CENTENNIAL, Colo. — Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon won’t need surgery for the shoulder injury he sustained during the Stanley Cup Playoffs and will be ready for training camp, general manager Joe Sakic said Tuesday.
MacKinnon, who had 13 points (six goals, seven assists) in 12 playoff games, was injured against the San Jose Sharks in the first period of Game 7 of the Western Conference Second Round at SAP Center. He was able to return after getting an injection for pain, but the Avalanche were eliminated with a 3-2 loss.
“He’ll be fine, he’s getting better every day,” Sakic said. “He’ll be fine in a couple weeks. Just (needs) rest.”
MacKinnon, 23, tied for seventh in the NHL with 99 points (41 goals, 58 assists) in 82 games and will be counted on heavily in 2019-20 when the Avalanche attempt to make the playoffs for the third straight season, something they haven’t done since an 11-season run from 1995-2006 and included Stanley Cup championships in 1996 and 2001.
Video: Avalanche battled adversity early in Game 7 loss
“Our goal is to win the Stanley Cup, that’s the endgame,” Sakic said. “We want to be better next year and be more consistent during the regular season.”
The Avalanche went 7-1-2 in their final 10 games to clinch the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference for the second season in a row. They defeated the top-seeded Calgary Flames in five games in the first round.
The goal next season is to earn a higher seed and gain home ice; including the regular season, Colorado went 10-1-0 in its final 11 games at Pepsi Center, including 4-1 in the playoffs.
“As great as the end of the year was, we still didn’t accomplish the end goal,” Sakic said. “We’ve got to find a way to get better. It starts here in the offseason.”
Seven players will be restricted free agents July 1, including right wing Mikko Rantanen, 22, who had 87 points (31 goals, 56 assists) in 74 games and led the Avalanche in the playoffs with 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in 12 games.
“It’s a priority to get him done,” Sakic said. “We prefer long term. If it has to be short term, it has to be short term. We want to make sure we have him signed.”
The other restricted free agents are forwards Sven Andrighetto, J.T. Compher, Vladislav Kamenev and Alexander Kerfoot, and defensemen Ryan Graves and Nikita Zadorov.
Video: Decisions loom for Colorado after a promising season
Five players will be unrestricted free agents, including goalie Semyon Varlamov, whose 183 wins are second in Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques history to Patrick Roy (262). But Philipp Grubauer replaced him as the No. 1 goalie down the stretch and played all 12 playoff games.
“We’ll see what happens July 1 with him,” Sakic said. “We’ll be in communication.”
Forwards Gabriel Bourque, Derick Brassard and Colin Wilson, and defenseman Patrik Nemeth also will be unrestricted.
Sakic said he plans to be more aggressive in the free-agent market than in previous seasons.
“It’s a pretty good class this year,” he said. “(We) already have targeted players in mind if they become available that we’ll want to talk to about joining our club. We see positions of need, of what we’re looking to do. There’s a few guys we’re going to want to talk to if they become available. We’ll be more aggressive this year with that, but if it doesn’t work out with the players we want to talk to, we’re not just going to go spend on anybody. We want the right players and the right fit.”
Coach Jared Bednar is signed through next season and Sakic said he eventually would begin talks for a contract extension.
The Avalanche have eight picks in the 2019 NHL Draft on June 21-22 in Vancouver, five in the first three rounds, including Nos. 4 and 16 in the first round.
“We’re excited about this offseason, there’s a lot of things we can do to improve this club, make us a stronger team next year,” Sakic said. “We saw the growth in the last couple years here and we want to keep growing like that. You see the Pepsi Center, the playoff atmosphere, the atmosphere all year. I think there’s a lot of excitement about this team. We got to keep building and try to get to the next level.”