Still one win away from the Stanley Cup, the Colorado Avalanche are one of the more interesting teams entering the offseason, and the Washington Capitals should be watching them closely.
Washington is in need of a lot of help this offseason and has some space to work with, and Colorado has several pending free agents, including a select few who fit what the Capitals are looking for.
Here are three pending Colorado free agents Washington may want to pounce on when NHL Free Agency opens on July 13.
C Nazem Kadri
Nicklas Backstrom underwent hip resurfacing surgery, and given the procedure, his NHL future remains up in the air. That takes away a key top-6 center, and Kadri is a perfect fit.
The 31-year-old is coming off his best season yet that saw him dish 28 goals and 59 assists for 87 points in 71 games. He is a tough, physical two-way player who makes good decisions and has great vision, as well as quick hands and an underrated shot. He can come in clutch at key times — as seen in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final — and can bring a lot to the table.
Although his numbers have fluctuated over time, Kadri has shown the potential to be a top playmaker who can put up 60-plus points in a season. He will likely require a pay raise, but with a couple of Capitals expected to hit the market, as well as the long-term injured reserve, there is space to work with. Plus, the team has reportedly already been linked to the forward.
G Darcy Kuemper
It’s no secret that Washington needs a No. 1 netminder. The young duo of Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek hasn’t been able to get the job done over the last two seasons, nor has either goalie been able to take the reins as the full-time starter. Their combined .909 save percentage was just .01 over the league average, and with both needing new deals, the Capitals may have to choose to hold onto just one.
READ MORE ON WHN: Analyzing Capitals Situation In Net & How To Adress Pending RFAs Samsonov, Vanecek
Darcy Kuemper is perhaps the top name on the market. The 32-year-old is a proven full-time No. 1 who is coming off a very strong season with the Avalanche. He went 37-12-4 over 57 games with a .921 save percentage and 2.54 GAA. He has also been clutch this postseason while leading Colorado to the Stanley Cup Final.
Kuemper can not only serve as a starter but also be a mentor to either Samsonov or Vanecek, unless the team chooses to bring both back.
RW Valeri Nichushkin
This is another top target to watch this summer. The Capitals need someone to help fill Tom Wilson’s void on the right side as he recovers from ACL surgery. Valeri Nichushkin could do that.
The 6-4, 210-pound winger not only dished a career-high 27 goals and 27 assists for 52 points in 62 games this past season, but he has been absolutely clutch in the postseason so far. He can not only score goals and serve as an asset on the power play, but he is also a strong defensive player who engages in puck battles and uses his size to his advantage. Nichushkin can also log time on the penalty kill, and ranked second among all Colorado forwards in shorthanded ATOI (1:45).
Wilson plays several key roles and brings that size and grit to the lineup. Nichushkin is a player that can step up and fill in there.