Mailbag: Avalanche offseason plans, Rasks future with Bruins

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If you’re Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic, what is your plan this summer? How do you handle Cale Makar, Gabriel Landeskog, Tyson Jost, Philipp Grubauer and Brandon Saad all needing new deals? Are we going to see him win another big trade? — @theashcity

I’ve long said that if I’m a GM and Joe Sakic’s name comes up on my caller ID, I’m not picking it up, because if I do, I fear he’s going to fleece me. Sakic has done well in trades. I wouldn’t put it past him to do it again. He got Saad from the Chicago Blackhawks for defensemen Nikita Zadorov and Anton Lindholm. He got defenseman Devon Toews from the New York Islanders for two second-round draft picks. He got forward Andre Burakovsky from the Washington Capitals without giving up a player off the roster or a first-round pick. He got Grubauer from the Capitals for a second-round pick. He got defenseman Ryan Graves from the New York Rangers for defenseman Chris Bigras, who hasn’t played in the NHL since 2017. But now Sakic has his hands full with all the players you mentioned each needing a new contract.

Here’s how I think he should attack it:

Sign Landeskog, who is a pending unrestricted free agent. He’s the Avalanche captain, plays on their top line, and is one of their physical, vocal and emotional leaders.

Sign Makar, who is a pending restricted free agent. This will be a major contract for the Norris Trophy finalist, but he’s a cornerstone defenseman whom the Avalanche can build around for the next decade. 

Sign Grubauer. He’s a Vezina Trophy finalist. You don’t mess with success in net.

Put Jost into the trade market. He shouldn’t be overly expensive to re-sign as a pending restricted free agent after scoring 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 54 games this season, but if the Avalanche need to save on the NHL salary cap, trading Jost for a pick and/or a prospect makes sense.

Let Saad become an unrestricted free agent. The Avalanche can’t afford him. He carried a $6 million NHL salary cap charge this season and that should either stay the same or go up in his next contract after he scored 15 goals in the regular season and seven in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

My guess is the Avalanche will try to move some contracts to make it work. Top candidates are defenseman Erik Johnson ($6 million salary cap charge) and forward Nazem Kadri ($4.5 million salary cap charge). They will lose a player to the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, which will help their salary cap situation.

Video: VGK@COL, Gm1: Makar, Landeskog connect to double lead

It felt like Marc-Andre Fleury was maybe a veteran placeholder in Vegas when they picked him. A big name for a new team. Since then he’s resurrected his career for what feels like the third time. Is he a first ballot Hall of Famer at this point? How will he be remembered when he hangs it up? — @ActualDanLavoie

He’s a lock. To get in you need to receive at least 75 percent of votes from the Hockey Hall of Fame 18-member selection committee. I’d be stunned if Fleury doesn’t get at least that many votes (14) in his first year of eligibility, which will be three seasons after he plays his last professional game.

Fleury is third in NHL wins (492) with the chance to pass Patrick Roy (551) for second. Martin Brodeur holds the NHL record of 691 wins. Fleury is tied for 14th in shutouts with 67, one more than Roy. He’s 10th in games played (883), three behind Tony Esposito, four behind Henrik Lundqvist and 23 behind Glenn Hall. Fleury next season could become the first goalie to get to 500 wins in fewer than 900 games. He has a 2.55 goals-against average and .913 save percentage, which is better than Brodeur (.912) and Roy (.910). Fleury is a three-time Stanley Cup champion with the Pittsburgh Penguins, including as the starter in 2009 and for the first two rounds in 2017. He could win it again as the starter for the Golden Knights this season. He might win the Vezina Trophy for the first time this season too. Fleury has longevity and consistency on his side.

Beyond all of his on-ice accolades, there is deep respect for Fleury as a teammate and person throughout hockey. He’s one of the ambassadors of the game and has been the face of the Golden Knights. All of that counts too.

