The Colorado Avalanche had goals going into the off-season and pretty much accomplished all of them, locking up a second line forward and a top four defenceman without breaking a sweat.
Brandon Saad, acquired in a trade with Chicago, and Devon Toews certainly fit the bill for Colorado and give them that little extra something.
The Avalanche lost in the Western Conference Second Round to the Dallas Stars last season and will be looking for a measure of revenge this time out, especially as they had to rely heavily on their top unit of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog.
Beyond that trio, there was little support for Colorado – at least in the post-season.
Rantanen was limited to just 42 games due to injuries and MacKinnon had another honey of a year, posting 95 points in 69 games. He was the runner up to the Hart Trophy.
Landeskog had 44 points in 54 games last season, including 21 goals.
Defenceman Cale Makar was second on the team in scoring with 50 points, including a dozen goals, while Andre Burakovsky had a career-high 45 points in 58 games.
The goal for the Avalanche, pun absolutely intended, is to score more goals. Saad had 33 points in 58 games last season, including 21 goals, so he should help.
“We’re extremely happy to have Brandon with us,” general manager Joe Sakic said. “He’s a guy, we’ve watched him for years and we think he’s going to be a great fit as one of our top six. We feel like we’ve solidified our top-six group, and also our bottom six, so we’re pretty content with the depth that we have up front.”
Toews had 28 points in 68 games last season and should be a game replacement for Nikita Zadorov, who went to Chicago in the Saad trade. The book on Toews suggests he’ll be paired with Makar.
The Avalanche boast a defensive unit as good as any, with Makar, Toews, Samuel Girard, Ian Cole, Erik Johnson, and Ryan Graves. Sakic is on record as wanting to give Conor Timmins a shot, while it wouldn’t be a reach to expect to see more of 19-year-old Bowen Byram. The Cranbrook native had 52 points in 50 games for the Vancouver Giants last season.
Colorado didn’t have to do a lot this off-season to get primed for the next run, but what they did do was become more formidable as a hockey club. They have what it takes to push deep, taking the weight off the shoulders of MacKinnon and his top line.