September 22 2009, 9:15 AM
In a little over a week, the puck drops at the Pepsi Center, and the Colorado Avalanche will try to shake off the worst season the team's had since moving to Denver in 1995. It's going to be an interesting year for the squad, considering the retirement of perhaps the Avs' greatest player ever, Joe Sakic. Stepping into that void is a bevy of young talent, brimming with potential. One of those young players flying a bit under the radar is forward Ryan O'Reilly, whom the team signed to a three-year, entry-level contract yesterday, according to the team's Web site. O'Reilly, 18, was the team's second pick in this spring's draft, along with projected star Matt Duchene. O'Reilly will earn $900,000 in each year of the contract but isn't guaranteed a roster spot this fall, reports The Denver Post. Of course, Duchene and O'Reilly, along with emerging star Paul Stastny, won't have to lead the team on their own. Talented players such as Milan Hejduk are still on the team. And at least one old vet, defenseman Adam Foote, was named captain of the team earlier this month (via Sporting News). Without a doubt, this team is in full-on rebuilding mode, and Mile High Hockey predicts the Avs will finish second to last in the Western Conference. Still, team leadership will likely trim salaries and trade some of the older veterans---i.e. defenseman Scott Hannan and possibly Foote and Hejduk---for younger, stockpile draft picks. If they can do that, the year will be a success. We'll have to put up with some bad hockey for now, but at least we're building toward the future. Right?