Avoiding an arbitration hearing that was pending, the Colorado Avalanche and forward Matt Nieto agreed to a one-year, $1 million contract Tuesday morning. Nieto’s signing means the Avs have only two remaining unsigned restricted free agents: Defenseman Nikita Zadorov and forward Rocco Grimaldi.
Nieto, a left wing, never signed his qualifying offer of $771,000, and became the only Avs player to elect for arbitration. Most arbitration cases don’t “got to trial”, however, and it was no different with Nieto.
“Matt brought speed and offensive depth to our team in the second half of last season,” Avs general manager Joe Sakic said in a team release. “He brings energy to our lineup, and we look forward to having him under contract for 2017-18.”
Claimed on waivers Jan. 5, Nieto played a mostly mediocre 43 games for Colorado, scoring seven goals and 11 points. He probably will fill a depth role with the team moving forward, though his capable speed makes him a likely top-six injury replacement if needed.
The situation with Zadorov? It remains somewhat murky, though the overriding belief is that the Russian will re-sign with the Avalanche. There have been unsubstantiated reports from Russia that Zadorov might bolt to the Kontinental Hockey League if negotiations reach an impasse, but that possibility is seen as remote at best.