Colorado Avalanche Roster Outlook: Part 2 – Defensemen


If you ask a Colorado Avalanche fan about the biggest weakness of the Avalanche’s roster, there is a 100% chance that the person’s answer will be “the defense”. Fixing that problem is a difficult task, especially in a league where elite-defensemen are much sought-after.

Not every team has a true number one in their lineup.

If you ask NHL experts about the amount of true number one defensemen in the league, you will likely get a lot of different answers. One of those will be that there are not even 30 true number one defensemen in the league. Others, like me, will say that there are 30 true number one defensemen in the league. However, not every team has a true number one in their lineup.

There are few teams with stacked defenses like the St. Louis Blues. Their lineup features Jay Bouwmeester, Alex Pietrangelo, and former Avalanche Kevin Shattenkirk among others. Then there are the less fortunate teams like the Dallas Stars and, unfortunately, the Colorado Avalanche. Their main task on gameday is to figure out which ones are the lesser of five evils.

But as whining and envy do not give a team a better defense, here is your Colorado Avalanche defense for 2015-16.

2015-16 Defensemen

Expiring contracts:

  • Jan Hejda UFA
  • Ryan Wilson UFA

Depth Chart:

  1. Jan Hejda – Erik Johnson
  2. Brad Stuart – Tyson Barrie
  3. Nick Holden – Nate Guenin
  4. Chris Bigras – Zach Redmond

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Jan Hejda has constantly been declining, but is still a valuable part of the team. He should — if possible — get a one-year-extension to a slight discount. Ryan Wilson has been injured for basically the entire season, but also should not have played if he had not been injured. Therefore, Ryan Wilson should not and will not be signed to an extension.

What we are looking at now, is one true number one defenseman (Johnson), one legit top-four defenseman (Barrie), one declining top-six defenseman (Hejda), one outrageously overpaid top-six-at-best defenseman (Stuart), and three AHL-caliber defensemen on one-way contracts (Holden, Guenin, Redmond). The only things that give hope are that with Chris Bigras and Mason Geertsen, there are two more promising prospects joining the pros and fellow prospect Duncan Siemens, and that with Erik Johnson we have a true number one in the lineup.

The big question that needs to be answered, is who will partner Erik Johnson. Hejda and Johnson have been clicking well for many years, but Hejda is simply not good enough for that much ice time anymore. Chris Bigras and Mason Geertsen are options for the future, but will likely need some time to adjust to the pro-game. There are three options to answer the question: rely on Hejda for another year, sign a free-agent, or acquire someone via trade.

Mar 7, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings defenseman Andrej Sekera (7). Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The one player that is valuable enough to acquire a first-pairing defenseman is Ryan O’Reilly. But as I am hopeful and optimistic that he can be re-signed, I would rather look at options in free-agency.
LA Kings defenseman Andrej Sekera tops the list of 2015 FA-defensemen. He could be a great fit for the Avalanche’s first pairing, but he will not come cheap. It may take a multi-year-contract with an annual salary of around five million dollars.
The same thing goes for Penguins Paul Martin and Christian Ehrhoff, who will be looking for long-term-deals before they retire. Both of them may come cheaper than Sekera, though.
If those options are too expensive, Johnny Oduya (CHI) may come a little bit cheaper and could play top-four minutes.

Sakic and Roy have mentioned that they do not want to sign 35-year-old veterans.

Another step down would be Boston Bruin Matt Bartkowski, who had a hard time proving his worth on a deep roster in Boston, but has potential to play top-four minutes eventually. He will likely be looking to sign a gap-contract in the range of two million dollars per year.

Sakic and Roy have mentioned that they do not want to sign 35-year-old veterans. In this desperate situation, however, they should look at all of the above options.

It will also be interesting to see where Chris Bigras and Mason Geertsen will slot in and what will happen with Holden, Guenin, and Redmond. Bigras may soon replace one of the mentioned players, leaving the Avalanche with at least two NHL-caliber D-men on one-way-contracts, that do not have a spot in the lineup. It remains to be seen if Joe Sakic can juggle players around so that they can send one of them down and still be cap-compliant.

Something has to happen on D, if the Avalanche wants to roll for longer than 82 games next season. There is light at the end of the tunnel, as a strong foundation is certainly there.

Next: Roster Outlook - Goalies

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