Colorado Avalanche Stay Clear of Free Agent Frenzy

On a day notorious for massive spending and wild contracts, the Colorado Avalanche once again stayed true to their word. While teams threw a lot of money around with some questionable contracts, the Colorado Avalanche sat back and simply did not engage in the frenzy that is the first day of the NHL free agency market.

Avalanche Sign One Defenseman

Instead, the Avalanche signed only one contract that will make any difference to the main roster in Denver, inking defenseman Andre Benoit to a one-year contract worth only $900,000. Benoit most recently played for the Ottawa Senators, in what was his first long stint in the NHL. Previous to this, Benoit spent a lot of time going back and forth between the AHL and several European hockey leagues.

Looking at Benoit’s statistics, one can see that there is a lot of offensive promise for the 29 year old defender. Benoit had 55 points in the 2010 – 2011 season playing for Ottawa’s AHL affiliate, the Binghamton Senators. In a statement released by the Avalanche, Executive VP of Hockey Operations, Joe Sakic, mentioned that Benoit is a player they will be looking to to help resurrect what was an anemic power play a season ago.

Andre Benoit
(Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports)

Other Avalanche Signings Today

The Avalanche did make several other signings that were more signings for Colorado’s AHL affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters.  The players signed were Nick Holden, Nate Guenin, Guillaume Desbiens and J.T. Wyman. None of these players will be very likely to see time with the Avalanche next season barring several injuries to the main roster.

The Avalanche re-signed David Van Der Gulik. Van Der Gulik should be a familiar name to most Avalanche fans as a player who has been up on the Colorado Avalanche roster a few times in the past few years. While he has always been a pretty reliable call-up, Van Der Gulik hasn’t really had the staying power to stick with the big roster. Still, he’s a reliable player and is a good one to have in the system.

The Avalanche also signed prospect Colin Smith to a three-year, entry level contract. Smith was Colorado’s seventh-round draft pick in the 2012 Entry Draft, and may end up as one of the steals of that draft. Smith has played with the Kamloops Blazers the last five seasons, and has made staggering improvements every season that he has been there. Smith has not missed a game in any of the past three seasons. This past season, Smith was a 40-goal scorer and cracked the 100 point mark for the first time in his young career. His development in Lake Erie will be very interesting to watch.

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Did the Avalanche Miss Out On Anybody?

The only person I feel the Avalanche really missed out on was Andrew Ference. Yes, the contract that he received in Edmonton is more than the Avalanche would have wanted to pay, which is why I am fine with it. The Avalanche were wary of overpaying for players that weren’t going to give them the biggest bang for their buck, so to speak, so the fact that the Avalanche were quiet today isn’t all that bad.

That being said, the fact that the current core of defensive players is still very similar to the one last season is something that is a bit troubling. The subtraction of Greg Zanon is an improvement for the team simply by not having him there anymore. It is a clear case of addition by subtraction, but the Avalanche still lack a solid presence of top-4 defenders. The best two on the team are Erik Johnson and Jan Hejda, who haven’t played as a pairing since early in the 2011 – 2012 season. Tyson Barrie’s progress a season ago is a good omen, as was the late season improvement of Stefan Elliott but questions still remain.

Will Cory Sarich and Andre Benoit be enough to salvage what was one of the league’s worst defensive groups a season ago? If the Avalanche don’t have any other plans in free agency or through trades, then they’d better hope so.