The Colorado Avalanche have tied up their backup netminder Pavel Francouz for another two years, it was announced on Saturday. The 31-year-old has signed a two-year deal worth an average annual value (AAV) of $2 million.
Francouz signed a deal to play for the club back in 2018 and spent the majority of his first season playing in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Colorado Eagles. Strong performances for the farm team led him to assume backup duties for the 2019-20 season, where he held a strong 21-7-4 record at the end of the campaign.
Unfortunately, injuries have hampered his progress in recent seasons. Francouz missed 2020-21 in its entirety, and also the start of 2021-22 – two separate injuries, highlighting the fragility of his body. However, the Czech goalie is now fit, and showing the Avalanche exactly what they have been missing, steady, reliable netminding from their number two option.
With the Avalanche tight up against the salary cap, something that will be the case for a number of years, every deal over the line is vital, and value for money needs to be found. The deal for their backup Francouz is over the line and provides the value for money that the team needs.
Francouz the Strongest Option After Solid Season
Despite missing the start of this season, Francouz has played in 14 games so far, and from those, he has a 10-3-1 record. He was sent to the Eagles for a short conditioning stint ahead of his NHL return and completely dominated, playing four games, winning three and picking up a shutout.
Back in the NHL, one of the biggest reasons for having Francouz on the team is that the Avalanche are happy to throw him in any game. No longer do they need to plan where they can fit in a backup netminder, and no longer do they need to lean on number one goalie Darcy Kuemper so much.
Francouz is a familiar, reliable player who can go into the net under any circumstance, and play the games where Kuemper needs to rest, regardless of who they are against. Earlier in the season, while Francouz was out injured, the Avalanche struggled to find a number two they fully trusted, which added pressure on Kuemper to perform. He was probably a little underwhelming, and is certainly better now, which could be due to having a reliable backup behind him.
Kuemper Can Shine on the Back of Francouz’s Success
The impact this deal can have on Kuemper, both this season and beyond, if he stays with the club, should not be underestimated. Starting netminders can shine even brighter when their workloads are managed, and they can take regular time off, which Kuemper should receive now that he has a regular backup behind him.
The Avalanche are expected to go deep in the playoffs, and much of their success will rest on the shoulders of Kuemper. They need to keep him sharp, but also need to give him rest between now and the start of the playoffs, which is where Francouz will become even more valuable. He can take part of the load and put the Avalanche in the position they want to be in ahead of the postseason.
While many teams win the Stanley Cup with just one netminder, the backup plays an important role in keeping them fresh and healthy beforehand. The Avalanche are aiming to be the next team lifting the Stanley Cup this summer and will be hoping that Francouz and Kuemper can work as the perfect tandem to help them achieve that.
Craig Jones is a freelance NHL writer from the UK, covering the Colorado Avalanche. Watching the NHL from afar, Craig has followed the Avs for more than two decades, and wrote about them for almost one. To get the UK perspective of the NHL and everything Colorado, follow Craig on Twitter @craigjones29.