With the initial flurry of activity that marked the opening of the free agent signing period now waning, teams have turned their attention to stocking their minor league clubs. Such was apparently the case for the Colorado Avalanche on Monday, when (according to the Swiss club Ambri-Piotta’s website) the team signed defenseman Maxim Noreau to a two-year contract. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it is reportedly worth $625,000 per season.
Formerly a member of the Minnesota Wild organization, the 27-year-old Noreau has played the last three seasons with Ambri-Piotta of the Swiss NLA. He was named an assistant captain last season, and scored 24 points in 35 games, leading the league in goals by a defenseman with eight. He has zero points in six games of NHL experience (all with the Wild).
Noreau is a former teammate of Avalanche center Matt Duchene. During the most recent NHL lockout, Duchene joined Ambri-Piotta for a short while, scoring five points in four games. The two also played together on Team Canada during that year’s Spengler Cup, capturing gold in the tournament. Noreau returned to Canada’s Spengler Cup team last season as an assistant captain.
Noreau still had one year remaining on his contract with Ambri-Piotta, but the two parties have agreed to suspend the deal until the end of Noreau’s NHL engagement.
Ambri-Piotta quickly replaced Noreau, signing former Avs defenseman Ryan O’Byrne. The Avalanche traded O’Byrne to the Toronto Maple Leafs during the 2012-2013 season. The 29-year-old blueliner played last season with HC Lev Praha of the KHL, scoring nine points in 43 games.
Noreau marks the fourth player the Avalanche have signed from overseas thus far this offseason, joining forwards Dennis Everberg and Borna Rendulic, and goaltender Roman Will. The team also recently signed forward Ben Street away from the Calgary Flames organization. Noreau is just the latest defenseman added to the Avalanche pool since free agency opened. The team also added Zach Redmond and Bruno Gervais via free agency, and Brad Stuart via trade.