Ross Colton avoided arbitration with his new club on Tuesday, signing a four-year deal worth $16 million — an annual average value of $4 million. Both the term and dollar of this contract tell me the Avalanche are betting on Colton elevating his game to the next level. And they’ll likely give him more ice time and opportunity to get there.

Colton told my colleague Bennett Durando of The Denver Post on June 28 that he hopes and expects to get a deal done that weekend. But the negotiations stretched well into July and Colton was able to squeeze the Avs for a bigger AAV than what we all likely expected. And I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing. Last Sunday I said on Hockey Mountain High: Your go-to Avalanche Podcast that I’d suspect Colton either gets one year at a low AAV before cashing in next summer as an unrestricted free agent, or Colorado gets him for four years or more and commits to him as a middle six forward for the foreseeable future. Given his UFA status next summer, the latter option was going to require a slight overpayment. After all, general manager Chris MacFarland is buying three UFA years from a forward that could likely see his stock skyrocket with the rise in salary cap space over those 36 months. It’s a win-win for both sides if Colton is what the team expects him to be.

But why the commitment to a player that’s never hit 40 points? On one hand, the Avs needed depth — that was made clear in their first-round exit at the hands of the Seattle Kraken in April. But they’ve now given Colton four years and his likely linemate Miles Wood six years to both play on the third line. Outside of former center J.T. Compher, who also was on a four-year deal before walking this summer, the Avalanche rarely, if ever, gave term to bottom six forwards.

I doubt MacFarland views Colton and Wood in the same light. Their similarities end here. Two forwards, coming off bottom-six roles — where they’ll start in Colorado — signing long-term deals with the Avs. Wood is the type of player who can play that role for several years. Think Matt Martin or Cal Clutterbuck with the New York Islanders. It’s not uncommon to have some familiarity in your bottom two lines. And that’s where Wood will slot in. The term was a catalyst in bringing his AAV down to a respectable $2.5 million.

As for Colton, I’d sense MacFarland has higher hopes for him. The Avs have done this before. Andre Burakovsky was acquired from the Washington Capitals coming off three consecutive 12-goal seasons. He’d never reached 20 goals or 40 points. Arrturi Lehkonen hovered around the 30-point mark throughout his career with Montreal before taking off last year in his first full season in Colorado. Valeri Nichushkin, who was bought out by the Dallas Stars, recorded 34 points in 2014 and never reached that number again. He’s now a staple in Colorado’s top six hovering near a point per game. Even Devon Toews, a defenseman acquired from the Islanders, wasn’t the point producer (or penalty killer) on Long Island that he is in Colorado.

This team has an eye for players that could thrive with more opportunities. And I’d imagine they see Colton as something closer to that group than the player that’s simply going to ride shotgun with Wood for the next four years. When you consider what this team has gotten from players of this ilk in the past, it makes all the sense in the world that they’d lock him up for the term and dollar that he ended up receiving.

If the Avalanche had it their way, Colton will grow into the player Compher was. A solid third-line center, who could eventually learn to kill penalties (like Toews), and could slot into the top six in a pinch when needed. Given the gamble they’re taking on Ryan Johansen at the 2C role, Colton is both depth and an insurance piece.

There were rumors they tried to sign Compher until the very end. I’d imagine he was offered at least what Colton ended up getting. But it was time to move on after his value rocketed over $5 million. Now it’s up to Colton to develop the same way. And maybe in four years, he’ll also get a lucrative UFA deal elsewhere. If he does, it means this gamble paid off, and Colton was a crucial piece of the team for nearly a half-decade.

It’s up to him to seize the opportunity.