On Thursday, the Colorado Avalanche announced a one year contract extension for 23 year old goaltender Calvin Pickard.
Pickard experienced his first NHL action during the 2014-2015 season when he played a total of 16 games. Starting goalie Semyon Varlamov missed action during the season with an injured groin which made normal back-up goalie Reto Berra the number one guy. Berra struggled however and eventually head coach Patrick Roy called on the then 22-year-old AHL regular to action.
While Pickard had a losing record at the end of the 16 games played he was still a bright spot on a rough season for the Avalanche. His final record was six wins, seven loses and three loses in overtime. Pickard’s play quickly caused a goalie controversy at least from a fans and media perspective as some claimed that Pickard should remain the teams back up goalie when Varlamov returned. For a short while the Avalanche actually kept all three goalies on the NHL roster but eventually Pickard was returned to the AHL.
Many people in the hockey world have questioned the contract that the Avalanche signed Berra to after he was acquired from the Calgary Flames. The three-year deal will pay Berra $1.45 million this year with a pay raise to $1.5 million next year. This for a back up goalie that has produced play that can be described as up and down to say the least.
Heading Into Camp
As the 2015-2016 season draws closer there is no argument from anybody that Varlamov is this teams number one goalie both now and in the foreseeable future. This current Avalanche roster has many forwards fighting for even fewer spots on the big
club. The goaltending battle maybe even more interesting to watch now that Pickard has been signed.
Both Pickard and Berra will be fighting to show they deserve that second goaltender spot with the big club behind Varlamov. While this battle was sure to be a heated one before, the faith the Avalanche are showing in Pickard with this contract extension is sure to give the young goalie a little more encouragement that he can be the back up.
Another way the organization may look at the current goalie situation is this: Pickard is still very young, for a goalie at least, and he needs to continue to get playing time. Hockey fans hear all the time about players who are thrown into the league before they have a chance to develop and it ultimately costs the player and the team he plays for. It is a safe bet the Avalanche will consider this situation with Pickard and will weigh the idea of leaving him in the AHL so he can continue to get steady playing time and develop his skills. It is possible that Pickard being the backup goalie this season will hinder his play in the long term.
In the four seasons that Varlamov has been with the Avalanche, including the lockout shortened 2012-2013 season, he has not played more than 63 games in any one regular season. Whoever lands the backup job to Varlaomov this season will be expected to play in the realm of 20 games and watch some 60 games. Pickard playing roughly two games per month in the NHL while the millionaire Berra plays all the games for Lake Erie seeming a little backwards is an argument that anybody can make.
Pickard Highlights From Last Season
Again, Pickard was a bright spot in a tough season for the Avalanche organization and its fans. A young kid comes into the NHL for the first time and does not have much pressure to perform greatly. All anybody wants is for him to be solid and not lose a game for the club. Pickard did way more than that.
On December 21st the Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings would play a nine round shootout to decide a game that was tied at 1. Of the nine shot attempts Pickard would only allow two goals facing the likes of Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, and Henrik Zetterberg. After Jarome Iginla scored in the ninth round of the shootout Pickard would finally secure the win with a stop against Brendan Smith.
What the Future Holds
At this point it is still unclear which goalie will be playing for which team when the season begins, except for Varlamov. Pickard has earned the one year deal he has signed and is sure to drive the young goaltender to keep up the hard work and trying to make the big club. The fact is that ideally Varlamov will remain healthy all season and that Berra and Pickard will see as little ice time as possible in a successful season for the Avalanche.
Pickard now has one year to prove to the organization that he first of all, can be a solid backup, and down the road can be the number one goalie for this team. Only time will tell what becomes of the 23-year-old goalie that the Avalanche have shown so much confidence in.
I am a University of New Mexico journalism student who has been watching NHL hockey since 1996 and I started playing hockey myself in 2003. I have covered both college soccer and volleyball in the past and I also contribute to a NASCAR news website.