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NHL Free Agency: Re-Ranking Top 10 Defensemen Still on the Market

Steve SilvermanFeatured Columnist IVDecember 21, 2014

NHL Free Agency: Re-Ranking Top 10 Defensemen Still on the Market

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    After a weekend of negotiations between the NHL and the Players Association, there would appear to be very little reason for optimism since none of the key issues were discussed substantively.

    However, with the hope that the powers that be will come to their senses and save the season before it gets destroyed, we're looking at the on-ice product.

    Specifically, we're looking at the top defensemen still available through free agency. While most of the best players at the position have been signed, here's a look at the top 10 free-agent defensemen available as unrestricted or restricted free agents.

No. 10. Kent Huskins, St. Louis Blues

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    An ankle injury prevented Kent Huskins from playing the majority of the season, but he still has the skills at age 33 to make a contribution.

    Huskins is big and strong at 6'4" and 210 pounds, and he is not afraid to use his fists if he has to. While he is not a huge offensive threat, he is responsible defensively and he has had a positive plus-minus figure in each of the last five seasons.

    He can make a contribution as part of a bottom-pair defensive duo.

No. 9. Colin White, San Jose Sharks

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    While Colin White is not the player he once was when he was a part of two Stanley Cup-winning teams with the New Jersey Devils, he is a hard-hitting and physical defenseman who can still make a contribution.

    White is a big man at 6'4" and 215 pounds, and he can still take opponents out of the play with his big hits in the corner. He'll help set the tone with his punishing and physical style.

    He's not an offensive threat—he's scored one goal in the last two seasons—but he can fill in, and he will not hurt his team.

No. 8. Cody Franson, Toronto Maple Leafs

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    The 25-year-old Cody Franson is a restricted free agent, and that means he will likely end up back with the Leafs or they will trade him.

    However, he is still technically a free agent, and he was plus-10 with the Nashville Predators in the 2010-11 season. Franson has a decent shot, and he has the size at 6'5" and 213 pounds that you are not going to ignore.

    Franson was minus-1 with a poor Leafs defensive team, so that speaks fairly well of his ability to play in his own end.

No. 7. Kurtis Foster, Minnesota Wild

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    Another huge defenseman with a big shot, Kurtis Foster's career has basically been about injuries and unfulfilled potential.

    Foster played with three teams last year and had a hard time fitting in with Anaheim, New Jersey or Minnesota. He is there for the taking, and while he won't cost a ton, he could pay big rewards if he can stay healthy and finally learn the positioning aspect of NHL play.

    Foster would help a struggling power play team with his booming right-handed shot.

No. 6. Matt Gilroy, Ottawa Senators

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    Gilroy was highly thought of as a college player. He won the Hobey Baker Award in 2009 while playing at Boston University, but he has not developed into a top-of-the-line NHL player.

    Gilroy has a solid shot, and he can carry the puck. At the age of 28, he's probably not going to be a star.

    However, he can be a functional NHL player who can do a decent job defensively and also make a contribution by moving into the offensive zone and surprising the opponent.

No. 5. Brett Clark, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Teams might be afraid to sign Clark because he suffered through a terrible 2011-12 season in which he was a career-worst minus-26 last season.

    Rather than believe that Clark is over the hill, there's a good chance that he could rebound. He plays with effort, and he will sell out to block shots at all times. He scored nine goals and 22 assists in 2010-11 before slumping to two goals and 13 assists last year.

    He knows how to buy time so he can fire his shot through openings. He has a chance to be a decent contributor.

No. 4. Pavel Kubina, Philadelphia Flyers

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    Pavel Kubina was a very solid all-around defenseman when he was younger. But at the age of 35. he has lost some of his offensive ability.

    If you are going to bring Kubina in, you are doing it because of his know-how and his effort. He will play a tough and physical game. He still has a good right-handed shot; it just doesn't go in the net very often.

    Kubina has an edgy and physical style that angers his opponents but is one that his teammates appreciate.

No. 3. P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens

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    P.K. Subban could not come to an agreement with the Montreal Canadiens about a new contract prior to the lockout beginning Sept. 15, but they are not just going to let him go.

    Subban is a talented but sometimes maddening player who can carry the puck with speed, and he has a booming shot. Subban has been questioned for his tendency to dive when he wants a call from the officials, and his defensive play can be indifferent.

    The Canadiens could choose to trade him, but they will have second thoughts about letting him go once he comes back to the Bell Centre and plays against them.

No. 2. Michael Del Zotto, New York Rangers

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    Michael Del Zotto is a future NHL star, and he is the kind of player who will contribute with his excellent shot and will also sacrifice his body and block shots.

    Del Zotto is an instinctive player, and the Rangers did not want to lose him when they traded for Rick Nash in the offseason. The Rangers know that Del Zotto is going to be a key member of their defense for years to come as long as he agrees to general manager Glen Sather's contract terms (source: New York Daily News).

    If he is not back with the Rangers, it's simply a matter of the financial terms not working out.

No. 1. Jaroslav Spacek, Carolina Hurricanes

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    Spacek, 38, is still a solid NHL defenseman who can make a contribution on the offensive end because he's got a hard shot and is quite responsible in his own end.

    Spacek has had seven consecutive seasons with a positive plus-minus figure. He has a big body, and he knows how to position himself to break up opponents' offensive plays.

    Spacek scored five goals with the Hurricanes last year after getting traded by Montreal, and he connected on 13.5 percent of his shots on goal.

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