Avalanche re-signs Josh Manson and Darren Helm just ahead of free agency – The Denver Post

The Avalanche re-signed defenseman Josh Manson and forward Darren Helm in the 11th hour before free agency opened Wednesday morning.

Manson received a four-year contract worth $18 million ($4.5 million annual cap hit) and Helm signed a one-year deal worth $1.25 million.

Manson, who was acquired from Anaheim ahead of the trade deadline in March, was coming off a $4.1 million annual deal he signed with the Ducks in 2018. He and Helm — who signed a one-year, $1 million deal with the Avs as a free agent a year ago — were scheduled to become free agents at 10 a.m. MT on Wednesday.

Both became integral parts of Colorado’s run to winning the Stanley Cup.

“Josh was a huge addition to our back end down the stretch and into the playoffs,” Avalanche general manager Chris MacFarland said in a release. “He played big minutes on our second pairing throughout the postseason, providing a tough, steady presence in the defensive zone while also contributing on the offensive end with some key goals. Getting him under contract for the next four years helps further solidify our blue line.”

Manson, 30, is a prototype shutdown defenseman. His 63 hits after the trade from Anaheim almost doubled the next closest teammate during that stretch. Manson had a career-high 10 hits in his Avalanche debut on March 15 at Los Angeles.

Helm, 35, was a valuable fourth-line forward in the postseason with a relentless forecheck and defensive shutdown ability. And he scored the game-winning goal in the final seconds of regulation in Game 6 of the second-round series against the St. Louis Blues to send Colorado to the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2002.

MacFarland, who replaced president of hockey operations Joe Sakic as GM on Monday, has now prevented three key players from becoming free agents. MacFarland locked up top-six winger Valeri Nichushkin to an eight-year, $49 million contract on the day he became GM.

The Avs also prevented fourth-line forward Andrew Cogliano from testing the market. Cogliano was re-signed to a one-year deal worth $1.25 million on July 5.

Six others became free agents on Wednesday: Forwards Nazem Kadri, Andre Burakovsky, Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Nico Sturm; defensemen Jack Johnson and Ryan Murray; and goalie Darcy Kuemper.

Aube-Kubel signed a one-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

This story will be updated. 

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