Avalanche salary cap situation is about to get a little more complicated

Adam Gretz
·4 min read

For two years now the Colorado Avalanche has been building a monster of a roster in the Western Conference.

Their strength is centered around a core of all-star talent that has been laughably affordable under the salary cap.

For years they have had Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog on well below-market contracts, while an influx of young talent on defense has given them impact players on cheap deals.

That combination has given them one of their greatest advantages in adding to their roster — salary cap space. A lot of it.

They have had the ability to go out and add major complementary pieces to further boost their defense and secondary scoring.

Those additions have included Andre Burakovsky, Nazem Kadri, Joonas Donskoi, Brandon Saad, and Devon Toews.

That is a lot of talent to add from outside the organization in a short period of time, and it has all been made possible because they have had so many bargains on their roster.

That is about to change, and what was once one of their greatest assets in roster building (salary cap space) is about to become a major crunch.

Not only because all of the new faces carry sizable salary cap hits, but also because several of their core players are about to either start new contracts, or soon be in line for larger contracts.

Let’s break it down a little

• As of now the Avalanche has $55.1 million committed to just 12 players for the 2021-22 season, per Cap Friendly. That includes the $9.2 million for Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon’s $6.3 million steal of a contract. That would leave $26.3 million in space under an $81.5 million cap.

With that space the Avalanche have to consider…

• Young defense standout Cale Makar is going to be a restricted free agent after this upcoming season and will be in line for a significant pay raise. Given his current career path and long-term potential it is probably a safe assumption that his next contract will be well north of $6 million per season (by comparison, Sam Girard‘s post-entry level contract pays him more than $5 million per season. Makar is the better player).

[MORE: Looking at the potential 2021 free agents]

• Gabriel Landeskog, part of their All-Star top line and their team captain, is going to be an unrestricted free agent after this season. You have to figure that any effort to keep him will require a contract of at least $7 million per year, barring a major hometown discount. That means Landeskog and Makar alone could take up somewhere in the neighborhood of $14 million out of that remaining $26.3 million in space.

• Beyond Landeskog, the Avalanche has five other key potential unrestricted free agents: Saad, Matt Calvert, Ian Cole, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, and goalie Philipp Grubauer. Whether they re-sign them or not, those are still roster spots that will need to be filled. It is not a stretch to think that Bowen Byram will be ready by the time 2021-22 rolls around (perhaps replace Cole?) which would give the Avalanche another key young player on a cheap contract. But finding a goalie (or re-signing Grubauer) and Saad’s situation could potentially add up in a big way.

The outlook

The Avalanche are not necessarily heading toward some sort of salary cap issue in the sense that they will have to potentially shed players. At least not yet. As long as their best player is signed to an incredibly cheap deal they have an advantage. They also do not really have any obviously bad contracts that could cause issues in the future.

It is simply that the Avs are now getting into a position where their roster is pretty much locked in, especially after they re-sign Makar next season and if they make a decision on Landeskog. They will no longer have the flexibility they had the past two years to add pretty much anyone they wanted. They had a huge salary cap advantage the past two years, and they used it to their advantage. Now that they have done that they are about to find themselves in the same position as almost every other contender.

More NHL Offseason

ProHockeyTalk’s 2020 NHL free agency tracker Winners and losers from the NHL offseason ProHockeyTalk’s 2020 NHL Offseason Trade Tracker

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Avalanche salary cap situation is about to get a little more complicated originally appeared on NBCSports.com