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31 in 31

Inside look at Colorado Avalanche

Offseason filled with changes following last-place finish in 2016-17

by Rick Sadowski / NHL.com Correspondent

NHL.com is providing in-depth roster, prospect and fantasy analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, the Colorado Avalanche.

The Colorado Avalanche expect to be much more competitive this season after finishing last in the NHL with 22 wins and 48 points in 2016-17.

They were 30th in the League (last) in scoring (2.01 goals per game) and goals allowed (3.37 per game), prompting general manager Joe Sakic to say there would be a lot of turnover in the offseason. Nine players who played at least 27 games for the Avalanche last season will not return. 

The most significant moves were to buy out the final season of defenseman Francois Beauchemin's three-year contract; sign goalie Jonathan Bernier to a one-year contract reportedly worth $2.75 million to be Semyon Varlamov's backup and forward Nail Yakupov to a one-year contract reportedly worth $875,000; and acquire forward Colin Wilson from the Nashville Predators on July 1 in a trade for a fourth-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.

 

[AVALANCHE 31 in 31: Top prospects | 3 Questions | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the numbers]

 

Bernier went 21-7-4 with a 2.50 goals-against average, a .915 save percentage and two shutouts in 39 games (33 starts) for the Anaheim Ducks last season. He replaces Calvin Pickard, who was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL Expansion Draft.

"He's experienced, was a starter at one point," Sakic said of Bernier. "We think he can be a good 1-2 punch with [Varlamov], so we're happy about that."

Varlamov, who has been plagued by groin injuries, is expected to be ready for training camp after missing the second half of last season to recover from hip surgery. A healthy Varlamov would provide a significant boost. He was a Vezina Trophy finalist in 2013-14, when the Avalanche finished first in the Central Division; they haven't made the Stanley Cup Playoffs since.

Colorado took a low-risk gamble by signing Yakupov as a free agent. He has struggled since scoring 17 goals in 48 games as a rookie in 2012-13 for the Edmonton Oilers, who chose him with the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NHL Draft.

Video: 31 in 31: Colorado Avalanche 2017-18 season preview

The Avalanche also are counting on bounce-back seasons from forwards Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog. They should form a solid group with Wilson, who had 35 points (12 goals, 23 assists) in 70 games for the Western Conference champion Predators; Mikko Rantanen, who led the Avalanche with 20 goals as a rookie; Tyson Jost, their 2016 first-round pick (No. 10); Sven Andrighetto, who had 16 points (five goals, 11 assists) in 19 games after being traded from the Montreal Canadiens on March 1 for forward Andreas Martinsen; and speedy J.T. Compher.

Improving a leaky defense remains a top priority. A healthy Erik Johnson will help; he broke his fibula blocking a shot against the Dallas Stars on Dec. 3 and missed 36 games. Nikita Zadorov, a restricted free agent, was making significant strides in his development before he broke his ankle during practice Feb. 21 and missed the final 25 games. Tyson Barrie led Avalanche defensemen with 38 points (seven goals, 31 assists) but was minus-34. Mark Barberio was a solid puck-mover after being claimed off waivers from Montreal on Feb. 2. 

The Avalanche were unable to bolster the defense through a trade and will seek help from within the organization, a group that includes Chris Bigras, Anton Lindholm, Andrei Mironov, Duncan Siemens and David Warsofsky.

Coach Jared Bednar returns following a rocky first NHL season. A highly successful minor league coach, Bednar was hired Aug. 25, two weeks after Patrick Roy resigned.

"I believe that he deserves a chance to come back with a full summer to prepare," Sakic said. "He knows the players, the players all know what's expected of themselves getting ready for training camp. We're looking forward to a real good year." 

Goaltending coach Francois Allaire and assistants Tim Army and Dave Farrish were not retained. Assistant Ray Bennett and goaltending coach Jussi Parkkila were hired, joining defensive coach Nolan Pratt on Bednar's staff.

Bennett, an assistant for the St. Louis Blues the past 10 seasons, will work with the forwards and run the power play, which was 30th in the League last season (12.6 percent). Parkkila, who spent the past 12 seasons coaching in Europe, worked with Varlamov for Yaroslavl Lokomotiv in Russia in 2007-08.

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