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Avalanche fill needs by signing Beauchemin, Comeau

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche believe they filled immediate needs Wednesday by signing defenseman Francois Beauchemin and left wing Blake Comeau to free agent contracts.

Beauchemin, 35, signed a three-year contract that TSN reported is worth $13.5 million. He will play the left side on the Avalanche's top defense pairing with Erik Johnson.

Comeau, 29, signed a three-year contract that Sportsnet reported is worth $7.2 million.

"We addressed what we feel are our needs for what we were looking to do today," Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic said. "We're excited to add Beauchemin and Comeau to our group. We've got leadership, we've got toughness, guys that play full 200-foot games.

"The biggest thing is we were looking for somebody to play with [Johnson] for top minutes, play against the other team's top lines. We looked at all the free agents out there, and there's only a handful we knew could play [that role]. Francois did a tremendous job for Anaheim, and I know he's excited to come here and do the same thing."

Beauchemin (6-foot-1, 207 pounds) played 64 games for Anaheim Ducks last season, when he had a career-high 11 goals, along with 12 assists and 48 penalty minutes. He led the Ducks in ice time, averaging 22:44 per game. He was plus-17 and blocked 107 shots.

Beauchemin then had nine assists and two penalty minutes in 16 Stanley Cup Playoff games, averaging 25:24 in ice time.

"I have that competitive mindset. I like to play a hard game, a physical game," he said. "Paired with Erik, [we'll] do a great job complementing each other, making that breakout pass to get out of our zone. That's been my game for 10 years, and I'm going to keep doing that."

Beauchemin, who won the Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007, is the second left defenseman acquired by the Avalanche in the past six days. Nikita Zadorov was acquired in the multiplayer trade Friday that sent Ryan O'Reilly to the Buffalo Sabres.

"[Beauchemin] was one of the guys for sure we were targeting," Sakic said. "We looked at it a couple weeks ago and we thought he'd be staying in Anaheim. When there was an opportunity to talk to Francois about his intentions, we knew he was a good fit for us.

"We wanted someone we knew could play top minutes against top lines. He brings toughness, leadership … he led the Ducks in ice time in the playoffs last year, and they're a very good team. We wanted somebody we knew we could trust in that role playing with [Johnson]. He's also won a Cup. That leadership and experience will really help our team."

Beauchemin and defenseman Brad Stuart, who turns 36 in November and has two years left on his contract, have played a combined 1,723 regular-season games and 239 playoff games, but Sakic said he isn't concerned about them wearing down.

"Not at all," he said. "You can't have enough veterans."

Comeau, who is 6-1, 202 pounds, had 16 goals, 15 assists, 65 penalty minutes and a plus-6 rating in 61 games last season with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He had one goal and eight penalty minutes in five playoff games. He has 88 goals, 107 assists and 288 penalty minutes in 483 NHL games.

"He's a versatile player, he can go up and down your lineup, he plays a north-south game, he skates hard, he hits hard, he's a puck possession guy and he's good on the penalty kill," Sakic said. "He can also get you 15 goals. He's a guy we really targeted from the get-go. You can put him anywhere in your lineup."

The Avalanche chose not to re-sign center Daniel Briere or defensemen Jan Hejda and Ryan Wilson.

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