Solving the second-line center problem is the Avalanche’s top priority this offseason. Simply put, the team cannot ignore this issue for the second straight year. On Sunday, I looked at several big-name options that general manager Chris MacFarland could target to slot in behind Nathan MacKinnon. Among those names are former Av Ryan O’Reilly, long-time Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov, and a pair of Winnipeg Jets teammates.

In the second half of this two-part series, I’m going to dive into another scenario the team could take. Rather than adding a clear-cut second-line center, and depth pieces around the edges, Colorado could take the approach of adding two interchangeable middle-six centers with perhaps a bigger name on the wing to replace Gabriel Landeskog, who is expected to miss the entire 2023-24 regular season. 

In this instance, I’ve targeted four names the team could look into. Though it’s still a possibility that one of Evan Rodrigues or J.T. Compher could return and grab one of the two spots.

Scenario two: Adding two middle-six centers

Scott Laughton, 29

2022-23 season: 78 GP, 18 G, 25 A, 43 Pts
2022-23 playoffs: Did not qualify
Current team: Philadelphia Flyers
Contract Status: 3 more seasons, $3 million AAV (UFA eligible: summer 2026)

Scott Laughton is coming off a career-high in offensive production while still playing big minutes on the penalty kill. And teams have been asking about him according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. His seven shorthanded points are tied for third in the league. And he also chipped in five power-play goals — the first goals on the man advantage in his 10-year NHL career.

Laughton isn’t cheap for a cap-strapped team in 2023-24, but he also provides stability similar to what Colorado has gotten from Compher over the past six seasons. And with the cap expected to increase massively over the next 24 months, his $3 million cap hit in 2024-25 and 2025-26 will be a much greater bargain than it already is.

Jonathan Toews, 35

2022-23 season: 53 GP, 15 G, 16 A, 31 Pts
2022-23 playoffs: Did not qualify
Current team: Chicago Blackhawks
Contract Status: UFA

If the long-time Blackhawks captain intends to continue his NHL career, the Avalanche and Jonathan Toews are a match made in heaven. He gives the team middle-six center depth, leadership experience and the NHL’s best center at the faceoff dot. And it wouldn’t cost any assets to acquire him. Nor would I expect his contract demands to be too high.

Had it not been for injuries, Toews likely would’ve found his way to Colorado at the deadline last March.

Adam Henrique, 33

2022-23 season: 62 GP, 22 G, 16 A, 38 Pts
2022-23 playoffs: Did not qualify
Current team: Anaheim Ducks
Contract Status: 1 more season, $5.825 million AAV (UFA eligible: Summer 2024)

The shine of acquiring Adam Henrique isn’t quite what it was around the trade deadline. Had the Avs traded for him in March, it would’ve given them two playoff runs with the veteran forward. But with just one year remaining on his deal, I can’t see Colorado being the highest bidder for Henrique’s services.

Regardless, he’s still worth looking into. The Ducks would have to eat 50% of his deal for Colorado to get him at just under $3 million. But running with a top-3 of say MacKinnon, Henrique and Laughton, for example, isn’t the worst thing in the world.

Jack Roslovic, 26

2022-23 season: 77 GP, 11 G, 33 A, 44 Pts
2022-23 playoffs: Did not qualify
Current team: Columbus Blue Jackets
Contract Status: 1 more season, $4.25 million AAV (UFA eligible: Summer 2024)

Like Schmaltz, Roslovic can play both center and wing. The 26-year-old is known for his speed, which fits the Avs’ system, and has consecutive 40-plus point seasons to his name. Given the Blue Jackets’ aggressiveness this offseason, I can’t see them trading Roslovic unless they have a better play in mind to take his place in the lineup. But if they’re looking to move him, he would be a good pick-up for Colorado. Though his salary is just a smidge high.

Notable mentions

Elias Lindholm, Calgary Flames: Newly appointed general manager Craig Conroy made it clear when he was announced as the successor to Brad Treliving that he’s not interested in losing free agents for nothing. Especially after Calgary saw superstar forward Johnny Gaudreau walk out the door last summer. If Lindholm and the Flames are unable to come to terms on an extension, a trade could be a possibility. Though it’s a tricky situation given Calgary’s intentions to bounce back and be a contender next season.

Boone Jenner, Columbus Blue Jackets: A bit of a pipe dream, the Blue Jackets captain would be a great fit for Colorado. But with Mike Babcock expected to be named head coach on July 1, and the recent acquisitions of defensemen Damon Severson and Ivan Provorov, I can’t see Columbus moving such a crucial piece of its lineup. The Blue Jackets want to contend for a playoff spot in 2023-24.

Kirby Dach, Montreal Canadiens: Another pipe dream, and pure speculation. But one that could become a realistic trade target if the Montreal Canadiens acquired and signed Pierre-Luc Dubois to a long-term deal. Montreal’s top center Nick Suzuki is also signed for several years, meaning Dach would quickly lose his place among the top-six with the Canadiens.

Shane Pinto, Ottawa Senators: With Josh Norris and Drake Batherson ahead of him on the depth chart and locked up long-term, Pinto, who is a restricted free agent, could be made available. Though like Dach, this is strictly speculation on my behalf. Pinto had 20 goals and 35 points in his first full NHL season with Ottawa and could be enticed by an opportunity to possibly grab a hold of the second-line center spot on a contending team.