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Avalanche finalizes opening-night roster, just $1.38 million under $81.5 million salary cap

Avalanche finalizes opening-night roster, just $1.38 million
under $81.5 million salary cap 1

Veteran defenseman Jack Johnson shared an endearing story Monday when the Avalanche finalized its opening-night roster by reassigning forward Mikhail Maltsev and defenseman Justin Barron to the AHL’s Colorado Eagles.

Johnson, who had been with the Avs in training camp and preseason on a professional tryout contract, signed a one-year deal worth $750,000 on Sunday. His oldest daughter, Jacklyn, 5, was probably relieved. She had expressed worry about the family’s finances.

“My wife was out with my oldest daughter. Her purse was hanging in the car and (Jacklyn) looked in and saw three dollar bills in the purse. So she said, ‘Dad, I really hope you make the team because mom only has three dollars left,’” Johnson said.

Johnson’s family will remain living in Columbus, Ohio where he played from 2012 to 2018, but his wife, Kelly, and Jacklyn are scheduled to visit Denver this weekend. After the Avs’ practice Monday, Jack had a long to-do list.

“Got the keys yesterday,” he said of his new residence. “Now I’m trying to get the furniture, my car, and some more clothes and piece together my life real quick.”

Johnson partnered with another new defenseman, Ryan Murray, on Monday. They know each other well, having been teammates in Columbus.

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Colorado will begin the season with seven defensemen, 12 forwards, and two goalies on the active roster. At 21 players, two less than the maximum, the Avs have just $1.38 million in cap space, according to @PuckPedia. They will have to get creative when defenseman Devon Toews ($4.1 million cap hit) and goalie Pavel Francouz ($2 million) come off injured reserve. Toews (offseason shoulder surgery) continues to practice in a red non-contact jersey and appears close to being cleared. Francouz suffered a lower-body injury Oct. 5 and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks.

Johnson, 34, was limited to just 13 games with the New York Rangers last season after undergoing core muscle repair surgery. He said he might have retired if the Avs didn’t offer him the contract, but he would have been fine with that.

“Worst-case scenario is, I go home and watch my kids grow up. That’s how I looked at it,” the father of three said. “I came to put my best foot forward for them, and if (the team) felt like there was a spot to help this team win, I (would be) absolutely thrilled about it. If not, I was prepared to say I took a crack at it and I was going to go home and watch my kids grow up.”

Now he has a chance to win the Stanley Cup. In 2011-12, he played 61 games for the Los Angeles Kings before being sent to Columbus at the trade deadline. The Kings went on to win the Cup.

“I’m really excited to be a part of this team, (we) have a chance to win,” Johnson said. “At my point in my career, it’s all you want to do.”

Footnotes. Defenseman Jacob MacDonald, 28, cleared waivers Monday and will report to the Eagles. … Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic is scheduled to meet with media during Tuesday’s practice at Ball Arena.

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