Their Stanley Cup runneth over with bags of money. The Avs are champs, and champs want to get paid. They were brothers in a championship quest. But money will rip them apart. Starting now.
So say goodbye, Darcy Kuemper.
Thanks for out-dueling the best goalie on the planet that unforgettable night when Colorado hoisted the Cup. Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic, however, showed Thursday what he really thinks of Kuemper, making a significant draft day trade that shipped three picks to the New York Rangers for backup netminder Alexandar Georgiev.
What’s next? We will find out whether Nazem Kadri loves Colorado more than money.
Although we get misty about how Kadri grew as a player and man to become the emotional spark plug of Colorado’s drive for a championship, team management would be crazy to pay top dollar for a 31-year-old center coming off an outlier of a career season.
After slamming beers faster than the Coors brewery can make them, here’s a sobering thought for the newly crowned champs: Building a dynasty requires tough economic choices that demand players make sacrifices in pursuit of winning, and Sakic won’t hand out lavish salaries based on sentimentality.
Giddy about the Cup coming home to Colorado for the first time since 2001, it would be nice, not to mention incredibly naïve, to think the Avalanche could run it all back next season.
But the buh-bye to Kuemper reminded us that keeping the band together is a sentimental fantasy in a league with a hard salary cap — a harsh reality franchise owner Stan Kroenke warned us about amid the championship celebration in Tampa. With a bill quickly coming due on a contract extension for center Nathan MacKinnon, the Avs will be forced to undergo a significant makeover to fight off challengers next season, when the cap is set at $82.5 million.
Sakic learned the hockey business at the right (iron) hand of Pierre Lacroix, who loved Avalanche players like his kids, until they came asking for a hefty bump in allowance. Franchise management has long held to the guiding principle of sticking to an internally set salary structure, rather than reacting to the market rate set by some greater fool in another NHL city.
And that’s why Kadri has to go, pack his bags and move on to Seattle or Phoenix or Washington, unless he’s willing to take a major hometown discount to remain with his brothers in burgundy and blue.