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Updated NHL Rankings of the Top 10 Free Agent Defensemen

Tyler DonohueNational Recruiting AnalystJuly 2, 2013

Updated NHL Rankings of the Top 10 Free Agent Defensemen

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    Every NHL team is currently exploring options on the free-agent market. The available crop of players is talented, including a highly capable list of impact defensemen.

    With the free-agent frenzy fast approaching, that group has dwindled a bit in recent weeks.

    Several impending free agents opted to re-sign with their respective squads during June negotiations. Ben Lovejoy inked a three-year extension with Anaheim, Kevin Shattenkirk signed a four-year contract with St. Louis and Roman Josi netted a seven-year deal to stay in Nashville.

    Despite those decisions to re-sign, the well is far from dry when it comes to available talent on the defensive end.

    Here's a look at the top NHL defensemen who can expect to field offers from an array of suitors.

10. Ian White

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    The Red Wings are ready to move on from Ian White when his two-year contract expires.

    Detroit extended defenseman Jakub Kindl's contract last week and the team is intent on preserving cap space to secure talent beyond its current roster.

    White, 29, has suited up for five franchises since joining the league in 2005. He impressed during his first year in Detroit, racking up 32 points while playing opposite of legend Nicklas Lidstrom. 

    The 2012-13 campaign was a much different story, as White tumbled into a reserve role in the Red Wings' rotation and didn't appear in the playoffs. With Kindl signed and sealed, Detroit has seven defensemen under contract for next season.

    White will look elsewhere to find a top-six role on a team in more need of defense.

9. Andrew Ference

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    Boston has opted to allow veteran defenseman Andrew Ference to depart after six seasons of service.

    The 34-year-old Ference landed with the Bruins in 2007 and served as a key supplemental piece on two Eastern Conference championship squads and a Stanley Cup winner.

    "We're losing not just a good player, but also a leader in the dressing room and everything else," Boston coach Claude Julien told the Associated Press (h/t USA Today). "He's always gone above and beyond with the little things in the dressing room and everything that comes with it. He's been a good teammate, smart."

    Those qualities make him a legitimate candidate to land on a title contender. He's a hard-nosed veteran defender out to prove he still has gas left in the tank after 14 seasons in the league. 

8. Marek Zidlicky

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    The 36-year-old  Marek Zidlicky still has tread on his tires and proved to be a valuable commodity for the Devils this season.

    He led New Jersey defensemen in both shots and attempts while competing in all 48 games.

    Zidlicky compiled 19 points during his ninth NHL campaign for his highest total since 2010. The Devils dealt with offensive issues in 2012-13 so the squad should do what it can to secure the services of a capable veteran defenseman with some pop left in his hockey stick. 

7. Grant Clitsome

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    Winnipeg dealt with a myriad of inconsistencies during the 2012-13 season, but Grant Clitsome provided a sense of stability on the back end.

    He posted a plus-10 rating and 16 points while averaging nearly 19 minutes of action per contest. 

    The 28-year-old carried a $1.25 million cap hit on his previous deal, according to CapGeek. That number is set to escalate, but not to the point where teams will be wary of overspending.

    He's a high-value target on the market and still young enough to justify a long-term contract. Clitsome dished out 82 hits in 44 games last season.

6. Ron Hainsey

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    Ron Hainsey is a pro's pro. He hardly ever lights the lamp (in fact, he didn't score once in 2013) and isn't a tremendous puck-handler, but the 32-year-old is well suited for the second line of a playoff contender. 

    The veteran blocked 132 shots in 47 games last season while dishing out 13 assists. Hainsey is well-conditioned, averaging nearly 23 minutes of ice time and having played at least 78 games per season from 2006-2011. 

    Respected and proven players such as Hainsey don't last long on the NHL open market.

5. Ryan Whitney

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    The 30-year-old Ryan Whitney landed with Edmonton after a trade with Anaheim during the 2009-10 season.

    He was a dynamic force at first, tallying 38 points through 54 games with the Oilers, but Whitney has never duplicated that stretch during his days in blue and orange. He lost the 'A' on his jersey, as the Oilers underwent a massive youth movement that left franchise bosses focused more on future contributors than veterans on the way out.

    The Boston native is on the brink of moving on and would bolster any team's defensive corps. Whitney has 259 points in 474 career contests, providing an offensive spark.

    Injuries are an issue here, however, as he's missed 91 games in the past three seasons.

4. Rob Scuderi

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    Rob Scuderi has gained a reputation as a winner with two Stanley Cups to his credit.

    The 34-year-old earned NHL titles with Pittsburgh (2008-09) and Los Angeles (2011-12), while also reaching the 2007-08 Stanley Cup final with the Penguins.

    Though he has just 86 points through nine NHL regular seasons, Scuderi is everything you want in a veteran defenseman. He blocked 31 shots in 13 playoff games this year, rarely surrenders position near the net and is an excellent passer.

    Despite his accomplishments, Scuderi should be available for a very reasonable price tag. The unrestricted free agent is going to have plenty of options.

3. Alex Pietrangelo

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    Alex Pietrangelo, the well-rounded Blues standout, is just 23 years old and coming off a strong season. A restricted free agent, Pietrangelo tallied 24 points and 101 blocked shots in 2012-13.

    Playing a pivotal role on one of the Western Conference's top teams, Pietrangelo averaged approximately 25 minutes of action while compiling an impressive 27-26 giveaway-to-takeaway ratio.

2. Ryan McDonagh

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    The Rangers' Ryan McDonagh is another exciting restricted free agent who may still be a year away from truly breaking the bank. The 23-year-old American product was a bright spot throughout an otherwise underwhelming Rangers' season in New York.

    He averaged more than 24 minutes during the regular season and nearly 26 minutes during the playoffs. McDonagh blocked 76 shots while compiling 19 points in 47 regular-season games.

    New York acquired the young defenseman in a 2009 trade with Montreal that centered around Scott Gomez. His 182 blocked shots in 2011-12 serve as a sign of big things to come for the relentless defenseman.

1. Cody Franson

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    Expect Cody Franson, a 25-year-old restricted free agent, to garner a ton of interest and perhaps even an offer sheet this summer.

    Toronto is unlikely to let a promising defenseman on the verge of his prime depart after an excellent season.

    Franson totaled 29 points in 45 regular-season games this past season, tying his career high. He was ferocious on power play opportunities, tallying 13 points, and scored a pair of goals in Game 7 of the Leafs' first-round series against Boston.

    Aside from his emerging offensive prowess, he delivered 124 hits during the season. Franson is destined to sign a sizable long-term deal, but may have to wait until next summer to do so.

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