The Colorado Avalanche have locked in a big piece of the future, signing defenseman Samuel Girard to a seven-year deal worth $5 million a season.
His contract won't kick in until 2020-21, but with a cap hit of $5 million (covering three UFA years), the Avs got a steal of a deal for a player who could spend considerable time on the top pairing this coming season. In 2017-18, Girard had three points in five games with the Nashville Predators before the team included him in the deal that resulted in Matt Duchene going to Ottawa in a three-team deal. With Duchene and Kyle Turris involved, Girard was seen as almost an afterthought. Fast forward a year later and Girard could end up becoming the most impactful player from the deal. For that to happen, though, he'll need to find the offensive step that saw him lead the QMJHL in scoring by a defensemen in back to back seasons.
With Cale Makar's emergence during the 2019 playoffs and the selection of Bowen Byram at the draft a few months later, the Avs have one of the most talented young defense cores in the league. Now, they just have to figure out how to get Erik Johnson ($6 million until 2022-23) and Ian Cole ($4.25 million until 2020-21) off the books to give them ample opportunity to prove themselves.
Sakic was notorious for signing declining veterans to expensive, multi-year deals that almost never panned out and is often criticized for not trading Paul Stastny before he left the team via free agency in 2014. But Sakic quickly started to trend in the right direction with the signing of NCAA free agent Alex Kerfoot before a host of great draft picks, including Tyson Jost, Mikko Rantanen and Makar.
No deal, however, will be remembered more positively than the one that locked down Nathan MacKinnon to a seven-year, $44.1-million deal worth $6.3 million a season. Mackinnon has put up 97 and 99 points over the past two seasons and has evolved into an NHL superstar at one of the most cap-friendly costs a team could ask for out of a No. 1 player. Juggling the terms of Rantanen's deal as an RFA this summer could be a different story.
Colorado has $15.71 million in cap room still to sign Rantanen, the only RFA left. While the Avs are looking at four defensemen becoming either an RFA or UFA next summer, Girard's deal means the team will have it's top four intact, with Byram and Connor Timmins not far away from making the jump up to pro. Besides that, the Avs have enough cap room to add vital pieces to round out the roster and remain a contender for years to come.
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