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Avalanche Targets: Some Potential Erik Johnson Replacements



Andrew Peeke Avalanche nhl nhl trade

Make no mistake, whoever the Colorado Avalanche bring in to replace Erik Johnson, it’s unlikely that player will be able to replace Johnson’s presence in the locker room. The 35 year old veteran was a huge part of the leadership group on the team, and you don’t just go out and replace that in free agency or in a trade.

But it looks like Johnson and the Avalanche will part ways, so there is a need to replace his presence on the ice. And on the ice, Johnson was used in a defensive role, killing penalties and starting the majority of his shifts in the defensive zone. By letting him enter free agency, the Avalanche will lose some physicality and size, as well as a right handed shot on the blueline, which is extremely valuable.

So how does Colorado look to replace him this summer? Here are some options available in free agency, and one that may be available in trade.

1. Andreas Englund

It’s been reported that the Blackhawks do not intend on re-signing Englund. The 27 year old defenseman was a surprise for Colorado this season, stepping up in his second call-up and earning a lot of praise from the coaching staff.

But at the deadline, the Avalanche moved him for veteran Jack Johnson, looking for someone they knew they could depend on down the stretch and into the playoffs. With the Blackhawks, Englund struggled with injuries, but he’s a known quantity for Colorado and their coaching staff, and likely would come cheap. He’s not a direct replacement for Johnson until he proves a little bit more, but bringing the big Swedish defenseman back would add some size and physicality to the blueline.

2. Carson Soucy

If you can’t beat them, try to get them to join you.

Soucy was a part of the blueline in Seattle that slowed down the Avalanche in the playoffs, and nearly made it past the Dallas Stars in round two. He was a hot commodity at the trade deadline, but Seattle decided to hold on to him. He made $2,750,000 and would cost quite a bit more than a guy like Englund, but is likely an upgrade on Johnson at this stage in their careers. It’s possible he’s out of Colorado’s price range, but would add some nasty to the blueline.

3. Luke Schenn

Made just $850,000 last season, but one could reasonably expect that number to go up in free agency a fair bit.

Led the NHL in hits in 2022/23 with 318, and was one of the better defensemen for the Toronto Maple Leafs in the postseason. Like Johnson, he’s a right handed shot who would be used mainly in a defensive role, which includes a lot of time on the penalty kill. Colorado may not be looking to spend a lot of money on a third pair defenseman, but at a reasonable price, Schenn would replace what Johnson brought and likely be an upgrade.

4. Justin Holl

The whipping boy for the Toronto Maple Leafs and their fans, he averaged over 20 minutes a game for the Leafs, far more than what he should play on any given night. Any team looking to bring him in should be looking to do so in a much smaller role, as he struggled with the heavy workload.

On the right side, the Avalanche would have Cale Makar and Josh Manson ahead of him on the depth chart, putting him in a much better position to succeed. He has made $2,000,000 a year for the last three seasons, so the price would have to be right. In a new situation where the spotlight isn’t on him as much, he could be a much better fit.

5. Trade for Andrew Peeke

If the Avalanche are looking to go big and make an upgrade, Peeke is a name to keep an eye on. With the defensive additions Columbus made this summer, he might be redundant for them. Signed for three more years at $2,750,000, an argument could be made that he would be a better option on the second pair ahead of Josh Manson.

As everyone knows, Colorado and Columbus have been connected for years, so seeing these two teams work out a deal wouldn’t be surprising at all. Although he’s a big guy (6’3″), he’s not necessarily the most physical player, but he blocks shots like it’s nothing and could eat up some of the tougher minutes Johnson played.

A move for Peeke would indicate the Avalanche aren’t just looking to replace EJ, but to improve on him with someone they’d have under team control for a few years.

6. Troy Stetcher

Not necessarily a one-for-one replacement of Johnson (much smaller), but another right handed shot who’s had decent underlying numbers through his career. He’s bounced around a lot in recent years, and would come in around $1 million, so he’d be a cheap way to fill out the blueline.

7. Play Sam Malinski

While this one would surprise me, it wouldn’t come completely out of left field. Malinski is older (25) and adjusted to the pro game very quickly. However, he’s not an overly physical player, not very big, and is more of the puck-moving type, so he’s not someone who would be expected to fill the role Johnson had in Colorado. But if the Avalanche were looking to go the cheap route, graduating someone internally is a way to do that.


I did not include Radko Gudas, simply because a guy like that is very likely to get a big payday after the playoff run he had. A guy like Scott Mayfield, who played at DU, might be out of their price range as well. I also did not include Jack Johnson, because he was already on the roster. If they wanted to re-sign him, they could, but would likely need another defenseman anyway.

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