2017-18 season preview: Colorado Avalanche

Matt Duchene: Will he stay or will he go? Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado Avalanche: 22-56-4, missed the playoffs, $9.5 million in cap space

Biggest changes: Avalanche management did very little in the offseason to improve its team. Goaltender Jonathan Bernier was signed, at $2.75 million, for one season to back up Semyon Varlamov. Winger Nail Yakupov was signed, and a 2019 fourth-round pick was traded to the Nashville Predators for center/winger Colin Wilson. Yakupov was the No. 1 overall pick in 2012 and is just 23 years old, but he has underachieved with both the Edmonton Oilers and St. Louis Blues, averaging 0.41 points per game over 292 games. Wilson, 27, was the seventh-overall pick in 2008 but is another underachiever, hitting the 20-goal mark just once in his career. Matt Duchene's name was constantly in trade talk over the summer, and there was talk that he was pondering sitting out training camp to force a trade. But he showed up and didn't sound thrilled about still being a member of the Avs when he addressed reporters. The biggest addition could be forward Tyson Jost, the team's 2016 first-round pick. Jost played six games with the Avalanche last season and scored one goal. He has been compared to Chicago Blackhawks star Jonathan Toews.

Case for: Some excellent high-end talent up and down the lineup should bounce back somewhat from last season's disaster. Center Nathan MacKinnon has struggled since his Calder Trophy-winning rookie season, in which he scored 24 goals and notched 63 points in 2013-14. He had just 16 goals last season but certainly has the talent to hit 30 goals and 70-plus points. Captain Gabriel Landeskog is just 24 and has proven to be a top two-way forward. Before last season, when he scored 18 goals, he had scored at least 20 goals four times and scored nine in the lockout-shortened season. Chances are good he will return to 20-goal form. Varlamov is one of the NHL's top game-stealing goaltenders when he is locked in. He's only 29 and has been a Vezina Trophy finalist. A return to form wouldn't be a surprise. If Duchene, 26, doesn't get traded and decides he wants to buy in, he brings 30-goal potential.

Case against: You can't have a league-worst 48 points, make small moves in the offseason and expect to improve. Plus, the Duchene situation has the potential to be a major distraction. The longer general manager Joe Sakic lets it fester, the greater the chance it could harm production this season. Although Tyson Barrie and Erik Johnson are top-four defensemen, the Avalanche don't have much else on the blue line. Nikita Zadorov was a first-round pick and is just 22 years old, but he hasn't turned into the player the team envisioned when it acquired him as part of the 2015 trade for Ryan O'Reilly. Varlamov hasn't been productive since 2013-14, and you can argue he hasn't really been an elite goaltender besides that one season. MacKinnon is a top offensive talent, but for some reason he has yet to best his rookie-season numbers in three subsequent seasons. Perhaps his ceiling is as a 60-point and 20-goal player and not the franchise talent the team envisioned when it picked him No. 1 overall in 2013.

Trade bait: Duchene's name has been in trade rumors for a long, long time. It seems highly unlikely that he will finish the season with the Avalanche.

Goalie situation rating: 4. Bernier rediscovered his game last season with the Anaheim Ducks, posting a 2.50 goals-against average and .915 save percentage in 39 games after being the No. 1 for the Toronto Maple Leafs for three challenging seasons. He's no longer a No. 1, but he can provide insurance if Varlamov falters again. Varlamov is a phenomenal talent but hasn't been near elite since 2013-14.

Scout's take: "They're a team that seems to have some talent at forward. MacKinnon I love, and Landeskog is a big-leader, captain kind of guy. But there seems to be something missing there. There's turmoil. They want to trade Matt Duchene. I think that's a real distraction to the team. ... They don't have enough depth on defense. I don't think they've played well as a team. I don't think they're together. I think there's something missing between management and the players or something. There's something going on there."

Prediction: Seventh in Central

Depth chart/combos


Tyson Jost-Nathan MacKinnon-Mikko Rantanen

Sven Andrighetto-Matt Duchene-Nail Yakupov

Gabriel Landeskog-J.T. Compher-Colin Wilson

Matt Nieto-Carl Soderberg-Blake Comeau


Nikita Zadorov-Erik Johnson

Mark Barberio-Tyson Barrie

Anton Lindholm-Chris Bigras


Semyon Varlamov

Jonathan Bernier

Spencer Martin