Avalanche add Kuemper, veterans Helm, Murray in Stanley Cup bid

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After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, NHL.com is examining where each team stands in preparation for the 2021-22 regular season, which starts Oct. 12. Today, the Colorado Avalanche:

2020-21 season: 39-13-4, first in Honda West Division; lost in second round of Stanley Cup Playoffs

Key arrivals

Darcy Kuemper, G: The 31-year-old was acquired in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes on July 28 for defenseman Conor Timmins, a first-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft and a conditional third-round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft after goalie Philipp Grubauer signed a six-year contract with the Seattle Kraken the same day. Kuemper was 10-11-3 with a 2.56 goals-against average, .907 save percentage and two shutouts in 27 games last season, missing 19 games because of a lower-body injury. Since 2018-19, among goalies to have played at least 100 games, Kuemper is second in the NHL with a 2.35 GAA (Tuukka Rask, 2.30), and his .922 save percentage is tied with Andrei Vasilevskiy for second (Robin Lehner, .923). … Darren Helm, F: The 34-year-old signed a one-year contract July 29 after he scored eight points (three goals, five assists) in 47 games with the Red Wings last season, his 14th in Detroit. He helped the Red Wings win the Stanley Cup as a rookie in 2008. … Mikhail Maltsev, F: The 23-year-old was acquired in a trade with the New Jersey Devils for defenseman Ryan Graves on July 15. Maltsev scored nine points (six goals, three assists) in 33 games as a rookie last season. … Ryan Murray, D: The 27-year-old signed a one-year contract Aug. 2 after he had 14 assists in 48 games for the Devils last season.

 

[RELATED: Complete Team Reset coverage]

 

Key departures

Philipp Grubauer, G: He was third in voting for the Vezina Trophy, which is awarded to the top goalie in the NHL, after going 30-9-1 with a League-leading 1.95 GAA (minimum 25 games), .922 save percentage and seven shutouts in 40 games (39 starts) last season. He also had a 2.61 GAA and .914 save percentage in 10 Stanley Cup Playoff games. … Joonas Donskoi, F: He was selected by the Kraken in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft after he scored 31 points (17 goals, 14 assists) in 51 regular-season games and five points (three goals, two assists) in 10 playoff games last season. … Brandon Saad, F: He signed a five-year contract with the St. Louis Blues on July 29 after scoring 24 points (15 goals, nine assists) in 44 regular-season games and eight points (seven goals, one assist) in 10 playoff games last season. … Ryan Graves, D: He scored 15 points (two goals, 13 assists) and averaged 19:03 of ice time in 54 regular-season games and had six points (one goal, five assists) in 10 playoff games last season. … Conor Timmins, D: He had seven assists in 31 regular-season games and no points in 10 playoff games as a rookie last season. … Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, F: He signed a two-year contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning on July 28. Bellemare scored 11 points (nine goals, two assists) in 53 regular-season games and had three assists in 10 playoff games last season.

On the cusp

Alex Newhook, F: The 20-year-old, who was selected in the first round (No. 16) of the 2019 NHL Draft, signed a three-year, entry-level contract March 31 after scoring 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) in 12 games as a sophomore at Boston College. He scored nine points (five goals, four assists) in eight games with Colorado of the American Hockey League before joining the Avalanche and playing in their final six regular-season games (three assists) and eight of their 10 playoff games (one goal, one assist). … Martin Kaut, F: The 21-year-old, who was selected in the first round (No. 16) of the 2018 NHL Draft, played in five NHL games and didn’t score a point last season. However, he scored 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in 20 games with Colorado of the AHL. … Sampo Ranta, F: The 21-year-old, who was selected in the third round (No. 78) of the 2018 NHL Draft, signed a three-year, entry-level contract April 3 after scoring 31 points (19 goals, 12 assists) in 31 games as a junior at the University of Minnesota. Ranta then scored seven points (four goals, three assists) in 14 games with Colorado of the AHL before making his NHL debut during the playoffs, scoring no points in two games. … Justin Barron, D: The 19-year-old, who was selected in the first round (No. 25) of the 2020 NHL Draft, scored 31 points (eight goals, 23 assists) in 33 games for Halifax in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season. He also scored four points (one goal, three assists) in seven games with Colorado of the AHL after signing a three-year, entry-level contract April 27.

What they still need

For Kuemper to provide top-end goaltending. Grubauer was solid during the regular season, but in three trips to the playoffs he was unable to help the Avalanche advance past the second round. Kuemper doesn’t have much experience as a clear-cut No. 1, he’s started more than 30 games in a season once (55 in 2018-19), and his postseason experience is limited to 18 games. But with backup Pavel Francouz returning after missing last season because of a lower-body injury and Jonas Johansson, who played eight games with Colorado after being acquired in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres on March 20, having 21 games of NHL experience, the Avalanche are counting on Kuemper to help them advance to at least the third round of the postseason for the first time since 2002.

They said it

“I heard the term ‘unfinished business.’ You know, we haven’t accomplished much. The ultimate goal is to win the Stanley Cup. That is what I said Day One and the day I got drafted (in 2011). I grew up with posters of the Avs’ Cup-winning team in ’96 and ’01 in my room, and that was my goal and my dream, to be in a picture wearing an Avs jersey and holding the Stanley Cup. And that is something that will always be the goal. Until you win the final game of the season, we’re going to continue to work toward that.” — captain Gabriel Landeskog after signing an eight-year contract July 27, one day before he could have become an unrestricted free agent

Fantasy focus

Kuemper went from outside the top 175 overall of NHL.com’s fantasy rankings before the trade to No. 26 and third among goalies behind Vasilevskiy and Lehner. With an elite supporting cast, including forwards Nathan MacKinnon, Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen, and defenseman Cale Makar, Kuemper should get more recognition as one of the top goalies in the NHL. — Pete Jensen

Projected lineup

Alex Newhook — Nathan MacKinnon — Mikko Rantanen

Gabriel Landeskog — J.T. CompherNazem Kadri

Andre BurakovskyTyson JostValeri Nichushkin

Mikhail Maltsev — Darren Helm — Logan O’Connor

Devon Toews — Cale Makar

Ryan Murray — Samuel Girard

Bowen ByramErik Johnson

Darcy Kuemper

Pavel Francouz

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