The Burgundy Letter
by Martin Krantz on 09/09/11 at 07:10 PM ET
As per Adrian Dater, the Colorado Avalanche have signed Kyle Cumiskey to a one-year, two-way contract. If Cumiskey plays in the NHL, he will earn 708 000 dollars. If he plays in the AHL, his salary will be 105 000 dollars.
The interesting aspect of this is that I would have expected the Avs to be willing to walk away from Cumiskey and that he might eventually have signed in Europe. Instead, the Avs have added another player that will have to fight for a spot on the team during training camp in about a week’s time. It’s even more peculiar considering that the Avs traded J-M Liles to Toronto to make room for their youngsters coming up on D, and instead of showing faith in them, management seems keen on defence by committee.
Let us take a look at the Avalanche’s logjam at defence with a percentage given to every player involved as to their likelihood of making the opening night roster.
Players with a safe spot on the team - Erik Johnson has a chip on his shoulder after being traded from St. Louis Blues. He has a leadership role with the Avs, and has changed his workout regimen in the offseason. He’s a lock for the top pairing. Kyle Quincey, Jan Hejda and Ryan O’Byrne should also be able to feel pretty sure about themselves as they enter training camp. Hejda signed with the Avs this offseason and his major question mark heading into the season is whether he’ll find a home on the first or the second pairing. Ryan O’Byrne had a great year after coming over from Montreal Canadiens and if he can repeat that level of play he should be a lock for the top four. The only one who might feel slightly unsure is Kyle Quincey, who is just coming back from a long-term injury and might not know where he stands - but missing out completely on the opening night roster would take an injury or showing up at camp severely out of shape and ending up in Sacco’s doghouse.
Players fighting for a spot - Tyson Barrie, Stefan Elliott, Kyle Cumiskey, Cameron Gaunce, Jonas Holos, Matt Hunwick, Shane O’Brien and Ryan Wilson.
Tyson Barrie - 25 percent.
Barrie, Elliott and Gaunce will be the three youngsters trying to impress coach Joe Sacco during training camp. Barrie was named defenceman of the year in the WHL in 2010, has great hands and is a good skater. His lack of size might be held against him with the Avs’ decision to become bigger on the blueline than last year.
Cameron Gaunce - 25 percent.
Gaunce is a well-rounded defenceman who is closing in on a roster spot, but might be hurt by the logjam. He’s projected as a solid 2nd or 3rd pairing d-man with good size and grit,but will have to fight for a spot with O’Brien and Wilson.
Stefan Elliott - 40 percent.
Elliott is the player among the three who comes with the highest expectations to camp, but with that comes the burden of being “Liles Jr.”. Elliott is a power play quarterback with good passing skills who’s still solid in his own zone. His primary opponents for a roster spot will be other puck-moving d-men like Matt Hunwick and recent signee Cumiskey.
Jonas Holos - 5 percent.
Holos is good enough to be on the top 7 for an NHL team, but has constantly found himself in Joe Sacco’s doghouse last season. It would take an injury or a very solid pre-season performance from Holos to start in the NHL. He’s most likely headed to the AHL and will have a good shot at being called up when (not if) injuries strike.
Kyle Cumiskey - 30 percent.
Cumiskey will probably find himself a healthy scratch as often as not if he makes the team this season. If he has a good camp, his great speed might help earn him another chance.
Matt Hunwick - 50 percent.
Hunwick was given plenty of chances by Joe Sacco last year, but was one of the biggest disappointments. A puck-moving defenceman, he might have an inside track since Joe Sacco might be inclined to use a player he already knows. Sacco is on the hot seat himself, and might be hesitant to send an unproven rookie on to the ice when he has players with NHL experience on the roster, even though they nearly played themselves off the team last year.
Ryan Wilson - 75 percent.
Wilson is as much of a lock as it gets on the lower lines. If Elliott makes the roster, he would have to be paired with someone who is reasonably solid in his own end. That leaves Wilson or O’Brien as the other defenceman on such a pairing. Either way, Wilson makes it either as the 7th d-man or as insurance on the 3rd pairing.
Shane O’Brien - 75 percent.
Same deal as Wilson - he will be needed for his defence and grit. He won’t find himself sent down to Lake Erie, but he might spend some time as a 7th d-man like Wilson, depending on who Sacco want out there for the night.
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