Landeskog, Siemens Signings Make for a Competitive Training Camp
By Alexander Monaghan
Last night, the Colorado Avalanche officially signed their 2011 first round picks Gabriel Landeskog and Duncan Siemens. We saw this coming when Adrian Dater of The Denver Post explained “it’ll get done soon my little birdies are telling me.” The Avs seemed required to sign Landeskog in order to hit the cap floor next season — his unconfirmed cap hit is $3.8 million according to Cap Geek.
There is no question that signing these youngsters will go a long way. The Avs now hold many, many valuable chips with top prospects Joey Hishon, Tyson Barrie and Stefan Elliott all ready to make the jump into the professional ranks either this year or next. In addition, they currently roster 14 NHL forwards, not counting Landeskog or NHL-ready players like Mark Olver, Greg Mauldin and Ryan Stoa.
On the back-end, the same trend continues as at least seven NHL players have already been signed with RFA Kyle Cumiskey still not inked to a pact. Blue-liners like Jonas Holos and Cameron Gaunce, who played regularly last season, will need to earn their playing time with a big club and could very well be passed on the depth chart by Siemens, Elliott or Barrie for that matter.
About a month ago, I projected Landeskog to not only make the team next year but actually make an impact on one of the top two lines. If you pencil him into a top-6 wing position — which is again necessary to hit the cap floor — you can also assume David Jones, Milan Hedjuk and a healthy Peter Mueller all fit into the remaining slots. That leaves only six legitimate forward slots if all players remain healthy with Ryan O’Reilly, Daniel Winnik and Jay McClement all-but-guaranteed playing time on a checking line. In fact, those three were previously mentioned in last season’s top 10 penalty killing forwards; expect them to play.
So we have three spots available for some pretty decent talent, including Chuck Kobasew, Cody McLeod, Brandon Yip, TJ Galiardi, Kevin Porter and Swedish import Joakim Lindstrom. Where are the Avs putting these players?
According to James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail, the Avs lost 5.35 players per-game last season. If you were to subtract five players from their current configuration of the 29 players likely to have a chance then the team still rounds out a standard 23-man roster with a few reserves on the Lake Erie Monsters. When you take into account that the Avalanche were pretty good before losing players like Tomas Fleischmann, Galiardi, Chris Stewart for a significant chunk of the season, then they might not be back into the lottery equation. At least GM Greg Sherman prays he did not lose a potential lottery pick in acquiring Semyon Varlamov.
By shaking up a team that nosedived following a momentum-building 1.5 seasons, Sherman gambled with chemistry and consistency. However, should their man-games lost decrease to the median 2.5-3 players-per game then the Avs might just hold enough depth to get them back into the playoffs. Varlamov, in my opinion, should be the most worrisome injury-prone player, but he showed at times he can play at an elevated level. Regardless, this team should be fun to watch with a good mix of young up-and-comers surrounding the core of Stastny, Duchene and Erik Johnson.