Sorry, there’s no actually punchline, but it’s a real question – how the heck did so many former Stars end up in Colorado this summer?
Well, as it turns out, when you achieve success on the ice, players on other teams take notice.
“Not only is it a hell of a talented group, but it’s well-run,” Fredrik Olofsson told me. “It’s professional, and the team has got a direction where it’s going. There’s a standard that you hear about, and then you get here, you feel it right away, and you’re just eager to roll with that.”
Olofsson was acquired prior to free agency, and signed an extension before even thinking about the open market. On July 1, Riley Tufte joined him in Colorado, signing a one-year deal. A few weeks before camp, it came out that Joel Kiviranta would join the Avalanche on a PTO.
The Avalanche are, indeed, a well-run organization, but there’s another reason some of these players decided to sign here – opportunity.
“There was a few teams that I was deciding between, and I think Colorado showed the most interest,” Tufte said. “I see that there’s some opportunity here, and looking to take advantage of that.”
“There’s opportunity here to help a really good team achieve some success,” Olofsson said. “I’m really lucky and really grateful that I’m here.”
All three of the forwards are in the hunt for the final spots on the forward core for the Avalanche. There are 11 locks, and two spots up for grabs. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if those two were taken by a former Stars player.
All three of these forwards made their way to the NHL in very different ways. Kiviranta was undrafted, Olofsson was a fourth rounder, and Tufte is a former first round pick who hasn’t quite panned out.
On multiple occasions, Jared Bednar has referenced that they think Tufte found a different gear last season, and how excited the organization was to add him. His combination of size and skill intrigue the Avalanche head coach, particularly for a team that wanted to get bigger in their bottom six.
“I think I just kind of followed my game a little bit and obviously a lot of growth,” Tufte said of his last year in the AHL. “30-something five-on-five points, and didn’t get any powerplay time, and I thought that says a lot about me. I thought I got better as a player and that’s what got me to this point.”
The Avalanche are so intrigued by Tufte’s skillset that they’ve already shown interest in playing him down the middle, a spot he’s never played in his life. It remains to be seen if he can adjust to playing center, but in Colorado’s system, who is playing center might matter less than it does elsewhere.
“You’re not just a center. It’s pretty interchangeable,” Olofsson, who has played center in camp, told me. “Even if I’m center on paper, on my shift, I’m probably going to end up being a winger in my own zone or however it goes.”
Tufte and Olofsson have contracts for this season, so they’ll be in the organization no matter what. With Kiviranta, he’s in town on a PTO. If, for whatever reason, things don’t work out, he might not have a place to play this season.
And yet, of the three, he seems the most likely to lock down a spot. That might be because he’s been a full-time NHL player since 2020. Given the uncertainty beyond the top 11 forwards, the Avalanche could use a proven NHL player for depth.
Kiviranta, a man of very few words, knows he can’t afford to have an off-day.
“You need to be your best version all the time,” Kiviranta told me.
The three forwards got off to a great start on Sunday afternoon in the preseason opener. Both Tufte and Kiviranta found the back of the net, while Olofsson picked up an assist. There might only be room for two of them, but they’ve all got the same goal – be there opening night.
“I want to make the team,” Olofsson said. “With how I finished last year, I want to build off of proving that I can play in this league, and that I can bring something to the table to a team.”