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Colorado Avalanche

Erik Johnson “wants to play” but symptoms persist



This is going to be a very tough time for Erik Johnson, these next one or two weeks.

These last three-and-a-half months have already been very tough for the Colorado Avalanche defenseman, who entered this season as the longest-tenured member of the roster and a big presence on and off the ice. If anyone deserved to be part of the Avalanche’s Presidents’ Trophy celebration the other night, it would have been EJ. He came to the Avs in 2011 as part of a trade that sent Kevin Shattenkirk and Chris Stewart to the St. Louis Blues, the team that drafted Johnson No. 1 overall in 2006.

Since Jan. 30 of this year, however, Johnson hasn’t been a part of the Avs, on or off the ice. He was injured that night in his home state of Minnesota, from a check into the boards from Wild forward Jordan Greenway. Johnson was playing a puck along the boards, but got off balance a bit and was hit into the boards. He fell in reverse to his momentum and landed awkwardly onto the ice, appearing to hit face first.

When the Avs host the Blues on Monday night in Game 1 of a quarterfinal playoff series, Johnson will not be there. He has spent much of his time since the injury trying to get better, at times in Denver and at times at his off-season home in Southern California.

But, as his agent, Pat Brisson, told Colorado Hockey Now Sunday night: “He still has symptoms.”

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Those symptoms are connected with a concussion injury. Erik Johnson had had several injuries prior in his NHL career, ranging from his knees to his shoulders. But never had he had concussion symptoms, or enough to keep him from playing anyway, until the Jan. 30 game in St. Paul.

Johnson’s overall situation with the Avalanche remains important to him and the team, in what might be termed by varying degrees. Johnson “does want to play,” in the future, Brisson told CHN. But he is 33, with two years left on his contract at a $6 million cap hit. If he does not waive his no-trade/no-movement clause, the Avs will be forced to protect him in the upcoming NHL Expansion Draft with the Seattle Kraken. The Avs almost certainly won’t want to protect him, and so if he doesn’t waive his NTC/NMC, they might be faced with the prospect of buying him out on the last two years of his deal.

Or, they could hope he returns to full health and keep him on the roster. Either way, there is risk on both sides.

In the meantime, Johnson can only rest and hope the symptoms clear, all the while having to watch a playoff series for the team he came to love (the Avalanche) against the team that drafted him but then traded him away (the Blues).

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Adrian Dater - Kiss and Larry Bird fan. Writer with @Gambling and @Bookies, Avs Insider with 104.3 The Fan. Denver Post, SI, Bleacher Report alum, author of seven books.

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Matt Briggle

Miss having the big guy on the ice right now, but at this point I’m just hoping he recovers and doesn’t have any long term issues that would affect his life after hockey. From a business perspective, I’m betting he waives the NMC as it would cost him a good chunk of change if he gets bought out. If he’s able to play next year, that will be great and they’ll work around that cap hit for two more years, if he can’t then they have some more flexibility.


It would be nice if the Avs could do a Brooks Orpik deal With Johnson where they trade him, the other team buys him out, then the Avs resign him at a lower cap hit.

Matt Briggle

I’ve had that thought too, but we would have to give up a significant asset in the deal as well.

Jared Moss

If you actually got someone to take Johnson off the books why would you sign him back…. silly willy I’d say. I have a good feeling the end is near for him


It’s more of a way of restructuring his contract. He’d have to waive his NMC in order to be traded. So if the Avs could make a handshake deal to sign him back.

Karl Keen

Very bummed to hear he is not even around the team at times. Hopefully he can travel to some extent with them and provide leadership in the background. I have not historically been a big fan of his, but his play and leadership have increased each season and it sure seems to me that turning points in our last two playoff series occurred when both he and Calvert got injured. Speaking of injuries, I watched at least one period of each playoff series the last two days and oh boy, the physicality was off the charts, borderline dirty and cheap… Read more »

Jared Moss

Her dater or if anyone knows… i
I cant remember is there a minimum of regular season games you have to play to have your name on the cup if they win? And will johnson have played that many games? Cause man would that be hard on him if they win and he didnt qualify

Luke Waggoner

You have to have played 41 games in the prior season, or at least one game in the finals. Teams can petition the league to allow a player’s name on the cup if they don’t meet those requirements, but it’s uncommon. It’s only happened with two people that I know of, and they were two guys in the Red Wings organization that were in a car accident that left them with paralysis/life threatening injuries.

Jared Moss

Oh not looking good for Johnson than, tho I’d see him playing 2 minutes in the last game just to get on it

Luke Waggoner

If they could get him medically cleared, is the thing. I just don’t see that happening. I’m still holding out hope for him playing this post-season.

Jared Moss

Pff money trumps all Johnson got enough to bribe a few people lol kidding!

Matt Briggle

There have been a few more times than that, and given his tenure with the team and leadership role on the team I would be willing to bet that it would be approved and he would get his name on there.

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