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Avs Add Depth On First Day Of Free Agency

Colorado signed free-agents Calvert and Cole on Sunday

by Callie Parmele @CallieParmele /

Free agency gives NHL general managers the opportunity to strengthen their teams without giving up assets in return.

On Sunday, the first day of NHL's free-agency period, the Colorado Avalanche was able to do just that, adding depth to its lineup by signing forward Matt Calvert and defenseman Ian Cole to three-year deals.

As free agents, both would have been able to sign with any club, but they chose to be part of the Avalanche organization.

"We are pretty happy and the exciting thing is [for] both Matt and Ian, this was a high-priority place for them to come and play and join our group," said Avs executive vice president and general manager Joe Sakic. "We are excited, it was a mutual thing for all parties. They really wanted to be in Colorado here as well."

Cole is a two-time Stanley Cup champion who helped the Pittsburgh Penguins to back-to-back titles in 2015-16 and 2016-17. He brings an experienced, veteran presence to the Avalanche, one of the youngest teams in the league last season.

The 29-year-old defenseman split the 2017-18 campaign with the Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets, tallying 20 points (five goals, 15 assists) in 67 combined games.  

"He is really good on the PK. He is a strong, heavy defender, can get the puck out of the zone which is how we want to play," Sakic said of Cole. "Right now, we just like our depth with him, [Erik Johnson], [Nikita Zadorov], [Patrik] Nemeth we got some big strong defensemen to go with your [Tyson] Barries, your [Samuel] Girards and soon to be [Conor] Timmins and [Cale] Makar. We feel that we have depth there that we really wanted to have.

"Ian will provide that leadership and can play with any of those guys and play big minutes. He played really well in the playoffs and down the stretch for Columbus. Played really well for Pittsburgh, and he is a guy that we are counting on for that experience and leadership. Having him and (Philipp) Grubauer, both guys who have won Stanley Cups, he is going to bring that experience to our dressing room."

The 6-foot-1, 219-pound blueliner has played in 62 career playoff games, recording 17 points (one goal, 16 assists) in the postseason. He did not miss a postseason outing in Pittsburgh's back-to-back Stanley Cup campaigns, dressing in all 24 contests in 2016 and all 25 in 2017.

With Columbus this past season, the rear guard notched three assists in the six-game series versus the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals.

Video: Joe Sakic on signing Matt Calvert and Ian Cole

"We liked Ian. He is a guy that we talked about, we wanted to add that depth, we wanted to have that size," said Sakic. "We got some big teams in this conference, and we want to make sure in front of our net that we had some physical presence to go along with our smaller, skilled guys. We feel we got a good mix there and the biggest thing is we want to make sure we get off to a good start, we want to make sure we have a lot of depth."

In addition to the new support on the backend of the ice, Calvert will also serve as a veteran player among the Avs' youthful forwards.

The 5-foot-10, 186-pound left wing has registered 149 points (72 goals, 77 assists) in 416 career NHL games, all with Columbus.

Last season, Calvert amassed 24 points (nine goals, 15 assists) in 69 outings, matching career highs in assists and points, and led his team with two short-handed tallies.

"Our guys have always liked Matt Calvert and with the departure of Blake Comeau we thought Matt would be a great fit to come in," said Sakic. "He is 28 years old, I know our coaching staff knows him really well. For 28, he is really experienced, plays hard. He plays fast, he brings energy, he brings leadership. He can play up and down your lineup.

"We feel Blake was a great leader in the dressing room and brought that energy and leadership on the ice, and Matt is going to do that as well for us. We are excited to have him, and speaking with him it is definitely a place he wanted to come."

The 2017-18 season showed Sakic the importance of having options throughout the lineup in today's game. With both players signed through the 2020-21 season, the Avalanche has expanded its roster and given itself more resources to continue to improve.

"We feel both of these guys are going to provide that leadership, the depth," Sakic said. "The way they play, what Ian provides and what Matt will provide offensively, is the way we want to go, the way we want to play. We think there is some great hockey from them for the next three years."

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