Existing options for Avalanche at defense


The Colorado Avalanche have a few free agents this summer on the back-end, be it unrestricted or restricted that will more than likely leave for better contracts. Not that the Avalanche don’t want them to stay. It is that they cannot afford them. The situations with Gabriel Landeskog and Valeri Nichushkin will make it very difficult to sign anyone at the NHL level. General Manager Chris MacFarland stated he intends to sign players at the NHL level with low AAV during the summer. The Avalanche have a couple of options already in the system that they can use or re-sign for cheap. I will review the options and complete the back-end for Colorado.

Sam Malinski

Sam Malinski is the most obvious candidate to step into the third pair next season. The rookie from Cornell University played 23 games on the Avalanche blue line tallying 10 points. Playing with the Colorado Eagles, Malinski was just as effective, playing 46 games and earning 27 points. Malinski saw time on the power play for both squads and would be the difference in Loveland. Malinski is an offensive defenseman with great puck carrying skills and a seeing eye snapshot. Familiarity with head coach Jared Bednar’s methods makes transitioning to full time easy for him.

Sean Behrens

Sean Behrens, fresh off of a NCAA National Championship with the University of Denver, joined the Eagles after signing his entry-level contract. As Behrens finished his collegiate career, they named him the NCHC best defensive defenseman. In the two games with the Eagles, he showed his comfort within a period and nailed down his first pro point. Behrens will provide some solid defense on the third pair and some mobility when given an opportunity. The rookie needs time to adapt to the Avalanche system, but a call up is probable early on.


Jack Ahcan

Jack Ahcan had just one call up with the Avalanche last season and no subsequent action. Ahcan thoroughly impressed me during the Eagles’ season, and he has one more year left in his two-way contract. Leading the power play from the top, he consistently carried the puck into offensive territory. Ahcan surprised many as he regularly leveled defenders much bigger than his five foot nine-inch frame. His 38 points in 70 games played were among the top five skaters for the Eagles.

Potential re-signings

Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson has been a pleasant surprise since he joined the Avalanche in 2021 on a professional tryout. Johnson earned himself a standard contract and won his only Stanley Cup that year. The Chicago Blackhawks would sign Johnson to a 35-plus contract and the Avalanche traded Andreas Englund to get Johnson back. He has been a workhorse the last three seasons, playing 74, 83, and 80 games. For less than one million dollars, Johnson would bring leadership and experience to the locker room.

Brad Hunt

Brad Hunt was one of the many leaders in Loveland as he wore the captain’s “C” for the second straight year. Hunt spent most his first year in the organization in Denver, playing 47 games for the Avalanche. This journeyman has traveled extensively throughout the league and possesses one of AHL’s most feared slapshots. This would put him on the Eagles’ top power play unit the entire season and lead the team with 49 points. Hunt’s bright energy would benefit both Denver and Loveland, and he would likely come back for a salary of less than one million dollars.


Avalanche could easily benefit from these affordable back-end options. Sean Walker’s contract expiring creates an issue that will need to be addressed, but Colorado cannot afford him in the long run. Malinski will receive most of the minutes, but one spot remains. The key problem may be size. The small size of the third pair could lead to issues. Colorado should explore signing a free agent with size.

Leave a Reply