The Avalanche are the top team in the NHL and the favorites to win the Stanley Cup this year. March 12th was a big day for Avalanche announcements. In one post-practice press conference, it was announced that the Avalanche re-signed backup goalie Pavel Francouz, defenseman Samuel Girard is out for the next four weeks, and that Captain Gabriel Landeskog is having knee surgery.
Pavel Francouz extension:
Let’s start with the positives. The Avalanche signed one of their pending UFAs, 31-year-old backup goalie Pavel Francouz, to a 2 million dollar 2-year extension. With both goalies (Darcy Kuemper and Francouz) pending UFAs this off-season, re-signing Francouz ensures that the Avalanche at least have one option in net locked in. Francouz is also a perfectly adequate backup goalie. Even though he was injured to start the season, Francouz has played only 14 games but has a save percentage of .920 and a Goals Against Average of 2.46.
Here are Francouz’s underlying numbers via Jfresh Hockey:
He is a perfectly suitable backup who can step up big when it counts. The Francouz signing looks like another great move by General Manager Joe Sakic.
Sam Girard out 4 weeks:
Sam Girard plays on the second pairing for the Avalanche, and despite his rough season, he has been one of the top offensive defensemen for the Avalanche. Girard has 27 points this season, with 22 assists and 5 goals. His underlying numbers have taken a dip this year due to his partnership with D-partners, with whom he lacks chemistry.
Girard’s underlying numbers thanks to Jfresh Hockey:
All that being said, Girard is a critical piece for the Avalanche, and losing him for four weeks to a reported lower-body injury will not be ideal. However, luckily, this is happening before the trade deadline. This might shift Sakic’s moves at the deadline. The Avalanche have been linked to top-tier forwards like Claude Giroux and JT Miller but not any star defensemen. With Girard’s absence, they might choose to bring on a cheap option to replace Girard for the time being and be injury insurance for the blue line. It remains to be seen if Girard will be placed on LTIR, but if he is, that will also give the Avalanche 5 million dollars in additional space ahead of the deadline.
Gabriel Landeskog Knee Surgery:
Jared Bednar announced that Landeskog, the team’s captain, will be undergoing knee surgery. Bednar says it has been a nagging issue and that they hope he should be back before the “stretch run,” meaning he could be ready for the playoffs. Landeskog re-signed with the Avalanche this off-season and has had a fantastic season. He has 30 goals on the season and 59 points. He looked unreal, and he did this all with a nagging knee injury. Landeskog’s underrated grit and steady, strong leadership are essential to this team. He is a top-six winger who also serves as the designated net-front guy on the first powerplay unit. While this knee surgery is necessary, his absence will leave a gaping hole in the Avalanche lineup.
Who will fill this absence is the biggest question. The Avalanche are an extremely deep team, but there is just no replacing the captain who happens to be one of the top wingers on the team from within the lineup right now. However, the Avalanche have been linked to J.T. Miller, another Left-wing, and Claude Giroux, a right-shot winger. Miller might easily slot into Landeskog’s place in the lineup. Still, Giroux, the current Flyers’ captain, could bring the leadership and grit aspect of Landeskog’s play back to the Avalanche.
The only real upsides you could find from Landeskog’s surgery are that Landeskog will likely return an even more dangerous player and that Landeskog’s cap hit will be off the book. Landeskog going on LTIR to get knee surgery gives the Avalanche 7 million in cap space to make moves at the deadline.
All of the implications aside, I wish Landeskog a quick and complete recovery in time for him to play in the playoffs. He is one of the group’s key players, and his impact cannot be replaced.
The Avalanche had a big day on March 12th, announcing not only the long-term absence of two key players but the re-signing of backup goalie, Pavel Francouz. The Avalanche were going to be big buyers at the trade deadline before the Girard and Landeskog injuries. Now it looks like the Francouz re-signing is the first of many big moves they will make as the deadline approaches.