Will Avalanche be able to keep Brandon Saad beyond this season?
We continue our look at next offseason’s potential free agent class by trying to project the next contract for some of the top players that could be available. Today we look at the Colorado Avalanche and forward Brandon Saad.
The Colorado Avalanche put their open salary cap space to use this offseason by making a pair of significant additions in forward Brandon Saad and defenseman Devon Toews. Those additions should help make one of the league’s top Stanley Cup contenders even better.
Toews, a restricted free agent at the time of his acquisition from the New York Islanders, has already signed a new long-term contract to remain with the team and be a part of its impressive young defense alongside Cale Makar, Sam Girard, Ryan Graves, Conor Timmins, and 2019 No. 4 overall pick Bowen Byram.
Saad, meanwhile, is set to enter the final year of his current contract and will be eligible for unrestricted free agency after this season.
Is there a way for the Avalanche to keep him as part of their core going forward? Or is this simply a one-year rental to try and win the Stanley Cup this season?
What do they have in Saad?
Saad is kind of a fascinating player because when you look at his overall production there is nothing that really jumps off the page at you in a meaningful way.
He never really became the All-Star level player he was projected to be when he was first drafted (or when he first entered the league), but he is still very good. You know every year he is going to score 20 goals, give you 50 points, and play sound defensive hockey. He is a legitimate top-six NHL forward on a contending team.
But he is also the kind of player that can bring a lot of hidden value to your team. He is a possession driver, and when put into a situation where he can play alongside talented players can really excel. It may not result in him scoring a ton of goals, but his line will score goals, and he can play a big role in that.
Adding that sort of player to a lineup that already has finishers like Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen, Nazem Kadri, and Andrei Burakovsky has the potential to be significant.
Can they keep him?
Even before he plays a single game in Colorado Saad has already said in interviews that he loves the city of Denver and is excited to be a part of such a talented team. There is almost certainly going to be some motivation there, especially if he plays well and the team succeeds.
The problem for the Avalanche is going to be the salary cap.
Their cap situation has been the best in the league for a couple of years now thanks to a couple of bargain contracts (MacKinnon and Landeskog) and some outstanding young players on entry-level deals. That is starting to change. Rantanen has already re-signed for big money, Landeskog is also a free agent after this season, and Makar is due for a significant raise in a year.
Add in the fact they have four other unrestricted free agents after this season aside from Landeskog and Saad (starting goalie Philipp Grubauer, defenseman Ian Cole, and forwards Matt Calvert and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare) and that cap space is going to quickly disappear.
Kadri and Burakovsky will also be unrestricted free agents following the 2020-21 season.
What would it cost, and what should they do?
Unless he has some sort of monster season where he just absolutely lights up the stat sheet, I can not see a way that his next contract tops his current $6 million salary cap hit. You could maybe make an argument for matching it, or perhaps coming close to it, but anything above $6 million per year seems a lot and probably out of Colorado’s spending range given what else they have to do. Keep in mind players like Craig Smith, Tyler Toffoli, and Evgenii Dadonov all signed for between $3.1 and $5 million as unrestricted free agents this offseason. I think Saad is probably a little better than Smith and Toffoli, (Dadonov is the superior player offensively) but not by a massive margin.
If the Avalanche can get his price in the $5-$5.5 million range it might be doable, especially if they let some other players go elsewhere on the roster.
But he will also probably not be the priority. The priority will almost certainly be Landeskog (their captain and one of their franchise players) and the goalie situation (whether it is Grubauer or someone else from outside the organization).