It’s hard not being the Colorado Avalanche these days.
They’re a Stanley Cup favorite, with only six of the 20 players under contract over the age of 30. They have Nathan MacKinnon, considered by many to be the best all-around hockey player in the world. They have defenseman Cale Makar, the 22-year-old point machine who just captured the Calder Trophy. They’re deeper than the Marianas Trench, thanks to a perfect storm of contracts below market value and deals signed by players in their youth that have allowed the Avalanche to assemble a preposterous collection of talent under a flat salary cap while other teams are selling off assets.
And this offseason, they’ve … gotten even better. Under general manager Joe Sakic — with a primary assist from assistant GM Chris MacFarland and analytics sages such as Arik Parnass — the Avalanche earned an A grade on our offseason report card. They added Brandon Saad, with Chicago picking up part of the salary, and subtracted Nikita Zadorov. They added Devon Toews to replace Zadorov, because the Islanders were capped out. He’s quite good.
What are we going to pick apart here? Not improving on the fourth-best goaltending in the league (.913 save percentage)? Not spending Pegula money on a year of Taylor Hall?
In asking a few confidants around the NHL about the team that had the best offseason, a handful of the responses started with “besides the Avs?”
So rather than state the obvious, we decided to heap praise on some teams that had — in our estimation — sneaky good offseasons. Some were straight-up great. Some saw their good work overshadowed by controversial, attention-diverting decisions. But in the long run, their offseasons were better than you might have expected.
Here are five teams that had sneaky good offseasons (so far):