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Colorado Avalanche Face A Challenging Off-Season

Avalanche GM Joe Sakic did a masterful job building his team into a Stanley Cup champion. Now, he's about to face some difficult decisions maintaining that roster with the free-agent market opening in two weeks' time.
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Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic did a masterful job building his team into a Stanley Cup champion. Now, he's about to face some difficult decisions maintaining that roster with the free-agent market opening in two weeks' time.

Cap Friendly shows the Avalanche with $25.6 million in salary-cap space and 14 players signed for 2022-23. These include key players such as Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar, Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen, Devon Toews and Samuel Girard.

Center Nazem Kadri, wingers Valeri Nichushkin and Andre Burakovsky, goaltender Darcy Kuemper and defenseman Josh Manson are their notable unrestricted free agents. Two-way forward Artturi Lehkonen is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights who's a year away from UFA eligibility.

NBC Sports' James O'Brien believes there's sufficient room for Sakic to bring back one or more of Kadri, Nichushkin or Kuemper. Meanwhile, ESPN.com's Kristen Shilton speculates that Kuemper, Burakovsky and Manson could receive lucrative offers from other clubs.

Kadri could prove difficult to retain. Coming off a career-best 87-point performance and a solid postseason effort, the 31-year-old center will seek a significant raise over his current $4.5-million annual average value. CHEK-TV's Rick Dhaliwal reported hearing the Washington Capitals connected to Kadri.

Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman recently expressed doubt that the Avalanche can keep Kadri but he thinks there's a chance to re-sign Nichushkin. However, it could prove expensive given his career-best 52-point season. The Athletic's Michael Russo cited several player agents suggesting the 27-year-old winger could get offers between $4 million and $6 million annually on the open market.

The limited goaltending depth in this summer's UFA market gives Kuemper the leverage to command a significant raise over his $4.5-million cap hit. His suitors could include the Capitals, Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs. 

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