A familiar face is heading back to Denver. Colorado Hockey Now’s Adrian Dater reports that Peter Budaj has been hired by the Colorado Avalanche as the “Development Goaltending Coach”. Budaj returns to the NHL organization responsible for his own pro development to assist with the same for the Avs’ goaltending prospects. Dater states that Budaj will primarily be responsible for communicating with and advising Colorado’s goalies outside of the pro ranks. He will likely have a major presence at development and training camps and could have input into the drafting goaltending prospects as well.
Budaj, 38, only retired in 2019 after a career renaissance extended his playing days well beyond what had been anticipated. A second-round pick of the Avalanche in 2001, Budaj got his start in the NHL in 2005 and spent six years with Colorado. He then moved on to the Montreal Canadiens for several seasons, but by 2016 had spent the past two seasons almost exclusively in the AHL. Yet, injuries to the Los Angeles Kings keepers the following season gave Budaj another chance and he responded with an elite season, the best of his career by far. This led to a trade to the Tampa Bay Lightning and then eventually a return to L.A. that extended his career several seasons after it seemed to be winding down in 2016.
Budaj jumped into coaching immediately after retirement, taking an assistant coach position with both the Bozeman Ice Dogs of the NA3HL and at Montana State University with their ACHA club. After a year off during the pandemic, Budaj is ready to take the next step, jumping into a key developmental role for his former team. Interestingly though, it is not clear who Budaj will be working with this season. The AHL’s Colorado Eagles have their own goaltending coach, so if young prospect keepers Justus Annunen and Trent Miner wind up in Loveland despite Jonas Johansson and Hunter Miska also slated for jobs with the Eagles, it leaves little for Budaj to work with. Perhaps if either are demoted to the ECHL or loaned elsewhere, that will become Budaj’s focus this year. The only other prospect goalie in the organization is Russian Shamil Shmakov, who is expected to play in the second tier VHL this year. Regardless of who ends up working with Budaj, they will benefit from the veteran’s experience and knowledge of the position.