How Sharks' NHL playoffs win drove Avalanche to go big in free agency

Chelena Goldman
NBC Sports BayArea

How Sharks' NHL playoffs win drove Avalanche to go big in free agency originally appeared on nbcsportsbayarea.com

If your team gets booted from the playoffs, you're going to want to take stock in what got you eliminated and then improve on those things in the offseason, right? 

Just a few months after being knocked out of the playoffs by Sharks, the Colorado Avalanche did just that.

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With the departure of captain Joe Pavelski headlining an emotional first day of free agency for the Sharks and their fans, it was probably easy to tune out what other teams around the NHL were doing. But the Avs made plenty of noise, and they did far more than just sign winger Joonas Donskoi to a four-year deal.

They specifically added to areas of their game that were lacking when they faced San Jose in the second round.

Hours after signing Donskoi from San Jose and depth center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare from the Vegas Golden Knights, Colorado set hockey Twitter on fire by trading forward Alexander Kerfoot, defenseman Tyson Barrie, and a sixth-round pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for center Nazem Kadri, defenseman Calle Rosen and a third-rounder. This came a week after dealing center Carl Soderberg to the Arizona Coyotes for blue liner Kevin Connauton, and days after bringing in Andre Burakovsky from the Washington Capitals for a pair of picks.

Sure, one motivation behind these moves is preserving salary-cap space. The Avalanche's flurry of moves have (so far) resulted in a little under $3.5 million in additional salary, leaving plenty of space to re-sign restricted free agents Miiko Rantanen and Burakovsky.

But did losing to the Sharks in the playoffs also inspire some of the moves the Avalanche just made? Here's how that's possible.

San Jose had two advantages over Colorado when the teams faced off in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs this spring. The Sharks had more offensive depth and were more physical. While Colorado stars Rantanen, MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog weren't always easy to contain, San Jose limited the trio on the scoreboard by using muscle to take away the center of the ice. Beyond that, the Avs weren't working with a ton of firepower.

Kadri and Bellemare bring scoring depth, as well as a boost in physicality. Bellemare plays a strong two-way game, and has enough skill to boost Colorado's bottom six forwards as he did in Vegas. Meanwhile, Kadri gives Colorado another center to help flesh out its lineup, plus he's good at drawing penalties -- in part because he's something of an agitator -- and producing on the power play. 

But the Avs are still a speed-and-skill team, which is where adding Donskoi and Burakovsky will help. Both players are coming off of up-and-down seasons, these are two dangerous forwards who have motivation to improve with a new team.

Donskoi also provides coach Jared Bednar some versatility, as he can be deployed on any of the Avalanche's top three lines. Plus, his eventual series-clinching wrapround goal in Game 7 on Colorado goaltender Philipp Grubauer likely made an impression as well.

[RELATED: Sharks might have to trade these players to free cap space]

Despite being in a different division, the Avalanche's additions make them a growing threat in the Western Conference for the Sharks. Colorado's newfound depth and physicality this offseason will lead to a more complete team next season, and one that is even more competitive.

It's hard not to see how the Sharks themselves influenced those moves after knocking the Avs out of the playoffs just a couple months ago. 

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