The Colorado Avalanche have done a wonderful job over the past six years of establishing what is considered its core of young players.
In the 2009 NHL entry draft, the Avalanche selected Matt Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly and Tyson Barrie. All three of these players are now staples in the lineup and are looked upon to produce.
A couple years later, in 2011, the Avalanche drafted Gabriel Landeskog and most recently, in 2013, drafted Nathan MacKinnon. While the bulk of the core seems to be in place moving forward there are still changes coming to the Avalanche roster; two well known names appear to have played their last game in an Avalanche jersey.
As a big-body defenceman, Jan Hejda is probably the most significant departure for the Avalanche this season. Yes it is true, the Avalanche’s weak spot appears to be on the blue line but Hejda was a solid, veteran player who quietly did his job every night. He was not a huge offensive threat but also was very rarely out of position defensively.
Hejda signed a four year deal with the Avalanche as a free agent in 2011 after spending four years with the Columbus Blue Jackets. While over half of Hejda’s hockey experience came from overseas he has still played in 627 NHL regular season games. His production of only 25 goals in that time shows that the strangth of his game is as a stay at home shut down defenceman.
While it appears the Avalanche have decided to move on from Hejda, at 36 years old, it is probably a safe bet that another NHL team will contact Hejda on July 1 or in the days that follow. The contract will probably not be as long as the four year deal he is coming off of, but Hejda’s career is not yet over.
Hejda is not afraid to use his big body both in the fighting and checking categories. This past season Daniel Winnik was injured on a hit by Hejda but nothing came to be as far as the hit being dirty and the injury was not at all Hejda’s intention.
Acquired via trade last off season from Montreal, it appears it is a case of one and done for Daniel Briere in Colorado. Looking to add a veteran presence to a young squad, Biere was one of several veteran players acquired by the Avalanche before last season. Also the plan was to have Briere in the lineup when the Avalanche made the playoffs which it turned out, did not happen.
Briere spent a large portion of the season as a healthy scratch for the team that was again, looking for a veteran presence. For a closer look at Briere’s first and apparently only season in Colorado look here. Rumors have been flying for a few days that Briere will either retire or would like to return to Philadelphia because that is where his three sons currently live.
Turn over is going to happen on every NHL club during the off season, some more than others, and the Avalanche are no exception. The departure of Hejda and Briere it clears up some cap space for the Avalanche.
They have several guys locked up for the next three years or more but have some contracts to tend to. For example as of now Ryan O’Reilly is still a member of the Avalanche but may be on the trade block. O’Reilly and Tyson Barrie are both on the last years of their contracts and young star Nathan MacKinnon is on the final year of his entry level deal also.
These contracts coming to a close have had repercussions that date all the way back to the Avalanche not wanting to pay Paul Stastny the contract he wanted. With Briere and Hejda exploring other options look for the Avalanche to explore free agent options, extend Barrie and MacKinnon, and deal with O’Reilly whether it is via trade or extension in the coming months.