The Colorado Avalanche settled up one piece of financial business Thursday night when they re-signed left winger Jamie McGinn to a two-year, $5.9-million contract extension.
Their biggest off-season negotiations, however, are still to come.
It's a decent deal for McGinn, a 25-year-old restricted free agent who posted career bests in goals (19) and points (38) for Colorado last season after bouncing between the American League and NHL in San Jose's system for four years. His new contract takes him to unrestricted free agency and if he can break the 20-goal barrier, the Fergus, Ont., native will earn himself a handsome raise.
That brings to 18 the number of players Avs executive vice-president of hockey operations Joe Sakic has under contract for next season. The problem is, two of the players who aren't in that category are two of their most important: UFA center Paul Stastny and RFA center Ryan O'Reilly. And Colorado fans should be nervous, because scenarios certainly exist that lead to at least one, if not both players being ex-Avs in the not-so-distant future.
The Avalanche have approximately $23 million in cap space after McGinn's signing, but there's no assurance ownership will spend to the cap ceiling. Perhaps that's why there are whispers Sakic might shop O'Reilly if he won't agree to enough of a hometown discount. The 23-year-old is scheduled to become a UFA in two years, leaving team brass with little runway to land this plane and decide whether they truly want to commit to him for the long haul.
They'll have to do so even sooner when it comes to Stastny. He too can take a lesser payday to play with Colorado's stable of dynamic young talent, but the 28-year-old is in his money-making prime and will draw plenty of interest if he waits a little while longer and tests the market. If it gets to that stage, the Avs could quickly be priced out of his range.
The Avalanche are like every other team in that they have to project what their youngsters will turn into faster than ever before. So it's only natural that with so many blossoming young talents on the roster, Colorado's task is a little bit harder these days.