The Avalanche certainly have time on their side. Although the team has missed the playoffs in three of the past four seasons, solid drafting and some smart trading has left the team with a great core of talent and all of it under the age of 30.
Matt Duchene has become the face of the franchise while the team has seen leadership emerge out of young studs Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan O'Reilly. Erik Johnson has helped shore up the Avs back end and lost amidst all the new Avs is the steady play of 26-year-old Paul Stastny. While his point totals have dipped from his 70-plus output in three of his first four NHL seasons, the centre played in 79 games last season and trailed only O'Reilly in team scoring.
Colorado could well have been a playoff team last season had it not been for a 9-16-1 stretch from late October to early December. Still, the team's legs could keep it ahead of the pack in the Northwest, as long as Joe Sacco can keep his young team focused.
The Avs are getting spoiled by their recent run of Draft Day success. Using a 2011 first-rounder on Gabriel Landeskog paid off as the winger took home the Calder Trophy. The team had similar success in 2009 yielding 18-year-old pros with their first two picks: Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly.
The team has also done well to get prospects with high upside around the ice though, using recent first-rounders on Owen Sound playmaker Joey Hishon in 2010, rugged blueliner Duncan Siemens in 2011 (thanks to a pick they acquired from the Blues) and used a second-rounder on a potential starter in netminder Calvin Pickard. The team's top 2012 pick was Plymouth winger Mitchell Heard.
The Avs also got great value out of their final 2012 pick, as seventh-rounder Colin Smith of Kamloops has been at or near the top of the WHL scoring table for much of the 2012-13 season.
This team is set to grow together over the next few years, so provided the wheels don't come off, the dressing room should remain relatively unchanged over the course of the season and beyond. Johnson and David Jones both got four year extensions and Landeskog – named team captain and the youngest-ever captain in NHL history - is still on his entry-level deal. Duchene and Steve Downie both got two-year deals, Parenteau signed on for four and Stastny still has two years left on the five-year deal that kicked in in 2009. Everyone has a chance to get familiar with each other and if it clicks, management needn't worry about keeping it together.
What to make of P.A. Parenteau? Four years at $4 million per season seems light for a player that equaled the points output of the likes of Pavel Datsyuk, Jarome Iginla, Daniel Sedin and Tyler Seguin last season. However, the 29-year-old is in just his third season in the league and goes from a less talented squad to one where he might not get the opportunities to rack up points like he did on Long Island. Did the Avs catch a bargain, grabbing a player on the upswing of his career? Or, did they fall victim to the dreaded points bump of a motivated player in a contract year?
A look at where Avalanche players went during the lockout:
Matt Duchene (Ambri-Piotta, Swiss League), Stefan Elliott (Lake Erie, AHL), Gabriel Landeskog (Djurgarden, Swedish Elite), Paul Stastny (EHC Munchen, German Elite), Semyon Varlamov (Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, KHL)