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Erik Johnson Leaving Avalanche, Will Test Free Agent Market

Erik Johnson is leaving the Colorado Avalanche and will test the free agent market on July 1, according to reports.

As per a report by Emily Kaplan of ESPN, “Hearing Colorado likely won’t re-sign Erik Johnson. The veteran defenseman will hit the open market when free agency begins July 1.” While there had been talk of Johnson possibly retiring, it was reported last week on the 32 Thoughts podcast with Jeff Marek and Ellliotte Friedman that those rumors were false. Ultimately, a number of teams may make a pitch for the right-shot 35-year-old.

Given his age and injury history, it’s not entirely clear what he’ll command on the open market. He’s coming off of a contract that paid him $6 million per season, but he’s averaged 17 minutes per game and scored eight assists with no goals last season. The reality is, he’ll be taking a huge pay cut and this could be about playing with a contender and finding the right role versus landing a big payday.

Friedman noted, “I’d heard some rumblings that he might be considering retiring. I was told that was about as wrong as a rumor can be.” Friedman said Johnson wanted it to be with Colorado, but understood he might have to hit the market. He added, “Erik Johnson is he is jacked. He looks like he could play forever. But he’s going to play. He’s not done by any stretch.” If he can provide a team with 15 solid minutes as a shutdown defender, he’d be an appealing option.

Erik Johnson Colorado Avalanche NHL free agency
Erik Johnson Colorado Avalanche NHL free agency

With the emergence of Bowen Byram on the blue line in Colorado, the Avs have other priorities, and the team likely just felt it was time to move on. The departure of Johnson from the Avalanche not only means a loss of size on the defense, but also a significant void in their leadership group within the locker room. With Gabriel Landeskog slated to be out for the entirety of the 2023/24 season, other players will need to step up and assume larger leadership responsibilities.

Johnson will finish his stint with the Avs with 717 games played (7th in franchise history), 68 goals (t-39th), 178 assists (22nd), for 246 points (t-24th).

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