The Edmonton Oilers
won the Western Conference Finals with speed and solid defense. Their GM made trade deadline moves for a #1 goaltender in Dwayne Roloson, and added more scoring depth. One of the league’s smallest markets found a way to adapt to the new NHL era, one with a salary cap and cost efficiency on their side. They barely made the playoffs, but after defeating the Mighty Ducks in Game 81 of the regular season, they slid into the post season as the #8 seed.
The team’s new veterans – Mike Peca, Chris Pronger, and Roloson – did
a great job of playing their roles at the right time, and it resulted in domination against the Ducks in
the Western Conference Finals. The Oilers went back to the Stanley Cup Finals, for the first time
since 1990. But what do the 2006 Oilers have to do with the current construction of the 2007 Avalanche?
Well if such a small-market team can advance all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals as the #8 seed, then General Manager Kevin Lowe is doing a lot of things right, laying out a blueprint of how to construct a successful hockey team.
Balance, veteran leadership, depth, goaltending, and most important of all, speed.
Overall, the construction of the 2006 Avalanche team was very solid all season long. When the
team faced injuries, younger players stepped up. The coaching was excellent, and the line
combinations stayed potent almost all season long. Everyone in the west, especially Vancouver
and Dallas, seemed to be aware of the offensive power the Avalanche possessed.
But even though the Avalanche had great balance and veteran leadership and good scoring
all season long, the semifinal series loss to the Mighty Ducks exposed a lack of scoring depth
and consistency, especially on the power play. So now that the dust has settled and a new
General Manager has been named, how important do the re-signing Joe Sakic and Rob Blake, even restricted free agents Alex Tanguay and Marek Svatos and Karlis Skrastins become? Monumental.
Sakic and Blake are like the fathers of the post-lockout Avalanche, and they both represent the epitome of a leader on each end of the ice. Even Tanguay has developed into a true superstar, and we all know what kind of a splash
Marek Svatos made in his rookie year. But no matter what happens this summer, do not
be surprised by the results. Expect the unexpected.
The game has changed and with the dawn of a salary cap came the dusk of frivolous spending.
Restricted free agent Dan Hinote is just one of the 15 players who has contract talks coming with
new General Manager Francois Giguere, but was confident and excited by Pierre Lacroix’s decision.
“I think it’s a great one-two punch for us,” said Hinote. “Obviously Francois has worked with us
before and he knows the expectations that are involved with the Avalanche. Pierre is not stepping
down completely, which gives us a great one-two punch because he will still be around. Francois is a
very smart man and knows this hockey organization and I think he is going to be a great asset.”
Hinote brought up another important factor for fans to realize about the new era of NHL hockey.
“We have a lot of free agents up for contract and I know Francois has his work cut out for him. But
under the new cap system you are never going to have the same team twice, which is unfortunate
because we had a great group of guys last year,” said Hinote. “But that’s the nature of the beast and he understands that. It should be a real interesting summer.”
The Avalanche only have 10 players signed as of June 1st. While the salary cap may go up from 39 million to near 42 million, that is not much more breathing room. Here is a look at the current roster and cap damage, then the restricted and un-restricted players for the Avalanche.
SIGNED PLAYERS FOR 2006-2007:
Jose Theodore $ 5.333 mil.
Milan Hejduk $3.9 mil.
Patrice Brisebois $2.25 mil.
Steve Konowalchuk $1.9 mil.
Pierre Turgeon $1.5 mil.
Ian Laperriere $988,000
Wojtek Wolski $984,200
Andrew Brunette $800,000
Brad May $600,000
Antti Laaksonen $425,000
TOTAL: $18.9 mil
Restricted Free Agents:
Un-resitrcted Free Agents:
29 years old with 4 years NHL experience or 8 years of total NHL experience.