The Colorado Avalanche have locked up one of their young defensemen before he ever gets close to restricted free agency. Samuel Girard has signed a seven-year extension which will keep him under contract through the 2026-27 season. Girard is on the final year of his entry-level contract currently. PuckPedia reports that the deal will carry a $5MM salary in each year with no signing bonuses, and includes a nine-team no-trade clause the final three seasons.
While it is easy to see how much skill Girard possesses, this contract does come with its fair share of risk for the Avalanche. The 21-year old defenseman was acquired as part of the Matt Duchene trade in 2017 and has played 150 games for Colorado so far in his young career. He has just 47 points in those games including 27 last season despite getting ample powerplay time and averaging close to 20 minutes a game. The undersized puck-mover has tremendous skating ability and offensive upside, but hasn’t quite been able to reach the lofty expectations put on him when he came over from the Nashville Predators.
Still, there’s reason to be excited for the Avalanche. He turned 21 just over two months ago and has already proven he can at worst be a capable middle-pairing defender on a playoff team. If the offense does ever click or if he continues to develop in his own end a $5MM cap hit could be a bargain down the line. The deal buys out three unrestricted free agent seasons and takes him to age-29, essentially covering his entire prime at a fixed salary. That kind of cost certainty is valuable, especially for a team like Colorado that has so much uncertainty still to come. Mikko Rantanen is still unsigned and could be looking at a huge contract, while others like Cale Makar and Tyson Jost will need new deals down the line. Even captain Gabriel Landeskog only has two years remaining on his current contract, meaning the Avalanche needed some locked in numbers to build around moving forward.
That $5MM cap hit will give Girard something to live up to however and put even more pressure on the young defenseman. With Erik Johnson and Ian Cole out with injuries to start the season there will be huge responsibility placed on Girard and fellow youngster Makar. For a team that expects to compete for the Stanley Cup this season they need Girard to take another step forward in his development.
The contract gives the Avalanche 11 players signed to one-way contracts for the 2020-21 season. They have committed more than $48MM in those deals.