Pavel Francouz of the Colorado Avalanche had one of the best personal days for any goaltender ever on Friday, signing a big extension and earning a massive shutout for his team. For now, he’s his team’s starter, but the Avalanche may be looking for more help in net.
Francouz Inks Extension
Francouz’s perfect day started with a contract extension. The Avalanche announced that they had signed their first-year backup to a two-year contract extension. While the terms of the contract were not officially disclosed, Ryan S. Clark of The Athletic reported that the contract carried a two million dollar salary cap hit. Pierre LeBrun later added that Francouz would earn $2.3 million in year one and $1.7 million in year two.
The Avalanche brought Francouz — who was undrafted in the NHL — over in the 2018-19 season, after a successful career in the Czech Republic and the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). After a strong performance in 49 games with the Colorado Eagles of the American Hockey League (AHL) that season, the Avalanche brought him back. When Semyon Varlamov joined the New York Islanders that offseason, they announced that Francouz would become the NHL backup goaltender.
To say that he has performed well in the role is an understatement. In 25 games this season, Francouz is 15-5-3 with a .926 save percentage (SV%) and a 2.33 goals-against average (GAA). He has been strong enough that when starter Philipp Grubauer suffered an injury during the Stadium Series game against the Los Angeles Kings, general manager Joe Sakic didn’t have to panic to find a replacement. He did, however, reward his goalie with an extension, and he shared his thoughts on the occasion with NHL.com:
We are excited to have Pavel under contract for another two seasons. He has been an important part of our team this year and has performed really well, especially when we needed it most. He is a hard-working professional, a great teammate and has earned his opportunity in the NHL.Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic on extending his backup goalie
Francouz, 29, will now be with the Avalanche through the 2021-22 season. That means he’s the longest-controlled goalie in the organization, as Grubauer’s contract will come due after the 2020-21 season. Whether the Avalanche would let the younger goalie walk to keep Francouz as a starter remains to be seen, though fortunately, Sakic has more than a year to make that decision. They also have top goalie prospect Justus Annunen on the way in the long term.
Francouz Perfect in Avalanche Shutout
Francouz’s work wasn’t done for the day, though, as he would be the starter in Grubauer’s absence as his team took on the Anaheim Ducks at the Pepsi Center on Friday night. The Ducks were a man down, having traded Ondrej Kase to the Boston Bruins earlier in the day. Francouz built on the momentum of signing his contract extension by recording the first shutout of his NHL career.
It wasn’t the hardest evening of his career, but he still had to make 26 saves, including five on the Ducks’ two power plays. Defenseman Hampus Lindholm and forward Rickard Rakell — both of whom have been mentioned in trade rumors but are unlikely to move before Monday’s deadline — led the team with five and four shots respectively. Francouz explained the significance of his first shutout after the game in typically humble fashion:
It feels great, of course. We were pretty close to getting a shutout last game. We were two minutes short, but I was really happy that we finished hard today. We were playing like one unit in front of me and the guys blocked a lot of shots.Pavel Francouz on his first shutout
The Ducks managed eight high danger chances and 1.65 expected goals (xG) in the game, which aren’t amazing numbers. But a shutout is still a shutout, and no one forgets their first. Francouz’s Friday was one to remember. But the Avalanche may have more work to do in net.
Avalanche Still Looking for Backup
The Avalanche seem to be in tremendous hands with Francouz at the helm for the time being. But that doesn’t mean that they won’t look to acquire a goalie before Monday’s trade deadline with Grubauer still expected to miss significant time. In fact, Adrian Dater of ColoradoHockeyNow.com reports that Sakic is in the market for exactly that.
Plenty of goaltenders fit that description, but a select few might make particular sense. The Chicago Blackhawks could look to move either Corey Crawford or Robin Lehner. Brian MacLellan has said he won’t trade Braden Holtby, but Jimmy Howard (Detroit Red Wings), Craig Anderson (Ottawa Senators), and Aaron Dell (San Jose Sharks) could all probably be acquired. They might also be looking for a cheaper option, like Louis Domingue, whom the New Jersey Devils placed on waivers on Friday.
Whatever course Sakic chooses in the short term, the bigger question may become who will start for them in the playoffs. With Francouz playing as well as he has, will they really choose to return to Grubauer, even if he is rusty after returning from injury? And how will the new goalie factor in, if at all? These are good problems for head coach Jared Bednar to have, but they will be difficult decisions nonetheless.
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Stephen Ground is an author with The Hockey Writers and is co-host of the Two Guys No Cup Podcast. He enjoys studying the numbers and providing fresh looks at various stories.