The Colorado Avalanche is a team on the rise with a young core of speedy forwards and a solid number one goalie in Semyon Varlamov. As far as the teams defensive core however, there are some questions that remain. Erik Johnson has flourished the past two seasons under head coach Patrick Roy and Tyson Barrie has shown signs of being one of the best puck moving defenceman in the league in the years to come.
The defensive core also features names that are far from household in Nate Guenin and Nick Holden. One has to suspect that the Avalanche would look to add to its defensive core this off season via free agency. The following players are Unristricted Free Agents this season and the Avalanche may look to signing one of them.
The Anaheim Ducks are currently in the middle of a deep playoff run that has them next set to play the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Finals, so certainly talking contract extensions is on the back burner. At 34 years old Francois Beauchemin is at least two years older than any other defenceman on the current Avalanche roster.
Making his NHL debut in the 2002-2003 season, Beauchemin has played for four different NHL teams including two separate stops in Anaheim. If the Ducks choose not to resign him the Avalanche could look to adding the veteran who has played in nearly 800 NHL games as a one or two year patch player. Beauchemin is a veteran big body player that is a shut down defender.
The Avalanche have a couple of promising defensive prospects in the pipeline such as Chris Bigras and Duncan Siemens but as of now neither of them seem set to be in the NHL full time. In the last year of his deal, Beauchemin made $3.5 Million and has a Stanley Cup to his name as part of the 2007 Ducks team. The Avalanche could look to add the veteran cup winner at less than he made last season if it turns out he is still available on the first day of free agency.
At only 28 years old Andrej Sekera is closer to the average age of the current Avalanche roster which means he still has several years of playing to offer. Sekera became a regular staple in the NHL starting in the 2007-2008 season as part of the Buffalo Sabres. After spending several years in Buffalo, Sekera moved to the Carolina Hurricanes and was the traded to the Los Angeles Kings at the trade deadline this season.
In just under 500 games on regular season experience Sekera only has produced 159 points, only 31 of these were goals scored. Also, Sekera only has eight games of playoff experience and has never played a full 82 games of a regular season. Despite all of this Sekera will be a highly sought after free agent. Sekera shows great skating and puck handling ability and a will to never give up on a play no matter the situation.
It does appear the plan for Sekera in Los Angeles was just to gain a rental player, especially when the Kings missed the playoffs late in the season. Sekera should be available as a UFA on the first day of free agency.
29 year old defenceman Mike Green, has spent his entire NHL career with the Washington Capitals. With over 600 games of NHL experience, Green currently finds himself as an UFA when the season is completed. Trade speculation has surrounded Green for some time but he has remained with the Capitals.
Green was a first round pick of the Capitals in the 2004 draft selected 29th overall. In his time with the Capitals Green has collected just short of 400 points including 122 goals. Green has been up and down as far as health and playing full seasons, but five times he has played 70 games or more in a season. Green has recently been playing the third defensive pair along side fellow veteran Tim Gleason and they have been solid for Washington. The Capital overtime loss to the Rangers last night brought there season to an end the Capitals may now look at resigning Green but as of now it appears he will be a UFA this summer.
Nobody outside of the NHL organizations knows what truly happens when teams try to sign free agents. It comes down to much more then just money, term and team. The players have to consider their families, their health, who their coaches would be and so much more. Last season the Avalanche signed Jarome Iginla and later on in the season Iginla admitted he nearly signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but ultimately picked Colorado because of what it offered his children. The Avalanche may reach out to all three of the players mentioned above or they may not talk to any of them. That remains to be seen. These three are just some names inside a very large pool af free agent defencmen that are available this off season.
The Avalanche also has a UFA defenceman they have not resigned, that would be Jan Hejda. Assuming the Avalanche do not resign Hejda, that is one more spot on the roster that must be filled that was a player who was a staple in the lineup.
July 1, the first day of free agency is now less than 50 days away. Many dominoes are going to fall between now and then especially after somebody wins the Stanley Cup and all focus can be turned to contract extensions. It will be interesting to see what the Avalanche do between now and than and what the accomplish on July 1 and in the days that follow.