Who Can End Avs Goaltending Woes?
It’s no secret the Avs have somewhat struggled to find a bona fide #1 to lead them since Patrick Roy retired in 2003.
Jose Theodore did go on a hot streak in early 2008, which stirred up reminders of his Hart winning escapades in 2002.
Craig Anderson was a revelation in his first since the franchise two seasons ago; before thing seemed to sour culminating in his trade to Ottawa last season.
But the equivalent of a season and a half in almost a decade leave decidedly little to write home about – a series of opportunities handed to a number of netminders, none of whom could fully grasp the chance afforded to them. All showed flashes of brilliance in short bursts, but only Anderson sustained it for any length of time.
Since the NHL lockout the Ase have missed the post season three times out of five and are once again in the hunt for a starting goalie.
Brian Elliott came to Denver in exchange for Anderson but failed to turn round his own fortunes or the teams, going 2-8-1 in 12 outings with a horrible 3.83 GAA and .891 save percentage.
Long standing Av Peter Budaj did little better as the Slovak went 15-21-4 and was also north of the dreaded 3.00 goals against average and sub 90% in save percentage.
Whilst both men have had their chances to claim starting jobs outright, Budaj in Colorado on more than one occasion and Elliott in Ottawa, neither has managed to cling on to that #1, spot largely due to the streaky nature of both mens game.
Budaj now seems destined to leave the club. He’s been an exemplary back up goaltender in many ways; able to sit for long periods then step in and perform and never rocking the boat. He played the role perfectly and when Anderson was in his pomp he was an ideal #2; but now the Avs need ‘a hero’ (again) and he’s clearly not the man. An unrestricted free agent on July 1st; his time in Denver is almost certainly ‘done’.
As a restricted free agent Elliott seems therefore likely to take the second spot on the Avalanche roster, at least in the short term as both Calvin Pickard and Trevor Caan are still some way away from being NHL ready.
But what of the top job?
Two avenues are open to Avalanche GM Greg Sherman – trade, or look at free agency.
The free agency pool has two obvious candidates – Ilya Bryzgalov and Tomas Vokoun.
Either would be an ideal fit for where the Avs find themselves right now. A young team with potential, in the ‘here and now’ they are a bubble team at best and a reliable regular season performer who is capable of taking on a high work load and happy seeing a lot of rubber is essential.
Bryzgalov’s rights have just been dealt to Philadelphia, meaning he may well be out of the equation before long. The Flyers need to address their goaltending situation is well documented and they seem keen to get a deal done with the Russian.
The stumbling block is money – both in terms of Philadelphia’s cap space and Bryzgalov’s demands. Philly GM Paul Holmgren can, with some creative dealing, probably deal with the first problem.
The second issue may well put the Avs off as well though – if Bryzgalov wants too much money (rumours circulating even go as far as the league maximum!), it is unlikely Greg Sherman would break the Avs wage structure now when he has been so keen to stick to his guns over the issue in the past. After all, failure to agree a new deal seemed to be the major reason behind Craig Anderson’s departure.
So that leaves Vokoun. Another European netminder who has proven his worth on a ‘smaller team’. Vokoun had nowhere near the support in Florida Bryzgalov got in Phoenix, but the Czech has still managed to succeed – if only on a personal level.
At 34 Vokoun may be slowly passing his prime, but with Pickard on the horizon that could actually represent some kind of ideal situation for the Avalanche.
Again money could be a sticking point, with Vokoun likely to want to maintain some kind of parity with his last deal in Florida, which equalled out to deliver a $5.7m cap hit. That represents a lot of dollars and is something the Avs seem hesitant to sign up for.
With the two big free agents possibly off limits by one reasoning or another the other option is to make a trade.
Colorado has two first round picks at this years draft; 2nd over all and 11th overall. Whilst it is unlikely they would want to give up the 2nd overall pick – would parting with the 11th pick be out of the question?
Two names commonly linked to the Avalanche when talk of trading comes up are Vancouver’s Cory Schneider and LA’s Jonathan Bernier (right).
With Roberto Luongo firmly cemented as the Canucks number 1, and with a long term deal in place, Schneider’s options may be limited in British Columbia. Equally Jonathan Quick’s continued improvement in the Kings net may be slowly shutting closing out Bernier’s opportunities to stake claim as a #1 in California. Whilst both are young and extremely talented, Quick has that ‘foot in the door’ now and seems to be getting better each year.
Again the difficulty comes in assessing cost – in this case what is the cost to acquire either of these talented young men? It would be unlikely that the 11th pick alone would be enough, so what else would the Avalanche have to give up to get them?
Sherman is no stranger to making bold moves, after dealing for Erik Johnson last year, but it is hard to see where he might be willing give ground in order to strike an agreement this time.
One further bonus of gaining either Bernier or Schneider is that they would fit neatly with the franchise aims of growing a young team together. If they could get either on board at this stage and allow them to learn and develop along side the likes of Johnson and Matt Duchene it would give the Avs a formidable look in the future.
My personal preference was Bryzgalov; but with the Flyers getting the drop on a few others by acquiring his rights the next best scenario for me personally is to go with a trade. Back an exciting young team with an exciting young goaltender and let the team grow as one unit – because I am fully confident there is enough potential and ability already in Denver to make the Avs a play-off team again in the very near future, and even a contender again one day.