Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Free Agency Brings Toughness to the Colorado Avalanche

The Colorado Avalanche lost one of their young stars in free agency on Tuesday, but they just might be a better team. Maybe the Avalanche won’t have the regular season they had last year, but they very well could be a better playoff team.

Forward Paul Stastny surprised some when he quickly signed a four-year deal with the St. Louis Blues. The Avalanche would have loved to keep Stastny in Colorado for years to come, but the seven million per year price tag was just too steep.

Some may disagree but the Avalanche would have been foolish to give that much money to Stastny, as great as he can be. It would have severely hindered any other moves that Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy wanted to make to improve the rest of the roster.

After losing Stastny, the Avalanche moved quickly to fill his role. They signed Jarome Iginla to a three-year deal. Iginla is quite a bit older (37) than Stastny, but what he brings is just what the Avalanche need to experience playoff success in the coming seasons.

Iginla brings a physical presence to the Avalanche that was missing in the playoff loss to the Minnesota Wild. He’s a power forward that camps in front of the net and does all of the dirty work that is necessary to win in the playoffs.

He also brings a wealth of playoff experience that should help some of the younger players. Is Iginla the same player he was ten years ago, of course not but the Avalanche are getting a better two way player than they had in Stastny. It should not surprise anyone if Iginla puts up similar numbers to Stastny, and performs at his best in the postseason.

The one argument against what is essentially a trade is the age question, Stastny is entering the prime of his career and Iginla is towards the end. As we mentioned though, seven million a season was just too much and would have hamstrung the Avalanche from doing much else.

One intangible that Iginla brings is his thirst to win a Stanley Cup, and that should not been glossed over. He will be driven like Ray Bourque was so many years ago. Iginla figures to play on one of the top two lines and whether it’s on the Gabriel Landeskog line or on a line with Nathan MacKinnon, he will see a ton of goal scoring opportunities. No one is asking Iginla to be the guy as he was for years with the Calgary Flames, but he can still be a player who is a threat to score from anywhere.

In addition to signing Iginla, the Avalanche also made a trade for a much needed defenseman. Brad Stuart played for the San Jose Sharks last season and is the stay at home defenseman that the Avalanche have been looking for. Stuart is not spectacular and he’s not going to contribute much offensively, but he knows positioning and should help take some of the pressure off of goalie Semyon Varlamov.

The Avalanche also traded P.A. Parenteau on Monday to the Montreal Canadians for center Daniel Briere. Again Briere is not going to wow anyone but he’s a solid penalty killer, a grinder and plays his best hockey in the playoffs.

All of these moves have a couple of things in common starting with leadership. The Avalanche are still a very young team and that showed at times in the playoffs last season, and all of these recent additions certainly address that area.

Iginla, Stuart and Briere have all been captains in the past and will be a welcome addition to the locker room. More importantly, all three are proven playoff performers and that’s what these moves were about.

The Avalanche may end up with a worse record in 2014-15 and a lower seed in the playoffs, but be better prepared for a deep playoff run. The Wild pushed the Avalanche around in the playoffs last season, and Sakic knew his team had to get tougher if they were going to advance past the first-round.

Sakic and Roy are not about regular season accomplishments, they are about winning Stanley Cups and these moves were made with that goal in mind.

Tags: Brad Stuart Colorado Avalanche Daniel Briere Jarome Iginla Paul Stasnty

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