The Colorado Avalanche have avoided arbitration with Ryan Graves, signing the restricted free agent to a one-year contract. Graves filed for player-elected salary arbitration last week, but won’t have to go through the sometimes tough process. Instead he’ll be back with the Avalanche in 2019-20, but actually could end up a Group VI unrestricted free agent next summer if he fails to play in at least 54 NHL games this season. Adrian Dater of Colorado Hockey Now reports that the contract is a two-way deal worth $735K in the NHL.
Graves, 24, made quite an impact in Colorado last season, suiting up in 26 games and recording three goals and five points. The 6’5″ defenseman had come over from the New York Rangers in a deal for Chris Bigras, but didn’t have any prior NHL experience. He’ll now have to battle for a chance to remain with the Avalanche past training camp, something that is far from certain at this point.
Colorado is facing injuries to both Ian Cole and Erik Johnson that should keep them out at the start of the season, but even after the trade of Tyson Barrie the Avalanche blue line is quite crowded. Kevin Connauton, Cale Makar, Bowen Byram, Calle Rosen and potentially even Conor Timmins all represent newcomers that weren’t available at the start of last year, and will complicate the decisions for head coach Jared Bednar and GM Joe Sakic. Graves still represents some great depth, but will have to clear waivers in order to play for the Colorado Eagles of the AHL this season.