AVALANCHE

The Avalanche are still a top-5 team in the NHL, according to ESPN

Jul 9, 2024, 12:24 PM

The Colorado Avalanche have had a productive offseason, given their restrictions with the NHL’s salary cap.

Most importantly, GM Chris MacFarland was able to get deals done with his two biggest free-agent priorities.

Both second-line center Casey Mittelstadt and coveted forward Jonathan Drouin will return to Colorado on new deals. Mittelstadt, a trade deadline acquisition this spring, inked a three-year contract worth nearly $6 million per season. Drouin is back on a one-year deal for $2.5 million, which looks like a steal.

And although the futures of Valeri Nichushkin and Gabriel Landeskog remain uncertain (for very different reasons), the Avalanche are still loaded with talent.

They’ll run it back with Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Cale Makar, Devon Toews, Artturi Lehkonen and others. Jared Bednar will return as head coach and Colorado is still absolutely in a Stanley Cup window.

The folks at ESPN agree, coming out with their “way-too-early” Power Rankings for the 2024-25 NHL season. They have the Avalanche at No. 5 in the league.

“The Avs haven’t been beyond the second round for two straight postseasons; then again, the last time they were, they won the Cup. So give the front office a bit of a pass here” ESPN wrote in part. “While fans don’t always go wild for re-signings, the new deal for Mittelstadt might wind up being their best piece of business this entire offseason.”

It’s hard to disagree there. Mittelstadt hopefully fills the void anchoring the second-line that Colorado hasn’t been able to solve since Nazem Kadri left after winning the Cup in 2022.

Ahead of Colorado is the Florida Panthers at No. 1, Edmonton Oilers at No. 2, Dallas Stars at No. 3 and New York Rangers at No. 4.

Considering Dallas knocked the Avalanche out of the playoffs in Round 2, and then the Oilers beat the Stars in the Western Conference Final, this feels fair. Florida beat New York in the Eastern Conference Final, so the Avs are being called the best of the rest.

To see ESPN’s full Power Rankings, click here.

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