Who do you see as a realistic target for the New York Rangers to add this offseason? I’ve seen names like Jack Eichel, Matthew Tkachuk and Zach Hyman thrown around. Curious who could also be in the mix. — @MattFitz2838

Hyman is the most intriguing and affordable, especially with the up-tempo, high energy, aggressive forechecking style the Rangers will be playing under new coach Gerard Gallant. Hyman is a pending unrestricted free agent who scored 33 points (15 goals, 18 assists) in 43 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs this season. Hyman is in the last year of a four-year, $9 million contract ($2.25 million salary cap charge). A raise is coming for the 29-year-old, but nothing extravagant. Hyman has bite to his game. He plays with energy, he forechecks hard and goes to the front of the net. He’s physical and he plays in straight lines. Hyman can play with elite, skilled players, such as Toronto forwards Auston Matthews and Mitchell Marner. Hyman could step into the Rangers lineup and play on a line with forward Artemi Panarin and/or center Mika Zibanejad. He would be good opposite forwards Alexis Lafrenière or Kaapo Kakko, or could fit on a third line with center Filip Chytil. Hyman is versatile and will play the same game no matter where he plays. 

Tkachuk, who can become a resttricted free agent after next season, would be perfect too, but he seems a little pie in the sky. Why would the Calgary Flames trade him? He should be a centerpiece of their retool. Eichel would cost too much, and I think the Buffalo Sabres would like him out of the Eastern Conference if possible. 

Other possibilities for the Rangers from the list of pending unrestricted free agent forwards are Saad, Nick Foligno, Jaden Schwartz and Kyle Palmieri. All play fast, forecheck well and can play with top-end players.

With Tuukka Rask‘s future uncertain with labrum surgery plus age, do the Boston Bruins go with Jeremy Swayman or do they think about making a trade? — @punmasterrifkin

The Bruins won’t go into next season with Swayman as their No. 1. He may earn that role in training camp or early in the season, but that won’t be a lock going into camp, not with 10 games of NHL experience under his belt. There are different ways the Bruins can attack their goaltending for next season with Rask a pending unrestricted free agent who needs surgery that will keep him out until at least January. I think what they will do is sign or acquire a veteran goalie who will play in tandem with Swayman or Dan Vladar. That buys them time to wait until January, when Rask might be nearing the end of his rehab, to decide what might be best for them, keeping the goalies they already have in place or signing Rask to supplant one of them.

It makes sense to wait until after Rask has his surgery and is deep into his rehab before they consider re-signing him. How much will the surgery impact Rask, who will turn 35 in March? How badly will he want to play after sitting out for so long? These are questions that can’t be answered now.

The Bruins have goalie options available in free agency. It makes more sense to go with someone willing to take a one-year contract because they don’t know what will happen with Rask, or if Swayman or Vladar might shine and be ready to be a No. 1 quicker than expected. Potential pending unrestricted free agents who could be on the Bruins’ short list include Mike Smith, Pekka Rinne, Petr Mrazek, Antti Raanta, Chris Driedger, Brian Elliott, Jonathan Bernier and, depending on his health, Lundqvist. Another option is to re-sign Jaroslav Halak, a pending unrestricted who has played the past three seasons with the Bruins.

Video: BOS@NYI, Gm4: Rask turns away Beauvillier in tight

Do you think the Chicago Blackhawks make a play for Seth Jones or Dougie Hamilton? — @Jake_Wheeler24

The Blackhawks should be in the market for a top-end defenseman like Jones or Hamilton. Duncan Keith isn’t a top-pair defenseman any longer. Adam Boqvist isn’t ready to be a top-pair defenseman. Connor Murphy can play on the top pair, but he needs someone of Jones’ or Hamilton’s ilk to play with. Of the two, Hamilton is the one who could cost them only money because he’s a pending unrestricted free agent. However, there is the potential for the Carolina Hurricanes to try a sign-and-trade with Hamilton so they don’t lose him for nothing. Jones has another year left on his contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets, so if the Blackhawks want him, it’ll take a trade before they sign him to a long-term contract extension. They wouldn’t get Jones in a trade if they didn’t know they were going to re-sign him too. The Blackhawks would likely have to give the Blue Jackets the No. 11 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft as part of a package to acquire Jones.

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