You know those recent articles I wrote about how I thought the Colorado Avalanche would promote from within to get a new No. 2 center to replace Nazem Kadri and were done on the free agent market? Yeah, scatch those. Evan Rodrigues is your new No. 2 center (most likely anyway) of the Colorado Avalanche.
Rodrigues, who put up 19 goals and 43 points for the Pittsburgh Penguins last season, signed a one-year contract with the Avalanche this morning. The deal is worth $2 million. Rodrigues, who was an unrestricted free agent, is clearly betting on himself with a short-term, short-money deal.
Speculation that the Avalanche might sign the 29-year-old native of Toronto had cooled, which should have been our biggest clue that something would actually happen. Avalanche management kept this one quiet, leading to this surprise announcement. From the official team release:
The Colorado Avalanche Hockey Club announced today that the team has signed forward Evan Rodrigues to a one-year contract for the 2022-23 season.
Rodrigues, 29, set career highs in goals (19), assists (24) and points (43) this past season, playing in 82 games for the Pittsburgh Penguins. He was the only Penguins player to skate in every contest of the regular season, which was also a new career best for the 5-foot-11, 184-pound center. Rodrigues finished tied for fifth on the team in goals, tied for sixth in assists and finished the campaign ranked sixth in points. He recorded seven power-play goals, tied for fourth on the team. Rodrigues produced five points (3g/2a) in seven Stanley Cup Playoff contests, finishing tied for third in goals and pacing the Penguins with three power-play points.
“We are excited to add a two-way player with Evan’s versatility to our group,” said Avalanche General Manager Chris MacFarland. “He is coming off his best offensive season and has shown he can play in a variety of roles and help a lineup in many ways.”
Signed by the Buffalo Sabres as a free agent on April 22, 2015, Rodrigues has totaled 129 points (53g/76a) in 316 career NHL games with Buffalo and Pittsburgh. He has recorded six points (3g/3a) in nine total postseason contests.
The Toronto, Ontario, native played two-plus seasons with the Rochester Americans in the American Hockey League from 2015-18, notching 70 points (23g/47a) in 128 career games.
Prior to turning pro, Rodrigues played four seasons of college hockey at Boston University, totaling 121 points (42g/79a) in 146 career NCAA contests. He served as an alternate captain in his senior campaign in 2014-15 and set career highs in goals (21), assists (40) and points (61) to help the Terriers to the 2015 Hockey East title and a berth in the 2015 NCAA National Championship Game. He led the team with three goals and four points during the NCAA Tournament. Rodrigues was named a Hockey East Second-Team All-Star in both his sophomore and senior years (2013 and 2015).
Click here to see all of career stats of Rodrigues.
Here is a scouting report from someone who saw every second Rodrigues played for the Penguins in all 82 games last season, Pittsburgh Hockey Now’s Dan Kingerski:
“Rodrigues finally broke free in 2021-22. When the Penguins were missing Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, Rodrigues performed admirably as a second-line center. He’s better defensively than casual observers realize, he’s got a heavy wrist shot and he knows how to distribute the puck. He got lost in the shuffle after the stars returned, but gathered his game for the final stretch and was one of their best players in the Round 1 loss to the New York Rangers. Rodrigues can play all three forward positions, and fill the the top-six or bottom-six roles. But he must feel important to the team or he can retreat. Oh, and watch the toe-drag and snapping wrister. It’s a beaut.”
Rodrigues played with most everyone on the Penguins last year, Kingerski reports. I fully expect he’ll be the No. 2 center here, or at least start the season that way and the coaches go from there.
Here’s every goal Rodrigues scored last year: