Lineups Take Shape in "From the Perch"

The last time we talked was just before the July 4th holiday, nearly immediately after the free agent signing period opened on the first of the month. At that time, the Avalanche had made a number of moves (click here to see those moves), a majority of which involved players projected to spend the entire season in Colorado. Since then, the Avs have made some notable signings, some of which figure to factor into the Monsters roster this season. Here’s a look at the moves made by the Avalanche since July 4.
July 8 – signs free agent F Nathan Smith (last year: 68 gms with WBS, 22-28-50; 13 gms with PIT (NHL), 0-0-0)
July 14 – signs free agent D Aaron MacKenzie (last year: 55 gms with PEO, 0-5-5)
July 15 – signs free agent F Brian Willsie (last year: 53 gms with LA (NHL), 4-8-12)

July 10 – D Vladimir Denisov, signs with New York Rangers
July 16 – D Jeff Jillson, signs with HC MVD of Russian League
July 16 – F Jamie Lundmark, signs with Calgary Flames

July 15 – F Cody McCormick
July 14 – F Cody McLeod
July 14 – D Darcy Campbell
July 14 – F Phillipe Dupuis
July 14 – G Jason Bacashihua
July 14 – G Tyler Weiman

Say It Ain’t So, Joe
Monster fans, if there’s one decision looming out there during this offseason that is worth paying attention to, it is Joe Sakic’s choice concerning whether he’ll return to the Avs for another season. Sakic, 39, has played his entire 19-year career with the Colorado franchise, including his first seven years with the Nordiques when the team was located in Quebec. Without question, the verdict will have a direct effect on the Monsters opening day roster. It’s simple, folks – if Joe’s back, that means a top-end prospect who otherwise would start the year in Colorado will instead begin the year right here on the shores of Lake Erie. The pending decision of Peter Forsberg whether or not to return will have the same effect. So if you’re looking for something to keep tabs on during the offseason that will be of major importance to your Monsters next year, rank this one high on the list.

Wheeling and Dealing
On January 22 last season, the Avalanche and Columbus Blue Jackets made a deal that sent then-Monsters captain Mark Rycroft to Syracuse in exchange for D Darcy Campbell and F Phillipe Dupuis. Unfortunately, both Campbell and Dupuis were lost to injuries last season after the trade – Campbell to shoulder surgery and Dupuis with a concussion. Heading into this season, while Rycroft remains an unsigned free agent and his hockey future is uncertain, both Campbell and Dupuis figure to be a large part of the Avalanche organization this upcoming season. Mark me down as someone who’s excited to see both Campbell and Dupuis play a full healthy season. The organization certainly can use a puck-moving defenseman like Campbell, and Dupuis flat out dazzled at times last season with his puck handling ability, up tempo pace, and fearlessness in crashing the cage. Look for that January trade to pay dividends for Colorado in 08-09.

Goaltender Battle

On July 14th, the Avalanche re-signed goaltender Tyler Weiman. It was a surprising signing to some as Weiman’s contract was up at the end of last season, and he was not extended a qualifying offer by the Avs. However, Colorado took care of business by going out and locking up Weiman, and now the steady Monster goaltending tandem of Weiman and Jason Bacashihua (also signed on July 14th) is back intact. In addition, don’t forget with the departure of Jose Theodore, the Avs signed free agent Andrew Raycroft, who was with the Maple Leafs last season. While one might imagine that Raycroft may have the inside track to the Avs backup job purely because he played in the NHL last season, it would not surprise me at all if Bacashihua makes a legitimate run at making the Avs opening night roster. One thing is for sure, the three goaltender signings will certainly make for an interesting training camp in the crease in Colorado.
Former Av Back In Mix
Brian Willsie, an original Avalanche draft pick (6th round in 1996), was signed by Colorado last week. Willsie played parts of three seasons with the Avs before spending two with the Capitals and the last two out west with the Kings. Willsie’s best statistical season came in 05-06 with Washington when he put up 19 goals and 41 points, playing in all 82 regular season games. The addition of Willsie should put another veteran in the mix up top, which of course means another top prospect on the ice for the Monsters. Welcome back, Brian, and best of luck in 08-09.

Make sure you check out later this week for our radio show “Between the Pipes with John Michael.”

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