NHL's 13 Best Available Defensive Free Agents in 2011

April WeinerCorrespondent IJune 29, 2011

NHL's 13 Best Available Defensive Free Agents in 2011

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    We're inching closer to free agency, which begins in two days.

    There are some teams, like the Detroit Red Wings, who are looking for defensemen.

    Some of this summer's best free agent defensemen have already been locked down for the next few years. Andrei Markov resigned with the Montreal Canadiens for four years at $23 million.

    Kevin Bieksa, arguably the top defenseman this offseason, just resigned with the Vancouver Canucks for five years, worth reportedly $23 million. His new contract also includes a no-trade clause, so maybe all those trade rumors will finally dissipate.

    Not to worry though, there are still plenty of top defenseman poised to enter free agency, either unrestricted or restricted on Friday.

    Here are the top 13 defensemen who will become free agents on Friday (if not signed before then).

13. Shea Weber

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    The Nashville Predators would like to retain Shea Weber and they have filed for arbitration in order to do that. This means that other teams cannot sign the defenseman to an offer sheet.

    The Predators have most of July to sign Weber, but if they cannot, the two sides will go to arbitration where a third party will award Weber either a one or two year contract.

    Basically, Weber will be a Predator for at least the 2011-12 season, but it is still up in the air whether it will be any longer.

    Other teams are very interested in the defenseman, as he has one of the hardest shots in the league, as well as being a big, physical defenseman.

    If Weber isn't locked down long-term, he'll have plenty of offers on the free market.

12. Niclas Wallin

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    Niclas Wallin is 36 years old, but his veteran experience, including in the postseason, is priceless.

    Wallin can be clutch too. He has scored four playoff goals, all of them game-winning and three in overtime.

    His leadership and veteran presence would be a great addition to a team.

11. Scott Hannan

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    Scott Hannan doesn't produce much offensively, but he does what defenseman are expected to do.

    He plays plenty of minutes and is a large, physical player.

    If he's not resigned by the Washington Capitals, Hannan should find a new team quite easily.

10. Tomas Kaberle

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    Tomas Kaberle was a hot commodity around the trade deadline and the Boston Bruins were the winners, acquiring him from the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    Kaberle didn't perform as well as many anticipated, but he did contribute and help the Bruins to their first Stanley Cup championship since 1972.

    Many feel that Kaberle will not return to Boston next season because of salary constraints. Kaberle has lots of potential suitors though and will find a new home easily come free agency.

9. Roman Hamrlik

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    Roman Hamrlik is 37 years old, but he still has a couple good years ahead of him.

    Plus, he could be the veteran presence that plenty of teams are looking for on their blue line.

    He's also consistent in his point production, scoring at least 26 points in each of his NHL seasons since 1997-98. He's often scored more than that too.

8. Luke Schenn

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    Luke Schenn is only 21 years old and has already played three seasons in the NHL for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    Schenn is known as a stay-at-home defenseman, more concerned with keeping the other team from scoring than scoring himself.

    Despite this, Schenn has incrementally increased his production each year, from 14 points his rookie season to 22 points this past season.

    If the Leafs can't resign the pending RFA, plenty of other teams will look to sign him to an offer sheet.

7. Ian White

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    Ian White hasn't put up the best numbers after playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes and San Jose Sharks.

    However, at 27, White is still in his prime, with plenty of great years in front of him.

    There are reportedly many teams interested in White, so he should have the pick of the litter come Friday.

6. Bryan McCabe

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    The New York Rangers traded for Bryan McCabe because they wanted a veteran presence on their blue line.

    That's what McCabe still has left to offer a team, despite his age (36 years old).

    He can also offer some offensive support; he's scored over 50 points three times in his career. His best season recently was 2009-10, when he scored 43 points.

    He scored almost 30 points between the Florida Panthers and Rangers last season.

5. James Wisniewski

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    James Wisniewski is only 27 years old and still has his best years in front of him.

    The 2010-11 season was his best year yet, as he scored 51 points, his highest point total to date and 21 points more than his previous best.

    Wisniewski has shuffled around a lot in his career, already having played for four different teams. It's very possible that he'll add to that and join another team this coming season.

4. Zach Bogosian

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    The Winnipeg Jets have issued a qualified offer to defenseman Zach Bogosian.

    This does not necessarily mean that Bogosian will remain a Jet, it just means that the team can match any offer sheets that the defenseman receives or get a draft pick if he leaves for another team.

    Bogosian is still just 20 years old (he'll turn 21 in a couple of weeks), with his best years still in front of him. He already has two and a half NHL seasons under his belt.

    With that in mind and size on his side—he's 6'3" and 215 pounds—Bogosian will be a hot commodity.

3. Drew Doughty

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    Drew Doughty has only played three seasons in the NHL, but he's already made his presence as an emerging top defenseman known.

    Last year, Doughty helped Canada win a gold medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

    That's not all.

    It was also his best season in the NHL yet, scoring 59 points and becoming a finalist for the Norris Trophy, as the league's best defenseman.

    Doughty likely has Norris Trophies in his future and the Kings are looking to resign him, already reportedly making him an offer.

    He hasn't signed yet though, and there are plenty of teams that would love the opportunity to give him an offer sheet.

2. Ed Jovanovski

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    At 35 years old, Ed Jovanovski is getting older and probably only has a few more years left in front of him in the NHL.

    However, Jovanovski is still one of the best options out there on the free agent market.

    He seems to only get better with age, as he's had his best seasons in the past 10 years and his career best year four years ago.

    He's a top offensive defenseman, as he often scores over 30 points and has scored over 40 points a few times in his career as well.

1. Christian Ehrhoff

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    Fellow Vancouver Canucks blueliner Kevin Bieksa just signed a five-year deal to remain in Vancouver, and it seemed likely that the team would resign Christian Ehrhoff next.

    However, yesterday the New York Islanders acquired the rights to Ehrhoff in exchange for a fourth round pick.

    The Islanders now have two days to sign Ehrhoff, otherwise he'll hit the free market.

    As many of the top free agent defensemen have signed deals in the past few days, Ehrhoff may want to hold out to become a UFA, as he'll be in for a large paycheck.