It’s hard to look at Duncan Siemens’ career so far and consider it anything but a disappointment. Selected 11th overall in the 2011 draft by the Colorado Avalanche, he wouldn’t play his first NHL game for nearly another four years, and even then was only a one-hit wonder. Going into last season, he had just four games under his belt with the Avalanche, and zero career points. The big, bruising defenseman had struggled to do much more than hit people even at the minor league level, and the game was quickly transitioning away from that style of hockey.
Then, during the second half of last season he got his first real opportunity. With the Avalanche showing they were better than many expected, Siemens played 15 games down the stretch and showed he might be able to hack it at the NHL level after all. Now 24, he was given limited minutes but responded with a hard-nosed physical style and even scored his first career goal. When the Avalanche went into their first round playoff series against the Nashville Predators, Siemens was there as one of the regular defensemen and played in five of the six games (though sparingly).
Unfortunately, last season was also one in which the Avalanche strengthened their future blue line considerably. Finding a role player like Patrik Nemeth, trading for Samuel Girard, and continuing the development of young prospects like Cale Makar and Conor Timmins, there wasn’t any room left in the plan for Siemens. It didn’t help that the team secured Ian Cole in free agency, another left-handed defenseman. Siemens was left without a qualifying offer and searching for a job. A tryout with the Calgary Flames didn’t turn into a real opportunity, and the now 25-year old defenseman looked like he might be on his way out of professional hockey. Instead, today he signed a one-year AHL contract with the Milwaukee Admirals where he will spend the rest of the season.
Siemens will still be an unrestricted free agent after the deal concludes, meaning this is a real chance to show an NHL organization that he can be at least a depth option going forward. If he can adapt to the newer, faster NHL—skating was never really Siemens’ problem—perhaps he can secure a new NHL contract next summer.