Colorado Avalanche Should Add Defense Help in the Offseason

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 15: Calvin de Haan #44 of the New York Islanders handles the puck during a game against the Los Angeles Kings at STAPLES Center on October 15, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NHLI via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 15: Calvin de Haan #44 of the New York Islanders handles the puck during a game against the Los Angeles Kings at STAPLES Center on October 15, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Colorado Avalanche defense core took many steps forward this season, but will still need to improve, if they are to make a deeper playoff run next year.

The Colorado Avalanche have the makings of a good and young defense core going forward. However, as we saw in the playoffs, there is no such thing as having too much depth on defense.

As a brief recap, the Avs best four d-men last season were Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, Nikita Zadorov, and Samuel Girard. All four are slated to return next year. However, EJ missed 26 games, including all six in the playoffs. Tyson Barrie missed 14 games. Nikita Zadorov is having offseason surgery, and will not have all summer to get in optimal shape for next year. Sam Girard will still only be 20 years old.

As good as the Avs defense group was a season ago, the team could stand to add someone who is capable of playing top four minutes next season, and beyond. The rest of the returning Avs defensemen are in the mix for a bottom pair role. Meanwhile, the two top prospects, Conor Timmins and Cale Makar would seem unlikely to play for the Avs next year.

I would like the Avalanche to try to add a defenseman via unrestricted free agency this summer. I don’t want to see the team trade good young players and/or picks for a 2019 UFA like Erik Karlsson. The team should also remain committed to staying young. Therefore, I will briefly look at the top five UFA defensemen by time on ice under the age of 30.

John Carlson

The unquestioned prize of the pending UFA defense class is current Washington Capital, John Carlson. Carlson set career highs with 15 goals and 53 assists. He has also proven to be an excellent PP quarterback, recording 32 of his 68 points with the man advantage. Furthermore, and of particular note to the Colorado Avalanche, Carlson played all 82 games for the Caps.

With all this said, Carlson will surely get the most expensive contract among defensemen. He will also likely get a seven year offer, which would put the expiration date of his contract during his age 35 season. I think the Avs, along with every other team that can afford him should make an offer at the dynamic d-man. However, I’m not sure he will leave the Capitals.

One final note on Carlson; he is still playing hockey this season. He has 11 points in 12 games for Washington, as they finally made the Eastern Conference Finals. In my opinion, he has been their best defenseman so far this postseason.

John Moore

It may come as a surprise to many, (it did to me) that John Moore played the second most minutes among pending UFA d-men under 30. For as impressive as Carlson’s offensive numbers are, John Moore’s game is more defensive-minded. He did rack up 18 points in 81 games for the New Jersey Devils last season.

Moore notched career highs in blocks, hits, and TOI. He seems to have realized how to use his 6’2″ 210 lbs. frame effectively. Moore was a consistent top four defenseman for a playoff team. While he would not be nearly as flashy as Carlson, if the Avs could add him on a two, or three year contract as the prospects continue to develop, he could sure up the bottom pair, and fill in for injured players in the top four.

Greg Pateryn

Greg Pateryn played over 19 minutes a game last season for the Dallas Stars. He is a solid, big, defensive d-man. He had only one goal in 73 games. However, Pateryn had 155 hits and 148 blocks. It was the first time Pateryn played over 40 NHL games. His development, ironically, provided Dallas the depth to waive Patrik Nemeth, who instead spent last year with Colorado.

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I may be missing something, as I obviously did not watch Pateryn play every night, and his scouting reports lead me to believe that he is someone who needs to be watched over the course of an entire season to be appreciated, but it seems like he would join the logjam of the Colorado Avalanche bottom pair defensemen.

Luca Sbisa

Luca Sbisa has had a season that is tough to judge. He has only played 32 games for the Vegas Golden Knights. However, as soon as he was healthy during their second round series, he was inserted into the lineup after a long absence. That is a positive refection on him. However, it seems like he would be just another guy to add to Colorado’s defense group, rather than a real difference maker.

Calvin de Haan

I finish up with my favorite non-John Carlson option, Calvin de Haan, who has spent his entire career with the New York Islanders. De Haan did not have a great year for the Isles this year. Injuries limited him to 33 games. With that said, I look back to what de Haan was able to accomplish during the 2016-17 season and I get excited thinking about what he would bring to the Avalanche.

During that 2016-17 season, de Haan played all 82 games for New York. He recorded 25 points. He also played well enough to earn an invitation to play for Team Canada at the World Championships, where he earned a silver medal.

De Haan is a fast skater, who moves the puck very well. He also is reliable in his own zone. That is a delightful combination! It is not hard to envision de Haan playing with either EJ, or Barrie, on either of the top two pairs for the Colorado Avalanche. De Haan also just turned 27 years old, and he would likely not get a contract so long that he would be on the books well into his thirties.

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The idea of an opening night defense core of EJ, Barrie, de Haan, Big Z, Girard, and Nemeth is something I would gladly sign up for. As strange as it sounds, since Carlson is clearly the better d-man, I might even prefer de Haan. He would be less expensive, and go on the books for fewer seasons, leaving the pathway more open for Makar and Timmins. In any case, I think that it’s time for Joe Sakic to help his defense core this offseason.