The first week and a half of the free agency period for the Colorado Avalanche has been intriguing, to say the least. Just over a week ago, as the July 1st deadline approached, there was a growing concern that Paul Stastny was going to be lost to another club. Would the Avs surprise everyone and re-sign him? If they didn’t, whom would they get to fill the void left in his absence?
These questions, among others, were quickly answered as the day rolled on. Stastny packed up and left town, as he agreed to a four year, $28 million contract with the division rival St. Louis Blues. He will return to the city where his father, Peter Stastny, finished his NHL career. It was reported that the Avalanche offered him a six-year deal, worth $35 million. However, that number just wasn’t high enough for Stastny’s liking and he made the difficult decision to say goodbye after eight years in Colorado.
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This led many to believe that executive vice president of hockey operations, Joe Sakic, and head coach, Patrick Roy, had something up their sleeve. The day before the free agency period opened, the Avalanche sent P.A. Parenteau and a 2015 fifth-round pick to the Montreal Canadians, in exchange for Daniel Briere. Maybe they were preparing for Stastny’s eventual departure.
Though, there were some question marks surrounding this move. Why exchange the 31-year-old Parenteau for a 36-year-old Briere? Briere is due $4 million this season, in the final year of his current contract, while Parenteau is set to make $4 million each of the next two years. So not only does it free up some much needed cap space, but also it adds a veteran presence that was so dearly missed in last year’s playoffs against Minnesota. Briere has had remarkable success in the postseason, notching 116 points in 124 career playoff games. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Briere playing on the third line next season, with Maxime Talbot and Jamie McGinn.
Colorado’s biggest free-agent signing of the day came just a few hours after Stastny was officially gone. Jarome Iginla, one of the best to ever play the game, signed a three-year contract worth $16 million. At 37 years old, the 560-goal scorer is a sure bet for the hockey hall of fame. There’s no question that he’s past his prime, but even as his career begins to fade, he’s still putting up phenomenal numbers. The guy can just flat out play hockey. In 2013, he put up 30 goals and 31 assists. He’s put up 50 or more points in 15 seasons during his illustrious 18-year career. He’s a 12-time 30-goal scorer that could see plenty of action on the first line with Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly. It’s hard to imagine what kind of magic that line could potentially create in 2014-2015.
Another one of the keys for the Avalanche this offseason was to bolster their back end. They needed to bring their top-four up to par with other NHL teams. The Avs were able to do just that when they traded for San Jose Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart. The big-hitter was brought to Colorado in exchange for the Avalanche’s second-round pick in 2016 and their sixth-round pick the following year. He’s an experienced, stay-at-home defenseman but more than that, he’s a veteran who’s won a Stanley cup. The 34-year-old Stuart will eat up a lot of ice time as a top-two defenseman. Look for him to be paired with Erik Johnson.
The Avalanche also added depth on their fourth line with the addition of bruiser, Jesse Winchester. He’ll accompany Cody McLeod and John Mitchell. The emphasis has been to add depth across the board, with a focus on defense. Colorado signed Zach Redmond to be the man to step up and fill that final defensive role. The former Winnipeg Jet will assume the role of a 6th defenseman this season.
All in all, the Avalanche showed the ability to recover from the loss of Stastny, while potentially improving at every position. The addition of three proven veterans, in Briere, Stuart, and Iginla, should bring a newfound sense of leadership to a younger Colorado team. It may be far too early to tell yet, but the Avalanche roster looks to have the pieces in place to recreate their success from a season ago.
-(Jarome Iginla, RW, Previous team: Boston)
-(Daniel Briere, C, Previous team: Montreal)
-(Brad Stuart, D, Previous team: San Jose)
-(Paul Stastny, C, 2014-2015 team: St. Louis)
-(Andre Benoit, D, 2014-2015 team: TBD)
Free Agency Grade: A-