Avalanche Making Early Waves In Free Agency

The Colorado Avalanche have forced themselves into the center of the Hockey World during the past week. They changed the landscape of the 2011 NHL Draft last week by drafting forward Gabriel Landeskog with the second overall pick, and have been very active in NHL free agency. They've been one of the more active teams this offseason, frantically rushing to fill holes on their roster. but what does this mean for the long term scope of the franchise?

First up? Signing 33 year old defenseman Jan Hejda, an unrestricted free agent formerly of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Hejda has been the steadiest Columbus blue liner for several years, and will now be a good defensive partner for Colorado's Erik Johnson. He adds size, veteran leadership, and a solid defensive presence and is under contract for four more seasons.

Despite rumors that Colorado was pursuing veteran goaltender Tomas Vokoun, the Avalanche instead traded for the rights of Washington Capitals goalie Semyon Varlamov. Varlamov had hinted that he would be playing in Russia this next season, but the Avalanche were able to agree to a two year deal worth $5.5 million. Varlamov follows the Avalanche's recent trend of signing talented backup goalies with immense potential to a starting job.

Colorado gave up a hefty price for Varlamov's rights, including a first round pick in 2012 and a second round pick in either 2012 or 2013. What does this signify?

The Avalanche front office is done rebuilding. They feel that they are entering a competitive window as soon as this year, and that last year's spring collapse was a series of unfortunate events more than  the true talent level of this team. The Landeskog draft selection suggested it; the Varlamov trade confirmed it. GM Greg Sherman would not give a first round pick next year if he thought it would be a lottery pick. Colorado will be playing for the playoffs, and they'll be doing so in 2011.

Don't expect them to be done, either. Even including the day's signings and assuming that Landeskog makes the opening roster, Colorado still has around $5 million to spend just to get to the cap floor. Greg Sherman has essentially promised that the Avalanche are making the playoffs next season; he still has plenty of resources available to ensure that guarantee is fulfilled.

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