Colorado Avalanche: Reacting to the Ryan Graves Signing

The Colorado Avalanche are bringing back young defenseman Ryan Graves for one more season.

The Colorado Avalanche signed defenseman Ryan Graves to a one-year contract today. Graves had filed for salary arbitration, but the two sides came to an agreement well before any hearings were scheduled.

The reported cap hit will be $735,000. His is a two-way contract, though. At the AHL level, he’s set to make $350,000, making him one of the highest-paid Eagles.

I’m going to go out on a limb and posit that’s why he went to salary arbitration. Since he’s bound to spend some time at the AHL-level, he likely wanted a decent paycheck. Can’t blame the kid.

The 24-year-old d-man was selected in the fourth round in 2013 by the New York Rangers. He signed his entry-level in 2014 but spend his entire time in the AHL.

Graves did well for a while with the Hartford Wolf Pack, though never well enough to make the Rangers. After a career-high 30-point season (8 goals, 22 assists), he regressed.

At the trade deadline in 2018, the Avs and Rangers traded regressing defensemen. Graves came over in exchange for Chris Bigras. Graves spend the remainder of that season in the AHL, but the Avalanche were impressed enough that they offered him a one-year contract.

That was last year’s contract, and he did pretty ok. He finally cracked the NHL. He played 26 games total, scoring three goals and earning two assists. He made it into the lineup because of injuries, and he stuck around because the team liked what they saw.

Eventually, other defensemen got healthy, and Graves spent a lot of time as a healthy scratch. The team didn’t dare send him back to the AHL because he’d have to clear waivers — and he’d have never done that.

So, looking at the Colorado Avalanche, they’re pretty stacked on defense. Granted, their two veterans, Erik Johnson and Ian Cole, aren’t guaranteed to start the season thanks to off-season surgeries (shoulder for Johnson, both hips for Cole). In fact, it’s said Cole won’t be ready until December.

What’s more, Colorado picked up two defensemen in the offseason, both in trade. They got Kevin Connauton as part of the Carl Soderberg trade and Calle Rosen as part of the Tyson Barrie trade.

With Nikita Zadorov signed, and both Samuel Girard and Cale Makar looking to wreck havoc on other teams, Graves is going to have an uphill battle to make the team next season.

I think Colorado needs a player like Ryan Graves. He’s kind of a poor man’s Erik Johnson — and I mean that in the best possible way. He’s big (6-foot-5, 226 pounds). He can play both a physical game and score some goals — a true two-way defenseman. (Which is why I call him EJ Lite).

I feel he’s ready to make an impact on a bottom pairing, moreso than Mark Barberio or Calle Rosen. I wouldn’t mind seeing him paired with Connauton on the bottom pairing — I think the two could do some damage, and Graves could benefit from a veteran presence.

Next: Saying Goodbye to Tyson Barrie

The Colorado Avalanche once had a blueline that was its biggest area of weakness. Now, even with the convalescence of two key players, the team looks stocked on the blueline.