Colorado Avalanche: Which Defensemen Will Return?

Jan 18, 2016; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Zach Redmond (22) holds up Winnipeg Jets left wing Andrew Ladd (16) as Colorado goalie Semyon Varlamov (1) makes a save during the second period at MTS Centre. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 18, 2016; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Zach Redmond (22) holds up Winnipeg Jets left wing Andrew Ladd (16) as Colorado goalie Semyon Varlamov (1) makes a save during the second period at MTS Centre. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports /

The Colorado Avalanche have three free agent defensmen this coming off-season. However, with 7 D already signed through the season, they’ll have to make a decision about who they want to keep.

We all know the big free agent back at defense this year in Tyson Barrie. However the Avs have two more defensemen who are set to become unrestricted free agents this year as well. And even though Andrew Bodnarchuk and Zach Redmond are not nearly as solid as Barrie, the Avs could probably keep both of them for the price of one Tyson Barrie.

But it’s not just about those three, as the Colorado Avalanche already have seven defensemen locked up for next year: Erik JohnsonFrancois Beauchemin, Brad Stuart (although he may be buried in the long-term injured reserve again), Nick Holden, Eric Gelinas, Nikita Zadorov, and Chris Bigras. So when you’re signing these free agents, the Avalanche also have to think about whether they have a spot for them to skate. Does it make sense signing Redmond and Bodnarchuk (who are both 27) if it means that Zadorov and Bigras will either spend the year as scratches or in the minors?

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There’s a lot of questions so let’s break it down by player.

Erik Johnson– The Colorado Avalanche’s number one defensemen, he has come a far way from being considered a draft bust. He is locked to be the Avs’ number 1 for at least 3 or 4 more years. Also, Nadia (the editor) loves him for reasons she’s never explained.

Editor’s note: Because he’s really good.

Francois Beauchemin– He’s as old as Brad Stuart, but apparently much less brittle as he blocked a ton of shots last year. A stay home defenseman who paired well with Erik Johnson, expect him to be back in the number two spot next season. Doesn’t offer much offensively, but is a solid stay at home D (especially compared to his old counterparts of Jan Hejda, Stuart, or Corey Sarich).

Brad Stuart– Speaking of, I haven’t been able to find anything on his status which leaves me to believe the Avalanche are comfortable pressuring him onto the LTIR. With one year left it doesn’t make much sense to buy his contract out, but man does that 3.6 million hit look ugly in retrospect.

Nick Holden– If there is one player who is looking over his shoulder next year it’s Nick Holden. With a number of young defensemen  trying to push their way to the pros Holden (if Tyson Barrie comes back) will be the first to move down the depth chart. If Barrie doesn’t return he may see his role increase even more or stay the same at the 4 spot.

Eric Gelinas– The Avalanche sent a 3rd round pick over for Gelinas, and then he did nearly nothing until getting hurt at which point he did truly nothing. I would like to see what the kid could offer — he showed immense offensive skill in New Jersey before falling out of favor due to shaky defensive play. If Barrie doesn’t come back, Gelinas has a chance to be the Avs resident offensive defenseman.

Nikita Zadorov– Supposedly a defenseman with a bright future, I personally haven’t been impressed what I’ve seen out of him in his limited time with the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs will most likely want him to start getting some pro time this year.

Chris Bigras– Although I have seen more potential out of him then I have Zadorov, he is still very young and an immature defenseman. That being said, head coach Patrick Roy seemed to like him as he played Bigras a fair amount as the season progressed.

If the Avalanche were to trade Barrie’s rights and then not re-sign Redmond or Bodnarchuk (not likely to happen), the line up would most likely read as the players are listed:




Which, honestly, has a lot of potential. And if the Colorado Avalanche thought they could get good prospects for Barrie, I could live with a year of the above line-up if they would all develop a bit. But that probably won’t happen. A: trading Tyson Barrie is still far from a sure thing, as much as I wish it was a sure thing. And B: The Colorado Avalanche haven’t gone full rebuild yet, so I highly doubt they’re going to have half of their defense be made of young, unproven guys.

Next: What is Tyson Barrie Worth?

As far as the re-sigings go, Bodnarchuk is as good as gone. This is good because the Avalanche should have never picked him up in the first place.

Editor’s note: Bodnarchuk did react very well (laughter) when I tweeted that the Sharks cat skated better than he does.

Zach Redmond will be a little more interesting, as he did play fairly often and decently last year. I would expect his re-signing or lack thereof to be the sign of how much Sakic and Roy expect the young D core to contribute this year. If Redmond comes back, it means one of the young three is spending time in the press box or minors.

And of course Tyson Barrie remains the big question mark. We could sit here and speculate here all we want, but until Tyson is either traded or re-signed the rest of the defense after the top pair largely remains a question mark.

There are many possible looks for the Colorado Avalanche D next year, and depending on how young or old they go should tell us whether GM Joe Sakic expects to compete this year.