NHL Free Agents: 8 Best Defensemen Still Available and Where They'll Sign
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It is hard to believe that we are already one month into the NHL free-agency period.
Most of the big names are gone, having signed onto new teams and ready to lead those teams to greater heights.
Sure, there are still some big fish swimming around in the free-agency pond—Shane Doan is the most compelling free agent that has not yet been hauled on board somewhere.
But as far as defensemen are concerned, there are actually quite a few quality players still available, each of whom could make a definite difference to their new teams.
Let's look at the top eight defensemen still available and see where they might be headed.
Brett Clark hammers a puck through the net.
As reported by NHL.com, Clark's point production dipped considerably, dropping to just 15 during the 2011-2012 season.
His plus/minus rating was also particularly poor, falling to a minus-26.
But Clark remains a shot-blocking machine as he got in the way of 199 shots last season. With shot-blocking skill like that, Clark would still be a very good option for a team to pick up to bolster their defense, particularly on the third or fourth defensive lines.
I am thinking that Clark would be a good fit in San Jose. The Sharks, as reported by Kevin Kurz with CSNBayArea.com, might be a defenseman short, and Clark might be a good option if they don't want to invest a lot for a bottom line D-man.
I see Clark going to San Jose and improving the Sharks' defense in the process.
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Carlo Colaiacovo is a solid defenseman who has good vision and can get physical.
Unfortunately, that physicality has caused him some problems as he has been plagued by injuries the past couple of years, including a concussion a few seasons back.
Colaiacovo can score, but he has to stay healthy to do so. When he was in the lineup, he was a key part of the Blues' resurgence this past season.
Some would say he is the best defenseman still available; others would say the risk is just too high.
It absolutely seems like a risk to sign Colaiacovo. Then again, sometimes you have to take risks to get ahead.
The Red Wings, who have some holes to fill, would be a solid choice as a team wiling to take a chance on a guy like Colaiacovo.
He has all the potential to add a level of explosiveness to the Red Wings and that is something they are going to need this upcoming season.
Look for Colaiacovo to trade in his St. Louis blue for some Red Wings red before next season begins.
Matt Gilroy with a great breakaway goal
Of all the defensemen still available, Matt Gilroy probably has the best offensive skill set.
Unfortunately, his blue-line skills are not up to the same level.
You can't really call Gilroy a two-way defenseman, as he just hasn't developed the all-around game a defenseman needs to excel at the NHL level.
Still, Gilroy has a ton of talent and good upside potential with the proper coach guiding him.
After all, you don't win a Hobey Baker award if you aren't pretty good.
Gilroy's future is very difficult to place. San Jose is a possibility. Detroit is a possibility,. He could end up back in Ottawa.
My guess—and that is pretty much all it is—is that Gilroy will re-sign with the Senators. Ottawa has a great core of good young players and Gilroy fits into that equation well.
Jaroslav Spacek with a howitzer of a shot
Jaroslav Spacek might actually be the best defenseman still available.
Spacek does not score a lot, but he has a tremendous shot.
He's also a very good blue-line defender and would add a certain level of toughness to any team looking for that.
The most impressive asset of his game is his mistake-free play, which is evidenced by his plus-64 rating over the past seven seasons.
I see Spacek going to the Bruins. He will add even more depth to one of the deeper teams in the league.
According to Yardbarker.com, the B's were active in trying to get Spacek prior to the trade deadline, but were ultimately unsuccessful.
I think the Bruins finish what they started and acquire Spacek via free agency.
Pavel Kubina is a very big guy who is not afraid to drop the gloves
Pavel Kubina is another player whose game has transitioned as he has gotten older.
Still, at 6'4" and over 250 lbs., Kubina would make a welcome addition to any team looking to add a physically imposing player on the blue line.
Kubina played in 69 games a season ago, and unlike some of the other defensemen discussed so far, he seems to be a bit healthier and not quite as prone to injury.
Though he won't be an answer to any team looking for a true scoring threat from their defense, Kubina can still hammer the puck when the opportunity strikes.
As for where he might land, the rumor mill is not exactly on overdrive as far as Kubina is concerned.
As a Caps fan, I would think there would be interest in Washington, as a player like Kubina would add a big body on the blue line.
But with the Shea Weber deal falling apart (USA Today), I suspect the Flyers will retain Kubina.
Michal Rozsival might be the best defensive free agent still available.
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Michal Rozsival might very well be the best of the available crop of defensive free agents still available.
Unfortunately, in a recurring theme, Rozsival has also been bit by the injury bug the past couple of seasons. His numbers have been down, but when healthy he can be a very solid asset in his own zone. He would definitely add depth to any team's back line.
The question is can Rozsival stay healthy? And if he can, will he regain some of his past offensive prowess?
An even bigger question is whether any team is willing to take a chance on him.
If Rozsival stays healthy, he could be a steal—and a big one at that.
As for a good landing spot for Rozsival, I have this feeling he will end up being a Blueshirt. The Rangers don't have an absolutely desperate need for a defender, strictly speaking. But New York has now solidified their offense by acquiring Rick Nash (Associated Press via Yahoo! Sports).
Adding some more depth to the defense with a free agent who could make a difference would almost assuredly lock down the Rangers as the favorite for the Eastern Conference crown in 2012-2013.
Scott Hannan can be a very physical force at times
Scott Hannan is one of the other remaining defensive free agents who has remained relatively healthy as of late. He played in 78 games a season ago.
If you have been reading along, you will know that is an accomplishment.
If there is one thing Hannan has going for him, it may just be his availability to chew up important minutes each night.
Hannan has never been a goal scorer. His career high is all of six goals, which he accomplished twice with San Jose.
But Hannan is a solid defensive player as he has a career plus/minus rating of plus-15. There are plenty of teams out there who would take a defender with that sort of output.
I can see Hannan in Vancouver this season. I am not sold on the fact that the Canucks are completely satisfied with their defensive corps. If they aren't, than Hannan makes as good an addition as anyone and could absolutely help the Canucks' chances in the 2012-2013 season.
Steve Eminger could be a valuable addition to several teams.
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The last of the remaining free agents to look at is Steve Eminger.
And yes, Eminger remains a free agent largely in part to injuries.
He played in all of 42 games a season ago. When he played he was fairly effective—but it was such a rare occurrence that it is difficult to gauge exactly what Eminger can do and what he might still be capable of accomplishing.
With a career plus/minus of minus-15, combined with his injury issues, it will be a real gamble for a team to take a chance on Eminger.
Eminger could head to Long Island and play for the Islanders. The Isles are somewhat light on defenders and Eminger could, at this point, probably be acquired on the cheap. It would be a low risk, potentially high-reward investment for the Islanders as they continue to add pieces in hopes of putting a playoff-caliber team on the ice.