No surgery for MacK; signing Rantanen priority; aggressive in FA market
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Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic touched on a variety of topics Tuesday in a season-ending news conference at the team’s practice facility.
--- Center Nathan MacKinnon won’t need surgery for the shoulder injury he sustained in Game 7 of the second-round playoff series against San Jose, a 3-2 loss that eliminated the Avalanche.
He was hurt crashing into the boards in the first period and returned after receiving an injection for pain, but the Avalanche were eliminated with a 3-2 loss.
Sakic: "He'll be fine, he's getting better every day. He'll be fine in a couple weeks. Just (needs) rest."
--- Seeded eighth in the West, the Avalanche defeated top-seeded Calgary in the first round to advance to the second round for the first time since 2008. They came within one win against the Sharks of going to the conference final, which they haven’t achieved since 2002.
Sakic: “It was a hell of a series, two good teams, a lot of momentum shifts. Someone had to lose that series, unfortunately it was us. It was a great series. Our guys learned a lot in that series, learned how to play against a team like that. A lot of positives to take from this year.
“We had a great start. We dipped there in the middle part of the year. And then the guys, no quit. I'm really proud of the guys, the belief they had in each other. The compete, learning how to win those games down the stretch. Just a lot of good things from this group this year.
“As great as the end of the year was, we still didn't accomplish the end goal. We've got to find a way to get better. It starts here in the offseason."
--- Colorado will be trying to make the playoffs for a third consecutive season in 2019-20, something they haven't done since an 11-season run from 1995-2006 that included Stanley Cup championships in 1996 and 2001.
Sakic: "Our goal is to win the Stanley Cup, that's the endgame. We want to be better next year and be more consistent during the regular season."
--- Signing Mikko Rantanen is a priority. He will be a restricted free agent July 1. Rantanen had 87 points (31 goals, 56 assists) in 74 regular-season games and led the Avalanche in the playoffs with 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in 12 games.
Sakic: "We prefer long term. If it has to be short term, it has to be short term. We want to make sure we have him signed. Don't ask me the timeframe. There's a lot of players (in the NHL) in that same situation, a lot of great hockey players that are coming up. We'll just see how all the players and agents handle that.”
Others eligible for restricted free agency include forwards Sven Andrighetto, J.T. Compher, Vladislav Kamenev and Alexander Kerfoot, and defensemen Ryan Graves and Nikita Zadorov.
--- Goalie Semyon Varlamov, defenseman Patrik Nemeth and forwards Gabriel Bourque, Derick Brassard and Colin Wilson will be eligible for unrestricted free agency.
Varlamov has been with Colorado since the 2011-12 season and his 183 wins since then are second in franchise history to Patrick Roy (262). But Philipp Grubauer replaced him as the No. 1 goalie down the stretch and played all 12 playoff games.
Sakic: "I met with Varly. We'll see what happens July 1 with him. We'll be in communication."
--- The Avalanche eventually will have to decide what to do with Tyson Barrie, who has one year remaining on his contract and will be eligible for unrestricted free agency July 1, 2020.
Sakic: “All I can tell you is he’s an incredible player, he’s a driving force down our stretch and with what we saw with him, Cale (Makar) and (Samuel) Girard, I’d be very, very comfortable starting the year with that group. I think they can do a lot of special things together.
“Right now, where we are right now, that’s all I can tell you. Love Tyson, love the way he’s played, so if we get to that point, we’ll probably have conversations.”
--- The Avalanche have eight picks in the 2019 NHL Draft on June 21-22 in Vancouver, five in the first three rounds, including Nos. 4 and 16 in the first round.
Sakic: "We're going to listen to all options, to be honest with you. We're comfortable with 4, we know we're going to get a good player. We know we're going to get a good player at 16. We have five picks in the first three rounds this year. We've got to do our best to hit those. You don't always have the opportunity to have that many picks in the first three rounds.”
--- Coach Jared Bednar is signed through next season and Sakic at some point will begin talks for a contract extension.
--- The Avalanche plan to be more aggressive in the free-agent market than in recent seasons.
Sakic: "It's a pretty good class this year. (We) already have targeted players in mind if they become available that we'll want to talk to about joining our club. We see positions of need, of what we're looking to do. There's a few guys we're going to want to talk to if they become available.
“We'll be more aggressive this year with that, but if it doesn't work out with the players we want to talk to, we're not just going to go spend on anybody. We want the right players and the right fit."
The Avalanche have signed goalie Adam Werner to a two-year, entry-level contract through the 2020-21 season. He is from Mariestad, Sweden.
The 6-foot-5, 200-pound Werner, 22, was Colorado’s fifth-round pick (No. 131) in the 2016 NHL draft. He went 15-6-3 this season with Farjestad BK of the Swedish Hockey League with a 2.02 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage in 26 games.