The Colorado Avalanche made an interesting move when they acquired Vladislav Namestnikov earlier this year. The 27-year-old was coming off a successful stretch with the Ottawa Senators before the deal. However, only played for nine games before the NHL ceased operations during the current global pandemic. Namestnikov is about to be a free agent but should be extended for at least one more year based on 2019-20.
Avalanche Should Keep Vladislav Namestnikov
Namestnikov only played in nine games but had a great start with Colorado. He scored four goals and six points in those contests along with 14 hits and six blocks. That was after 13 goals and 25 points in 52 games with Ottawa. Namestnikov also contributed 93 hits and 39 blocks for the Sens. Those surface-level stats are solid for a player that the New York Rangers shipped off as part of its rebuild.
The veteran forward traditional numbers help cover up the fact that he was below-average in advanced metrics. His Corsi For this season was below 50 percent at each of his three stops. He also posted negative relative Corsi For percentages, meaning his teams shoot less with him skating. Namestnikov offers very little in terms of advanced offensive or defensive value and yet, he provided good production with Colorado.
The reason Namestnikov is so intriguing is even though he is bad at even-strength, he is outstanding on the power play. His GF/60 (Goals For per 60 minutes) was 15.6 as an Avalanche. That mark ranks 21st in the NHL among players who played on the power play in at least 10 games. The Avs have one of the strongest power-play units in the league. Namestnikov would be another threat in the lineup.
How Can Colorado Improve Namestnikov
The first thing the Avalanche can do is leave Namestnikov in front of the net when he’s on the ice. 15 of his 17 goals came in the area right in front of the net. He offers a similar presence to Gabriel Landeskog in terms of two-way ability. Neither player is uniquely big but both screen well and provide value forechecking the opposition. The game has gotten faster but there is still a place for grinders that live in front of the net and jam shots in.
The team can also help improve Namestnkov’s stats by keeping him with some of its best players. He posted a positive Corsi For percentage playing with star Nathan MacKinnon. Most players look great next to MacKinnon but the pairing benefitted Namestnikov. Colorado’s top-six is loaded but the only other player with a positive Corsi For next to Namestnikov was Valeri Nichushkin. Putting him next to a combination of speed and grit looks like it would be the right move when hockey returns. The biggest problem with this grouping is the sample size is too small to be reliable. That is part of why Colorado needs to retain the experienced skater.
Namestnikov’s versatility means he can play almost anywhere but it also means he has competition for every spot. The organization is loaded with chapter prospects that are trying to take his spot. Shane Bowers started slowly but scored 16 of his 27 points after the calendar flipped to 2020. He is one of the team’s strongest options at centre. Bowers will go into the team’s 2020-21 training camp as a top option for the bottom-six.
Martin Kaut is starting to challenge for a regular spot as well. He is only 20-years old but scored two goals and three points in nine NHL games before play was suspended. Kaut has the size at 6’2″, 180 to excel on the forecheck and he has an above-average shot to snipe from the wing too.
Prospects aren’t the only obstacles between Namestnikov and a return to Colorado after this season concludes. He was acquired as a partial replacement for the injured Nazem Kadri but Kadri will return at some point and push Namestnikov down the depth chart. The Avalanche also have to consider new deals for Andre Burakovsky, Vladislav Kamenev, and Tyson Jost. Colorado almost has to consider letting Namestikov walk in free agency just so they can have money for younger players and important free agents next summer.
Will The Avs Keep Vladislav Namestnikov?
All the factors discussed are almost irrelevant until we know more about the upcoming offseason. Colorado has one of the best cap situations in the NHL but a flat salary cap will affect them as well as less-flexible teams. Namestnikov has probably done enough to earn a raise above his current cap hit of $3.25 million. Colorado has given more expensive contracts than that in the past but it has been to younger forwards like Mikko Rantanen or Joonas Donskoi.
Vladislav Namestnikov will probably have to take a pay cut depending on how he performs when hockey returns. If he does, he has certainly performed well enough to stay with the team and compete for a Stanley Cup. The Avs are in a prime position to challenge for a title. A versatile, experienced presence like Namestnikov could be just the piece they need.
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