young players, like Jones and McLeod or Wolski and Svatos. He is also good enough to jump up inot 2nd and even first line action for extended periods of time. Before last season (when he was mainly hurt) he was averaging about 2:00/game on the PK. He's 33 so he has a few good years in him still and his market value is down because he was hurt last season. Look at those powerplay points as well. Of all the players listed in that group (which includes Sakic and Sundin) Morrison has the highest points per 20 on the powerplay. The Avs could use another scorer (and center) on the powerplay.

The next name that pops up is an old nemesis: Sergei Federov. The guy was overpaid in Columbus leading many to believe he's washed up. But he still averages over 1/2 per 20 minutes of ice time. He also was getting 1:15/game on the penalty kill. He's shown the ability to adjust to 3rd line duties as well, but would be right in place on a second line. Federov also won 55.6% of his face-offs last season (an area the Avs are miserable in)

The other name that caught my eye was Dater's suggestion, Michael Peca. While not quite as proficient a scorer as Federov or Morrison, he still scores at just under 1 point every-other game. He also is a superb penalty killer and he could team with Guite to form the best PKing duo since the Yelle-Keene heydays. He could also be inserted onto the Guite-Lappy line to hold leads late in games. He has a respectable 52.7% face-off win percentage last season.

Yelle is also an interesting option, he certainly can still play shutdown defense and has a respectable 50.4% face-off percentage. But the way this team is set up, I think he would be a little wasted. He certainly can't fill a top 2 center position on this team. He would be a good backup plan if any of the other three are too expensive.

My Pick:

Brenden Morrison (3 years $3-3.5M/year)

Michael Peca, Sergei Federov, Stephane Yelle

For the love of god no:
Yannic Perault


If you look at the Avs lineup above I think they could use one more wing. Hejduk and Smyth are top notch, Wolski is good. The Svats machine is a nice player too, but I'd feel much more comfortable if someone could replace Brunette's production. I broke down the wings the same way I did the centers and here's my results (left wings listed first):

Left Wings
Name ES-Points
PP-P PP-P/20
Andrew Brunette 43
16 1.25
Kristian Huselius 41
25 1.61
Cory Stillman 36
29 1.78
Niklas Hagman 29
7 0.73
Jan Hlavac 33
1 0.18
Markus Naslund 33
22 1.50
Ruslan Fedetenko 22
9 1.21

Right Wings
Name ES-Points
PP-P PP-P/20
Pavol Demitra 40
13 1.10
Radim Vrbata 35
16 1.19
Marian Hossa 35
29 1.77
Brendan Shanahan 26
19 1.31
Jaromir Jagr 42
29 1.70
Brian Rolston 30
28 1.83
Owen Nolan 25
6 0.74
Miroslav Satan 28
13 0.83

Many people want the Avs to go after Brian Rolston to replace the almost assuredly outgoing Andrew Brunette. Well according to this list, no one is going to replace him. He scores at the most efficient pace out of any available FA wingers (that includes Hossa too). Rolston's numbers don't work out very well at all. Scoring slightly better than Owen Nolan and Miroslav Satan. In Rolston's defense his powerplay numbers are superb and he plays in a defensively aligned system. Here's the names that jump out at me a little:

Corey Stillman is the name that appeases me most at first glance. He scores at a respectable rate in even strength, and has excellent powerplay numbers (1.82 points per 20 minutes of ice time). He can also play on the PK a bit (or he did in Ottawa). I am not sure what kind of money he is looking for though and may be out of the Avs price range. He's also 34 which means he's starting the downslide of his career

Nikolas Hagman interests me as well. He should be a bit cheaper than Stillman and scores at nearly the same pace. He's really a poor mans Thomas Holmstrom. One stat that scares me off a little is that PP/20 of only .73, which is a full point less than Stillman. The Avs already have plenty of players who can score even strength but not on the powerplay. Hagman is an adept PKer as well.

Kristain Huselius Is a guy who, I feel, has been underrated his entire career. It doesn't help that Mike Keenan seems to follow him from town to town just to torment him due to some sort of inexplicable grudge. Huselius has terrific numbers despite playing for a coach who detests him. With numbers like that he may command a good salary, but he is being overlooked by playing in Calgary. One knock against him is that he won't work on the penalty kill.

Radim Vrbata May be a guy the Avs want to look into bringing back. he had a steller breakout season with Phoenix and is much younger than some of the other names on this list (27). Vrbata also played extensively on the PK last season. He may command too much salary being as young and talented as he is for the Avs.

My Pick:
Nikolas Hagman. 4-years $3M/season

Other note-ables
Vrbata, Stillman, Huselius

For the love of god no
Jagr, Naslund, Nolan, Shanahan

If these signings happen the Avs would be left with about $2.5M $4.5M left, plus the $4M set aside for Sakic so they could even re-sign Sakic to last years payroll. They could also go out and get a sold checking line forward, even though I think the Cody Mc's will fill that role just fine.

Addendum: because of a correction in the previous post, the Avs have a little more money to spend than I originally thought. This means they could probably offer Hagman and Morrison a little more money and still have plenty leftover to sign Sakic. if he want's. If not then they have a ton for Stastny's extension next season, plus FA's.

Addendum 2 Dario points out that Wolski and Svatos probably won't accept their RFA offers as is and will get substantial raises. I am guessing they will go back to where i orginally estimated, so you can probably use the struck through numbers.


  1. Did you take in to account that the Avs will probably pay more for each of the qualifying offered RFAs? I don't think all of those guys take their 110% qualifying offer and call it good. I think they will either negotiate higher amounts or go to arbitration (especially a guy like Svatos with this goal stats).

    Morrison was the first guy I blurted out on Dater's post and I didn't even know his numbers. He's really an unheralded player. Hell, he centered Naslund and Bertuzzi and not only made that line work but somehow turned those two opposits in to a dominating line. How is that even possible looking back on it? He's a guy that can really glue together a line. I'm totally on board with you on that one.

    One thing to keep in mind with your breakdown and with every breakdown I've read going in to free agency; The Avs seem to find a gem in training camp every year. It's someone that's off of everyone's radar. No one expected Liles/Svatos to make the team in '04, no one thought Statsty would make the jump right out of the first camp and no on in their right mind thought McLeod was going to get on the ice for the NHL. Truthfully you can't really plan for it but you know there could be someone. Galiardi? Williams? Just something to consider as your wildcard when it comes to evaluating the team as a whole and what they might look like as far as their UFA needs.

  2. Yeah I seriously doubt that Wolski and Svats will settle for what their offered, but there's quite a bit of cushion in the salary still, and I think they could easily account for that (unless they go after a Hossa or Campbell).

    The more i look at Morrison the more I want him.. This is the start of the "Morrison to the Avs" movement.

  3. I agree, Morrison is now officially labeled with the blog-hype tag. I see little to no downside unless he wants unreasonable money.

  4. The thing is he should be reasonably priced considering his age, and his injury last season.