The 2010 free agent defensive class was solid to start, but has lessened as of late.
With the re-signing of players like Nicklas Lidstrom and Dennis Seidenberg, and the announced retirements of Rob Blake and Scott Niedermayer, things suddenly don’t look so great.
Regardless, there are still a number of defensemen out on the market. I did not include restricted free agents on this list.
In no specific order, here are the 10 best blueliners available on July 1.
Probably the best d-man available, Gonchar has been a consistent blueliner for well over a decade now and will probably be earning around $7 million per season wherever he ends up.
Not including his injury-plagued 2008-09 season, Gonchar has finished with at least 11 goals and 50 points in every season since 2000.
The only knock on Gonchar is that his average ice-time has gone down slightly over the course of the last few seasons.
But let’s be honest, age doesn’t look like it has taken its toll on Gonchar’s offensive abilities. Despite averaging the lowest amount of ice-time in his last eight seasons this year, Gonchar had a career-best on-ice production time. The 36-year-old averaged one point for every 30:15 on the ice.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are trying to get the jump on Gonchar, but if they don’t the team will be in a world of hurt for the upcoming season.
At 35 years old, Sutton’s age may be a little bit of a concern and 13 points isn’t much of any offensive output, but he is arguably one of the toughest defenders in the league.
Sutton’s 204 blocked shots were good for second in the NHL. He would have led the league in blocked shots had he not missed 10 games. His 197 hits weren’t too shabby either.
Sutton will be a valuable addition to a playoff-caliber team that might need to tighten up its defensive game.
Heading into the 2009-10 season, it was expected that the 31-year-old Tallinder would be doing the teaching for Tyler Myers, but it was Tallinder that got quite a lesson himself from the 6’8” Calder Trophy winner.
Tallinder has spent his eight-year career in Buffalo and 2010 was probably his best overall season—thanks in part to playing with Myers.
His 6’4”, 215-pound frame gives Tallinder the right tools to be an effective blueliner and he has the smarts to be consistent. He also picked up a few things on moving the puck up ice from Myers.
If the Sabres can’t re-sign him, I guarantee another team will jump on him almost immediately.
A player who has truly proven his worth on the blue line, Mitchell is one of the best defensive defensemen in the league and he can log big minutes. He has also been a plus-one or better in every season since 2002.
Mitchell’s 2010 season was cut short due to a concussion he received in a game against the Penguins on Jan. 16. However, as of last week, Mitchell declared he was “symptom free.”
“I’ve got a big part of my life back,” Mitchell told the Vancouver Sun. “I have no uncertainty; I want to play hockey. It took a little longer than I expected [to recover], but I'm looking forward to next season. I’m really excited. I feel normal again.”
With the Vancouver Canucks acquiring Keith Ballard from the Florida Panthers, it appears Mitchell’s days in Vancouver may be limited, but his incredible defensive play will land him on another team very quickly.
Another player who’s future contract might suffer due to age. At 33, Kubina is not as ripe as he once was, but the d-man still has an excellent shot.
Kubina has finished with at least 38 points in four of the five seasons since the lockout. He has also averaged at least 21 minutes per game in every season since 2002.
Ninety-four hits and 111 blocked shots also make Kubina a threat defensively.
While he might not net $5 million per season again, Kubina is still well worth something close to that to a lot of teams in the market for a threat from the point.
Corvo’s defensive abilities are suspect to say the least. The 33 year old is known for his careless turnovers—not a great start for a blueliner.
But, Corvo has proven he can handle a lot of ice-time and produce offensively, which is more than enough for some teams in the market.
Corvo is a shooting machine from the point and finished the 2008-09 campaign with a career-high 213 shots, which led to a career-high 14 goals.
At less than $3 million per season, Corvo will improve some team’s power play on July 1.
Clark’s first two seasons after the lockout were quite impressive. He finished with a combined 19 goals, 75 points, and 288 shots from 2005-07.
However, in his past three seasons, Clark has combined for just 10 goals and 53 points, with a minus-five rating. A shoulder injury in 2008 certainly inhibited Clark’s progression and several minor injuries since haven’t helped.
While Clark’s career has been on an offensive decline in the last three season, his defensive games is still solid. Despite missing 18 games this season, Clarks finished 11th in the league with 162 blocked shots.
Clark still has the potential to get back to where he needs to be and help a few clubs offensively, as well as defensively. His $3.5 million contract will take a hit, but Clark will find his way.
At 27, Hamhuis is one of the younger defensemen available and a lot of teams will pick up on that.
It wasn’t easy for Hamhuis to steal time from guys like Shea Weber and Ryan Sutter while with the Nashville Predators, but he has averaged at least 21:15 of ice-time in his six-season career and has missed only nine games.
Hamhuis’ shot from the point is above average and tends to create havoc in front of the net.
Playing in Nashville wasn’t easy, but Hamhuis has the potential to great things if given the chance.
Like Hamhuis, Martin’s age is enticing enough for most teams.
Martin, 29, played in just 22 games this season due to injury—not the best way to attract potential suitors. But Martin has proven himself quite well in the NHL already.
Martin’s offensive numbers appear to be on the rise, which is great considering his two-way play. He is a combined plus-55 over the course of his first six seasons.
Ice-time is also not a problem for Martin. Not including his rookie season, he has averaged at least 22:30 per game. In the 2006-07 season, Martin averaged well over 25 minutes on the ice each game.
Next to Gonchar, Martin is the best blue liner available and will only get better for years to come.
Volchenkov’s offensive value as a blueliner is maybe the same price as a Big Mac—four goals is his career-high—but he’s on this list because he is a defender.
In the 2009-10 season, Volchenkov finished with 172 blocked shots, good for eighth among defensemen.
Volchenkov is 226 pounds of muscle and finished with 152 hits to prove it this season.
On top of his defensive talents, Volchenkov is just 28 years old, which should help him net a nice contract on July 1.