Colorado Avalanche: 3 Still Available Defensive Free Agents

CALGARY, AB - OCTOBER 18: Jyrki Jokipakka
CALGARY, AB - OCTOBER 18: Jyrki Jokipakka /

The Colorado Avalanche could benefit from signing one of the free agent defensemen still available. Maybe even another forward.

The Colorado Avalanche are certainly acting like a team that’s working toward the future. However, they haven’t been doing enough for the present.

The Colorado Avalanche picked up some good prospects in the 2017 NHL Draft. However, it’s highly unlikely any of them will play for the team at any point next season.

Colorado still has good prospects in the system. However, the depth isn’t there. For example, if they pull up three defensemen from the San Antonio Rampage to complete their own roster (Colorado only has three d-men signed and one with a contract offer), that leaves just five for San Antonio — and that’s assuming Duncan Siemen signs.

And let’s say the Avs do call up three players — likely Andrei Mironov, Chris Bigras and Anton Lindholm — that leaves the team with a very young and very inexperienced defense.

In other words, the Colorado Avalanche need help where they always need help — on defense. Unfortunately, the team let the three defensemen I thought would best fill the gaps go to other teams in free agency:

I guess Colorado considered the first two big-name signings.

Well, at a certain point they need to pick up at least one NHL-ready defenseman. They may be thinking of trading for him. But, there are still three left in free agency who could positively benefit the team.

Nikita Nesterov

colorado avalanche
MONTREAL, QC – FEBRUARY 18: Nikita Nesterov /

The 24-year-old Nikita Nesterov is a left-hand shooter who’s coming off a one-year contract worth $725,000. He played most of his three years in the NHL with the Tampa Bay Lightning before being traded to the Montreal Canadiens.

Nikita Nesterov is smallish (5-foot-11, 191 pounds), but he’s a quality puck mover with good offensive instincts. He’s aggressive on the rush as well as in the defensive zone. He had 17 points (4 goals, 13 assists) last season.

Nesterov would be a risk, but that seems to be the way Colorado is moving. At worst he could be a bottom pairing defenseman. At best, he could work with Tyson Barrie.

Jyrki Jokipakka

The 25-year-old Jyrki Jokipakka is a left-hand shooter who’s coming off a two-year contract with a cap hit of $900,000. Jokipakka has twice been dealt at the trade deadline — last year from the Calgary Flames to the Ottawa Senators and the year before from the Dallas Stars to the Flames.

Jyrki Jokipakka has good size for the NHL (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) and great defensive instincts. He’s not a player who puts up a lot of offense, but he’s a good puck mover. He also doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. He had a goal and five assists in 41 games last season.

Jokipakka would be a depth defenseman — again, probably a bottom pairing player.

Yohann Auvitu

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The 27-year-old Yohann Auvitu is another left-hand shooter, and he’s coming off a one-year salary with a $792,500 cap hit. The undrafted Auvitu played in 25 games for the New Jersey Devils last year and 29 with their AHL-affiliate Albany Devils.

Like Nesterov, Yohann Auvitu is smallish (5-foot-11, 191 pounds) for an NHL defenseman. He’s not overly physical, but he’s an excellent puck mover with a dynamic offensive game. He’s an asset on the power play. He had two goals and two assists with the Devils.

Auvitu is in the Avalanche style of hockey — including the fact that he’s a seeming diamond in the rough. He might work very well with Barrie, or he could be another option for the bottom pairing.

Cody Franson or Brandon Pirri

Cody Franson is a bit too old and slow, and Brandon Pirri isn’t even a defenseman. However, both are still on the market and deserve a quick look over.

Franson is a beast (6-foot-5, 224 pounds) who, despite not being overly speedy has excellent offensive instincts, including a laser of a shot from the point. Franson will turn 30 this summer. I could see him as a mentor on the blueline, younger than Francois Beauchemin. He’s coming off a two-year contract with the Buffalo Sabres that carried a $3.3 million contract hit.

Brandon Pirri is a 26-year-old versatile forward coming off a one-year contract with the New York Rangers that carried a cap hit of $1.1 million. He’s a skilled puck handler who loves to shoot. He’s another forward who could help flesh out the Avalanche’s scoring corps.

Next: Avs Prospects Must Take Big Strides in Development

The Colorado Avalanche recently signed right wing Nail Yakupov to a one year “show me” contract, meaning he has that year to prove his worth to the team. None of the above players is necessarily the future of the team. But I see no harm in the Avs offering one or two of them a similar “show me” contract.

Otherwise, Colorado is in danger of putting too much pressure on their young blueliners.