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Avalanche sign Pavel Francouz, take stab at European market

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Avalanche bring in the Czech Republic’s Olympic goaltender

Olympics: Ice Hockey-Men Team Bronze medal match - CZE-CAN David E. Klutho-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Avalanche entered the offseason with a few holes in their lineup - but perhaps no area of their game was weaker than their goaltending depth chart.

With both starter Semyon Varlamov and backup Jonathan Bernier sustaining injuries before the end of the postseason - Varlamov before it began and Bernier in the middle of the series - the team was forced to rely upon their two minor league goaltenders, Andrew Hammond and Spencer Martin.

Hammond, while impressive in his first postseason game for the team, has struggled with injury issues of his own over the last few years and has lacked consistency at the NHL level. Martin, while still young and developing in the pros, was usurped as starter for the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage by St. Louis Blues prospect Ville Husso.

Now, though, the team has made at least one signing in hopes of bolstering their depth for the upcoming season.

It was announced by the team on Wednesday that Czech netminder Pavel Francouz, who most recently played for the KHL’s Traktor Chelyabinsk, has inked a one year deal for the upcoming 2018-19 NHL season.

A native of Plzen, Czech Republic, the 27-year-old Francouz went undrafted in the NHL out of his hometown’s HC Plzen system before slowly moving his way up the ranks of the European pro system.

For the last three years, he’s skated out for Traktor Chelyabinsk, gaining increasing responsibility and putting up some of the best numbers in the KHL in the process. This past year, he was good for five shutouts and a 17-11-5 record with a .946 save percentage; in the postseason, he appeared in four games and posted a .945 save percentage with three wins.

Avalanche fans will be able to see him skate out with the Czech Republic at the 2018 World Championship in Denmark this month, where he’ll likely take the starting gig after splitting the net with Petr Mrazek in 2017. With a .905 save percentage in six games at the Winter Olympics this February, he caught the eyes of more than just the Avalanche; now, he’ll get a chance to see if his numbers translate well in North America.

It’s worth noting that, while his skating mechanics look strong in limited viewings so far, Francouz will join the team with what may be overly aggressive depth tendencies for North American ice, and his familiarity with post integration techniques will be an area to watch for weaknesses as well.