The off-season has been kind to the Colorado Avalanche this year as they have made some key acquisitions to boost their club’s playoff chances for next season. They rebuilt their roster from the net out and have added some key players to their organization.
The Avalanche have added depth at every position this off-season, signings the likes of Chuck Kobasew, Patrick Rissmiller, and Joakim Lindstrom at the forward position. They signed Jan Hejda to a four year contract to help solidify their defensive unit.
Then they completely revamped their goaltending position, letting Peter Budaj sign with Montreal and Brian Elliott sign with the St. Louis Blues. They then proceeded to make a trade for Semyon Varlamov and sign veteran Jean-Sebastian Giguere.
The players to solely focus on are Jan Hejda, Semyon Varlamov, J.S. Giguere, and newly drafted forward Gabriel Landeskog.
Hejda, a defensive defensemen, adds a depth to Colorado’s blueline that they lost in Adam Foote. Hejda plays big, lays hits, and blocks a ton of shots. That’s something that will help compliment the Avs and their abundance of offensive defensemen.
When you have Erik Johnson, Kyle Cumiskey, Kyle Quincey, and Ryan Wilson on your blueline, the offense wont be lacking to much from them. Meanwhile, they have Matt Hunwick and Ryan O’Byrne to play in shut down roles. Neither of which however can be that top pairing shut down guy who you rely on in this big game situations. Hejda, however, is that guy.
A pairing of Johnson and Hejda could cause the opposing club to have fits when on the ice against them, that is something that the Avalanche relish in. Knowing that Hejda can add that physical, shut down game, they can rest easy knowing all is well on their blueline.
Picking Gabriel Landeskog in the first round on the NHL entry draft this past year adds something the Avalanche lost in the deal to acquire Jay McClement and Erik Johnson, a big powerforward who can put the puck in the net.
Now it’s possible that Landeskog goes back to juniors this season, but in my personal opinion, he sticks with the Avs. He is physically ready and I believe he’ll like Tyler Seguin did with Boston this past year.
He should have a modest rookie season. Maybe breaking the 15 goal plateau and potentially notching 30+ points, but all and all, I think he’s an Avalanche this season.
Now, onto the goaltending acquisitions.
Grabbing a veteran like J.S. Giguere provides the Avalanche with a guy who can play as a starter of a back up and still be effective in his role. He’s won the cup and owns a Conn Smythe trophy to boot, so he’s got good experience in the post season. Which he could see this season if all things go right in the Mile High City. However, I don’t believe he’ll be starting the majority games this season.
That is because the Avalanche acquire a young budding, Russian goaltender named Semyon Varlamov.
‘Varly’ as he is so dubbed, was acquired in a deal with the Washington Capitals in exchange for a first-round pick in the 2012 Entry Draft and a conditional second-round choice in either 2012 or 2013. A high price to pay for goaltender for sure.
However, Varlamov could be worth the risk. He holds a 30-13-12 record in the regular season with four shutouts, and a 10-9-0 record with two shutouts in the post-season.
However, he’s been injuries a fair amount the past few years and he never got a full chance to show what he could do as a starting goaltender. So when he was acquired by the Avalanche, he immediately wanted to get a deal done.
Puck Daddy’s own Dmitry Chesnokov had an exclusive interview with the Russian goaltender about the rumors of him going to the KHL (Kontinental Hockey League), about discussions with the Capitals, and how playing for Colorado was exactly what he wanted. You can read that in full right here.
I think picking up Varlamov could be a very underrated move in the next few years if he can progress correctly. Varlamov has shown flashes of brilliance (see his save against Crosby for instance), and he has a boatload of potential. A top end goaltender for a first and second round pick? Could become a nice deal for the Avalanche if he can remain injury free.
I think the acquisitions could help push the Avalanche back into the post season, as long as their core remains healthy throughout the majority of the season.
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