Colorado Avalanche: Implications of Bowen Byram Contract

BUFFALO, NEW YORK - JUNE 01: Bowen Byram poses for a portrait at HarborCenter on June 01, 2019 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Katie Friedman/NHLI via Getty Images)
BUFFALO, NEW YORK - JUNE 01: Bowen Byram poses for a portrait at HarborCenter on June 01, 2019 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Katie Friedman/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Colorado Avalanche signed defensemen Bowen Byram to his entry-level contract, a move that gives the team some options at the position.

The Colorado Avalanche have joined the ranks of teams who’ve signed their first-round draft picks. The team signed their fourth-overall draft pick, Bo Byram, to a standard three-year entry-level contract. Because of his draft rank, he’s earning the maximum $925,000 annually. According to Cap Friendly, he also earns $92,500 in signing bonuses each year.

In one way, I was a little surprised to hear the Avalanche had already signed him to his entry-level contract. I thought they might wait until training camp and see if he had a chance of making the team before they signed him.

However, Byram is a high draft pick, and other teams have been signing guys who went much lower down the list. (Ottawa, 19th-overall; Winnipeg, 20th-overall; Islanders, 23rd-overall) So, in that way, it makes sense Colorado would sign him.

Now, just because he’s been signed doesn’t mean he’s going to make the team out of the gate. He’s still going to be on trial at rookie and training camp. He can even suit up for nine games in the regular season and still be sent back to his major juniors team, the OHL Vancouver Giants.

In fact, the general consensus is that he will, indeed, suit up for those nine games to give him the best chance to show he’s NHL-worthy.

Do I think that’s the best-case scenario? Part of me wants to shout, “Hell no!” We rushed Tyson Jost, and put the young man’s career in jeopardy. We have no reason to make that same mistake with Byram, especially since he’s a defensemen and those notoriously take longer to develop.

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On the flip side, I see what playing another level at the major junior level did to poor Conor Timmins. Not that Byram would be any safer in the NHL — he’d be less so. But, it’s a gut reaction.

Anyway, let’s look a little at what signing Bo Byram early on does for the team. Well, it offers them some flexibility. Granted, they’re pretty stacked at the defense position. However, Ian Cole is out until December, and it’s unsure if Erik Johnson will be able to start the season on time.

So, while Colorado technically has nine players signed for the NHL, only seven of them are actually available for sure. And the team usually likes to keep eight d-men on the roster.

What’s more, when you get down to the AHL level, the Colorado Eagles only have five defensemen under contract with a sixth, Anton Lindholm, a restricted free agent. And one of those five is Conor Timmins, who hasn’t played competitively in over a year.

Now, Byram can’t play in the AHL because of his age and major juniors status. However, if he makes the NHL team, one of the fringe defensemen can be moved to the Eagles. Likely candidates for such move are Calle Rosen and Ryan Graves.

For opening night, provided Johnson is fully rehabilitated, the Avalanche are looking at a top four comprised of Johnson, Cale Makar, Samuel Girard, and Nikita Zadorov. It’s only the bottom pairing that’s up for grabs.

Could Bo Byram slot in there, especially with a veteran such as Kevin Connauton at his side? It’s possible. Do I think that’s sheltered enough minutes for a kid who just turned 18 the week before being drafted?

I still hesitate. I just don’t want to see Byram rushed.

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There are a few serviceable NHL defensemen left and a plethora of AHL d-men who need contracts. Colorado doesn’t need to push a kid into the lineup just to fill the roster.

That said, it’s exciting to think the talented Bo Byram can soon be playing for the Colorado Avalanche. At least, I’m pretty sure we’ll have those nine games.