Colorado Avalanche Add Size with Free Agency


The Colorado Avalanche signed big but inconsistent players in free agency — Fedor Tyutin, Joe Colborne and Patrick Wiercioch.

The Colorado Avalanche are a team I understand again.

The Avs perplexed me in the NHL draft — I was so sure they were going to take big forward Logan Brown that I misunderstood GM Joe Sakic when he announced “From the Pentiction Vees…” I thought for a second he was talking about the Peaky Blinders TV show.

Beyond Cameron Morrison, whom I targeted but for the third round (he went second to Colorado) the rest of the picks seemed equally perplexing to me. It’s just that the players were small by Colorado Avalanche standards. Pound-for-pound, the team had gotten way more hockey player in the 2015 NHL draft. It looked like they were now targeting smaller, more responsible players, and that didn’t fit their M.O.

Well, Free Agency day has seen the return of the Colorado Avalanche I know and love — granted the kind of love a mom feels for her errant child, but still. The Avs signed three players who are all big and, well, a little inconsistent. Yep, that’s Colorado’s type of player.

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Feb 2, 2016; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Columbus Blue Jackets defensemen Fedor Tyutin (51) skates against the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports /

Fedor Tyutin

Position: Defenseman

Height: 6’2″
Weight: 221 pounds
Shoots: Left

Experience:12 years
Contract: 1 year, $2 million cap hit

This is my least favorite of the signings. The Columbus Blue Jackets were tired of this player, so they bought out his contract. Granted, it may be that they didn’t want to pay his $4.5 million salary anymore, but it still makes him another Columbus reject. (The Avs picked up defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk on waivers from Columbus last season.)

Tyutin isn’t a bad player — he’s just getting up in years at 32. Luckily Colorado only offered him one year.

Tyutin is a shutdown defenseman. He likes to block shots — which is likely what caught the Avalanche’s attention. I’d say he might make the bottom pairing, perhaps with Eric Gelinas, or he might be a scratch a lot of nights.

Most likely signing Fedor Tyutin is a way for the Colorado Avalanche to keep some veteran presence on the blueline. After 36-year-old Francois Beauchemin, the next oldest defenseman was 28-year-old Erik Johnson. And the age drops radically after that. Defensemen take longer to mature, and that gives 21-year-olds Chris Bigras and Nikita Zadorov time to do just that.

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Mar 18, 2016; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames center Joe Colborne (8) screens in front of Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov (1) during the second period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Colorado Avalanche won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /

Joe Colburne

Position: Wing

Height: 6’5″
Weight: 221 pounds
Shoots: Left

Experience: 6 years
Contract: 2 years, $2.5 million cap hit

The Colorado Avalanche didn’t ignore the fact that they still needed help up front — especially since neither Mikkel Boedker (no surprise) or Shawn Matthias (big surprise) were returning.

So, they went out and got themselves a very large winger — he’s the biggest of the Avs’ free agency hauls, and he’s a forward! Needless to say, that height comes with a huge reach, while his size guarantees he’s a physical power forward.

Unfortunately, the inconsistency bug has bitten Colburne pretty well. If he can tighten up his game, it’s possible he cracks the top six. Frankly, it might be a race between him and the equally inconsistent Mikhail Grigorenko, with veterans Jarome Iginla and Blake Comeau filling in when necessary.

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Jan 8, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche right wing Jarome Iginla (12) checks Ottawa Senators defenseman Patrick Wiercioch (46) in the first period at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

Patrick Wiercioch

Position: Defenseman

Height: 6’5″
Weight: 202 pounds
Shoots: Left

Experience: 5 years
Contract: 1 year, $800,000 cap hit

Actually, the Patrick Wiercioch signing was the first to hit social media, at least in rumor. We spent a lot of time speculating how to pronounce his last name (WEER-kawsh, which is not what most of us were imagining) while we waited for confirmation.

Wiercioch is right up the Colorado Avalanche’s alley. He’s got some real size on him, though he can play inconsistently. He skates very well and can put up some big numbers. As a defenseman, 25 should be right when he’s striding into his prime.

He might be a good partner for Tyson Barrie, a bit of an upgrade on Nick Holden. Personally, I’d rather see Beauchemin in that spot with Zadorov on the top pairing with Johnson. Wiercioch would be a good partner for 6-foot-4, 210-pound Eric Gelinas on the bottom pairing.

Fun fact — Wiercioch and Colborne were teammates on the Denver University Pioneers.

More from Mile High Sticking

It’s a little weird that the present-day Colorado Avalanche maintain their big, talented, inconsistent profile while the future of the team appears to be more compact and responsible.

I also don’t know if I think the Avs addressed all their needs in free agency. They stacked their blueline, but the forwards still seem a little thin. We all saw what happened when our best guys were out with injuries and suspensions (please, Gabe, no more).

By my estimation, Colorado has three legitimate top-six forwards — Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene. They have an aged top-sixer in Jarome Iginla — whom I personally hate to see taking that much ice time. They have a serviceable top-sixer in Carl Soderberg.

From there, it’s players who can play above their ability sometimes — Blake  Comeau and John Mitchell — or fairly green youngsters — Grigorenko, Colborne and our new favorite rookie, Mikko Rantanen. In other words, Colorado is pretty bottom-heavy in the forwards positions while there are legitimately good players fighting for the top-four on defense.

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I’d like to have seen the Colorado Avalanche pick up a sniper. Unfortunately, they maybe didn’t have the cap space to make that happen. Hopefully Duchene, MacKinnon and Landeskog can stay healthy — and out of trouble — for the whole season.