DENVER — The Colorado Avalanche has given coach Jared Bednar a one-year contract extension and he’ll be leading a young team that intends to get even younger, general manager Joe Sakic said Monday at his season-ending news conference at the Pepsi Center.
Bednar, who led the Avs to a 47-point improvement and the club’s first playoff appearance in four years in his second year as coach, is now under contract through the 2019-2020 season. He originally signed a three-year deal in August 2016 when he succeeded Patrick Roy.
"He’s done an amazing job — the entire staff, in working with the players," Sakic said of Bednar and his assistants. "They did an amazing job of keeping this team at an even keel and never letting it slip."
Sakic also touched on the following issues:
• The Avs anticipate defenseman Conor Timmins, 19, will make the team out of training camp in September.
• Sakic is assuming Ottawa will keep its top-10 protected first-round draft pick in June — a selection the Avs tentatively obtained in the Matt Duchene trade Nov. 5. If the Senators keep that pick, Colorado will get Ottawa’s first-round pick in 2019.
• The Avs will "stay the course" and won’t be looking to do a lot in free agency or trades in the off-season.
• Sakic and his staff will meet with the team’s professional and amateur scouts in the coming weeks and devise a plan heading into the June 23-24 NHL draft and the free agency period beginning July 1.
"Make no mistake, we’re not going to chase it," Sakic said of trades and free agency. "We’re going to keep letting this team grow, because they deserve it."
The Avs had the NHL’s youngest team this past season.
"We’re going to stay young. In the next couple years we may even get younger," Sakic said. "If we can, even try to get a little quicker and faster out there. Love the way we play the game. It’s fast, it’s entertaining. You see Pepsi Center, especially in the last couple months, with a new generation of fans and the building is alive, back to where it once was. It’s exciting. We know the fans here are excited about this group."
Colorado is coming off a Game 6 loss to Nashville on Sunday at the Pepsi Center. It was just the third playoff appearance in 10 years for the team, and the Avs played the series without top defenseman Erik Johnson and No. 1 goalie Semyon Varlamov.
"It hurts when you don’t have your No. 1 (defenseman) and No. 1 goalie but I give our guys a lot of credit. They battled adversity all year. It didn’t matter who was hurt," Sakic said. "They stuck together, they found a way to win games, get into the playoffs and, except for (Sunday’s) game where I think we ran out of gas, it was a great series by our guys."
Asked to evaluate the Duchene trade, in which the Avs obtained seven pieces including 19-year-old defenseman Sam Girard, forward Vlad Kamenev, 21, prospect Shane Bowers, 18, and three high draft picks, Sakic said: "We liked the return we got. That’s what we were trying to accomplish in a trade like that, is to build for the future, so we’re going
As for Colorado’s blue line — a sore spot over the past decade — the Avs are looking strong next year and beyond with the additions of Girard and Timmins, the latter of whom signed his entry-level contract March 2 and is starring for major-junior’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League.
Timmins, who was selected by the Avs with the 32nd pick of the 2017 draft, was among the Avs’ final cuts in training camp.
"He had an amazing camp. He started rookie camp and he kept getting better. There were some guys who didn’t want to send him down, but we thought it was best for his development," Sakic said. "It’s going to be (about) what he does in the summer, the time he puts in, and how he does at training camp next year will dictate where he’s going to start."
The Avs could potentially have three savvy puck-moving defensemen in Girard, Timmins and Tyson Barrie paired with three big guys in Johnson, Nikita Zadorov and Patrik Nemeth.