The Colorado Avalanche surprised nearly everybody last year when, after losing Joe Sakic, the young team made it to the playoffs, giving local hockey fans hope for the future.

Even more cause for excitement is the fact that the Avalanche have nearly $30 million in salary-cap space this off-season, theoretically giving the team enough room to re-sign a few restricted free agents and possibly pave the way for the acquisition of a big-ticket free agent from another team.

The Denver Post reports that the Avalanche trail just three other NHL teams in the salary-cap department, but that doesn’t mean the team will go on a spending spree.

“Signs still point to [the first day of free agency] being a relatively quiet one for the Avs,” the Post writes. Some of that money presumably will go toward re-signing restricted free agents Chris Stewart, Peter Mueller, Kyle Quincey, and possibly Brandon Yip.

But bigger targets are out there. Bleacher Report thinks the Avs should chase five, with the most important being New Jersey’s Ilya Kovalchuk (pictured).

“Hands down the best free agent of the past five years, the 27-year-old Kovalchuk will immediately change the landscape of whatever team he signs with, as he’ll likely be its best player,” Bleacher Report writes.

But Kovalchuk could demand up to the NHL maximum of $10 million annually, a salary the youth-first, low-budget Avalanche may not be willing to meet.