Colorado Avalanche Defense: Ryan Wilson and Jan Hejda


On the Colorado Avalanche defense, two players are unrestricted free agents come July 1 — Ryan Wilson and Jan Hejda. According to various reports, the Avalanche are unlikely to re-sign either defenseman.

This is not a big surprise, but it is still somewhat unhappy news.

Jan Hejda

On the Colorado Avalanche defense, Jan Hejda has played the role of shutdown defender. He has largely been partnered with cornerstone defenseman Erik Johnson on the top pairing.

The Avalanche acquired defenseman Brad Stuart last summer ostensibly to partner with Johnson, even extending his contract before he played a game. However, the aging Stuart was never able to keep up with the speedy Johnson, and Jan Hejda eventually ended up back on the top pairing. Even though Hejda is a bit older at 36 than the 35-year-old Stuart, he’s shown himself to have good chemistry with Johnson.

That’s what makes his loss somewhat unhappy news. Chemistry is essential among defensemen. However, the current speculation is that the Colorado Avalanche defense needs an infusion of talent and skill, so letting Hejda — and his cap hit of $3.25 million — go makes sense.

The Colorado Avalanche had the chance to trade Hejda at the deadline in March. It’s unlikely they would have gotten much for the 36-year-old defenseman nearing the end of a contract, but even a draft pick is better than the nothing they receive in letting him go during free agency. That makes me think the Avs want to keep their options open with him. Maybe they hope he doesn’t sign in the off-season, and if no prospects have turned up for Johnson’s pairing, they’ll re-sign Hejda to a one-year contract at favorable terms.

More about Jan Hejda’s contributions to the team:

Next: Avs Star of the Week: Jan Hejda

Ryan Wilson

Defenseman Ryan Wilson showed such promise. He entered the NHL as an undrafted free agent. During his first years with the Colorado Avalanche (after being traded from the Calgary Flames), he made a place for himself on the team as a hard-hitting defenseman not afraid to fight.

Unfortunately, he spent enough time during the 2013-14 season injured that he didn’t make head coach Patrick Roy’s team on a regular basis. He spent a lot of games as a healthy scratch. However, he came back re-energized for the 2014-15 season — only to fall prey to another injury that ended his season.

Ryan Wilson has more talent and skill than someone like Nate Guenin. However, the Colorado Avalanche defense needs healthy bodies, and Wilson has been unable to be that. He is unlikely to see time in an Avalanche uniform again.

Player profile on Ryan Wilson:

Next: Ryan Wilson Player Profile

Colorado Avalanche Defense

Sep 25, 2014; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens right wing Brendan Gallagher (11) is checked by Colorado Avalanche defenseman Ryan Wilson (44) during the first period at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

So, the Colorado Avalanche have six defensemen on NHL contracts — Johnson, Stuart, Guenin, Tyson Barrie, Nick Holden and Zach Redmond. Coach Roy is known for keeping eight defensemen on the roster, though.

The Avalanche do have some prospects in the system who show promise — Chris Bigras and Mason Geertsen in particular. Both are young — 20 years old. They might get a few games in the third defensive pairing, but they’re not the solution to the problems with the Colorado Avalanche defense.

The 21-year-old Duncan Siemens and 24-year-old Stefan Elliott seem somewhat more likely — more mature anyway. Siemens showed some chemistry with Johnson at training camp last year, but his overall performance has been underwhelming. Elliott has failed to impress, and he’s a restricted free agent. The Avs probably won’t sign him.

Even though coach Roy has said the future of the Avalanche comes from the draft rather than free agency, the team may be looking to pick up one of the defensemen coming up on unrestricted free agency this season. Mike Green of the Washington Capitals is one of the big names out there. At 29, he seems like a great catch. He’ll come with a high price tag, though. Other options include Johnny Oduya (Chicago Blackhawks), Andrej Meszaros (Buffalo Sabres) and Christian Ehrhoff (Pittsburgh Penguins).

The Avs could also be looking to make a trade or make an offer sheet for a restricted free agent.

Next: Top RFA Defensemen for the Avs

More from Mile High Sticking