In a surprising move, the Colorado Avalanche have placed Nate Guenin on waivers and recalled Nikita Zadorov and Chris Bigras from the San Antonio Rampage. Erik Johnson, who suffered a knee injury in the Los Angeles Kings game, has been placed on injured reserve, ostensibly to create room on the roster for Zadorov or Bigras. Should Guenin clear waivers, expect him to report to San Antonio as soon as tomorrow.
The Avalanche suffered two embarrassing losses since losing Johnson, the team’s top defenseman, on January 4th. It appears the team’s defensive woes highlighted in those games is enough to prompt Head Coach/Vice President of Hockey Operations Patrick Roy to make a decision he was seemingly reluctant to make in the past. Roy has often praised Guenin on his professionalism and veteran presence on the team, an indication that he perhaps intended to keep Guenin on the roster for the length of his contract. This was often a source of frustration with fans as Guenin’s contributions did not seem to outweigh his detriments to the team’s success. This move is an indication that Roy recognizes the need for a change on the blueline.
Perhaps more surprising, however, is Roy’s decision to recall Zadorov and Bigras. He has repeatedly said that he wanted to keep the two players in San Antonio so that they could see more minutes of ice time than they would in the NHL. Roy has been a strong proponent of extensive development time in the AHL for his defensemen, so recalling a player like Bigras, who is in his first year in professional hockey, is a bit out of character for Roy. However, Bigras has been playing exceptionally well with the Rampage, showing very clearly what a special player he is becoming and leaving little doubt as to why the rookie is being given this chance. While Zadorov still needs to develop consistency, he has NHL talent and experience, making his promotion a logical choice.
More information will come soon about how the moves affect the roster and what roles Zadorov and Bigras will play on the Avalanche.
UPDATED: Nate Guenin and Patrick Roy audio on today’s moves