J.T. Compher was the ideal third-line center for the Avalanche’s Stanley Cup run in 2022.

But his position with the team no longer seems to fit. On one hand, it would be great to have the pending unrestricted free agent return as as the center of line 3 while continuing to be the Swiss army knife that could be plugged into the top six when injuries arise. But on the other hand, Compher’s coming off a career-high 52 points in the regular season. And at 28 years old, he’s lining up for perhaps his only opportunity to sign a lucrative long-term deal.

And given the Avs’ center depth issues and salary cap crunch, it’s hard to imagine he signs that contract with Colorado.

Compher played a majority of the 2022-23 season as the second-line center. It was a position that wasn’t directly filled when Nazem Kadri walked last summer. The expectation was for Alex Newhook, a young center with a Stanley Cup already to his name, to take the next step. But instead, Compher filled in and did an admirable job when Newhook struggled. He was one of a handful of skaters to appear in all 82 regular season games. He even put up more assists last season (35) than his previous career-high in points (33). And he added 17 goals for good measure.

Aarif’s take: The reality is, Compher makes too much to be a third-line center on a team counting its dollars to fill out a competitive roster. But, as we saw after the trade deadline and heading into the playoffs, he also doesn’t have the skill to be a permanent top-six forward. It’s safe to say Compher — who was acquired in 2015 from Buffalo in the blockbuster Ryan O’Reilly trade — has played his last game with the Avalanche.

Evan Rodrigues

Coming off a career year with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2021-22, Rodrigues ended up settling for a one-year deal worth $2 million with Colorado just weeks before training camp began. At 29 years old, and after a respectable 39-point season in 69 games, Rodrigues is going to give it another shot in free agency. Like Compher, this could be his only chance to cash in on the type of deal the Avs just can’t afford. But what if the market isn’t there? If the flat cap plays out like it did last summer, Rodrigues might end up being one of the final unrestricted free agents without a seat at the table.

And if that happens, a return to the Avs shouldn’t be ruled out.

Aarif’s take: Rodrigues was a great fit with Colorado. He was asked at times to play a larger role than what you’d consider ideal. But as a middle-six forward that can fill in on the wing or at center, Rodrigues is the type of player and has the type of attitude, that helps teams build depth.

Given the uncertainty of the salary cap, which will rise at least by a million and possibly up to $2 million, it’s hard to say what a reasonable salary is for Rodrigues. The Avs have several other players and spots to fill higher on the priority list. But if that all works out, and if Rodrigues — who told me following Game 7’s loss that he wants to return — doesn’t sign a large deal elsewhere, then I’m all for him returning.

Matt Nieto

Acquired mid-season from San Jose, Nieto was brought in to shore up the Avs’ lack of depth in the bottom two lines. He did an admirable job given his age and role, but as was the theme in 2022-23, Nieto found himself playing larger-than-ideal roles at times, which included top-six minutes both in the regular season and playoffs.

Aarif’s take: I’m not entirely wowed by Nieto as a depth forward. But if he returns as a depth option for the league minimum, it wouldn’t be an issue, assuming he’s the 13th or 14th best option up front. Nieto strikes me as the type of player you could squeeze past waivers if needed. And at the league minimum, it’s an entirely buriable contract that won’t count against the salary cap if he’s in the AHL.