The Colorado Avalanche expect defenseman Josh Manson will be ready for the team’s season opener on October 11 in Los Angeles; however, they also confirmed backup goaltender Pavel Francouz will begin the season on the shelf, head coach Jared Bednar told reporters Monday. Neither player has appeared during preseason action thus far.
Manson has not suited up since Game 5 of the Avalanche’s first-round loss at the hands of the Seattle Kraken in seven games. Today, Manson told reporters, including NHL.com’s Ryan Boulding, that he tore an oblique muscle earlier in the series and could not continue playing through it, resulting in offseason surgery. Bednar mentioned last month that Manson is also rehabbing a separate lower-body injury.
Meanwhile, Colorado announced at the beginning of the offseason that Francouz had undergone adductor surgery and was expected to be ready in time for training camp, but that hasn’t happened. Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli reported last month that the Avalanche were eyeing the trade market for goalie insurance as they no longer believed Francouz would be ready for the start of the season, and the oft-injured backup still has an unclear timeline for a return. Much like the Tampa Bay Lightning, who are dealing with a much more consequential injury to starter Andrei Vasilevskiy, Colorado could look to make a waiver claim to add goalie depth as more third-string options hit the wire, as the Columbus Blue Jackets did with Spencer Martin last week.
It’s certainly not a good sign for Francouz, who’s still managed to be effective during his time as a backup option in Colorado despite a lengthy injury history. Making 73 regular-season appearances for the Avs since coming over from Europe in 2018 at the age of 28, the Czech goalie missed the entire 2020-21 season and the first 24 games of 2021-22 with an ankle injury. A recurring lower-body injury limited him to just 16 starts last season as well. For now, 23-year-old prospect Justus Annunen is the presumptive backup to starter Alexandar Georgiev.
However, it’s certainly good news regarding Manson, who spent most of the first season of a four-year deal last year on the shelf. Recording ten points in just 27 games, Manson averaged 17:41 per game during his first full season in the Mile High City. Manson is no stranger to consistent injuries, however, eclipsing the 70-game mark just four times during his eight-year career with the Anaheim Ducks before coming over to Colorado at the 2022 trade deadline. With both Bowen Byram and Samuel Girard able to play their off-side, expect a more limited third-pair role for Manson to start 2023-24 as the 31-year-old rebounds from a tough campaign. It’s far from ideal, however, given his substantial $4.5MM cap hit through the 2025-26 season.