NHL Free Agent Rumors: The Top 13 Available Defensemen This Offseason

Eric He@@erichesportsContributor IIJune 29, 2011

NHL Free Agent Rumors: The Top 13 Available Defensemen This Offseason

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    With NHL free agency beginning this Friday, July 1st, GM's and coaches around the league are scrambling to call up any potential players who are willing to sign a contract with a new team.

    However, one of the top potential free agents is already off the board. Defenseman Kevin Bieksa has resigned with the Vancouver Canucks for five years.

    Nevertheless, this deal doesn't mean that the remaining players in the free-agent pool are undeserving of any attention. Defensemen are often underrated for the dirty work that they do, as they are a major part every team. This year's group of free-agent defensemen will no doubt provide teams with depth and bulk up their blue line. Here are the top 13 available free-agent defensemen this offseason.   

13. Craig Rivet

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    2010-2011: 37 Games, 2 G 2A = 4 Points

    Even though his stats may not show it, Craig Rivet is a wily, well-traveled, respected veteran. His meager four points last year are a non-factor, considering the amount of leadership and experience that he brings to the table. Rivet was named captain of the Buffalo Sabres during his three-year tenure there. 

    Rivet would be a great seventh defenseman who could fill in for an injured player. He should get some offers from teams that are in need of defensive depth.

12. Scott Hannan

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    2010-2011: 78 Games: 1 G 10 A = 11 Points

    From Sam Fels of NBC Chicago:

    "Hannan is a large man at 6-1 225. And it's 6-1, 225 of snarling attitude. Hannan will happily put you through the boards. He won't let you hang around the crease, and isn't afraid to throw himself in front of rushing vulcanized rubber."

    Hannan is an established, stay-at-home defenseman, who will get a deal next year. Potential suitors are the Blackhawks and Canadiens.

11. Jonathon Ericsson

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    2010-2011: 74 Games, 3 G 12 A = 15 Points

    Jonathon Ericsson, a 26-year-old, Swedish defenseman, is expected to re-sign with the Detroit Red Wings. However, he is still a target for many GM's trying to snag a young player who has the potential to blossom into a superstar.

    Ericsson finished the season with a plus-eight rating, the first time that he has ever been a plus-defenseman in his career. Shortly after the Wings were eliminated from the playoffs, Ericsson said about his season and his future: "It was nice to be plus for a change. I had a more consistent season, and that was what I was trying for. I felt good during playoffs." 

10. Ian White

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    2010-2011: 61 Games, 2 G 18 A = 20 Points

    Ian White, once a hotshot defenseman with Toronto, has lost some of his swagger. However, he is still considered at top-six defenseman. After being traded to the San Jose Sharks from the Carolina Hurricanes, White's solid play helped the Sharks advance to the Conference finals. He was a fixture on the power play and seemingly was unafraid to shoot the puck.

    White is looking for a new team to play for, and there is no doubt that this offensive-minded defenseman will find a job somewhere.

9. Andy Greene

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    2010-2011: 82 Games: 4 G 19 A = 23 Points

    Andy Greene is another young defenseman, and is very similar to Ericsson.

    From Matt Wagner of jacketscannon.com 

    "A very mobile defenseman, Greene has a lot of skill in his passing game, and has a great touch with that critical "first pass" out of the zone. Though he's a bit undersized compared to some of his peers, he's hard to take off the puck and shows a lot of poise, defensively."

    Greene has indicated that he will hit the open market, and his suitors include San Jose, Florida and Detroit. 

8. Radek Martinek

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    2010-2011: 64 Games: 2 G 13 A = 15 Points

    As was reported by Chris Botta of Islanders Point Blank, Radek Martinek will not be back with the Islanders next season, per a league source.

    From Daniel Friedman of Bleacher Report:

    Martinek is a strong defensive-defenseman. He is very responsible in his own zone and is a stable force on an oft-unstable Isles defensive squad.

    There is no doubt that Martinek will find a new home. There are way too many teams in need of a veteran defensive-defenseman, including the Red Wings and Sharks.

7. Anton Babchuk

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    2010-2011: 82 Games: 11 G 24 A = 35 Points

    From diebytheblade.com:

    "A former first-round draft pick, Babchuk finally put it all together this past season.  After spending a year inthe KHL, he tied his career high in points, with 35.  He is strong in his own end (156 blocked shots and + 14 on the season, +18 after being traded to Calgary),"

    Babchuck is another one of those young defensemen with a tremendous upside. He is being targeted by the Sabres and Lightning.

6. James Wisniewski

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    2010-2011: 75 Games: 10 G 41 A = 51 Points

    Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press

    "Wisniewski split last season between the Islanders and Canadiens. He's only 27, and while at 5-feet-11 he doesn't tower, he's what coach Mike Babcock would call a "thick body," a 200-plus pounder who is tough to move."

    Wisniewski split time between the Islanders and Canadiens last season and is being courted by the Detorit Red Wings. He is being considered as a top-four defenseman.

5. Ed Jovanovski

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    2010-2011: 50 Games: 5 G 9 A = 14 Points 

    Jovanovksi is 34 and still can provide offense from the blue line. The Coyotes veteran will probably wind up with a team that needs his experience and to perhaps mentor a younger player. The veteran of more than 1,000 NHL games likely will be one of the most desirable defensemen on the market this year.

    He's a gritty, physical player, but also has the skill to quarterback a power play. He has at least nine goals in four of the last five seasons, and this season he became the first defenseman in Coyotes/Jets franchise history to record a hat trick.

    Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2011/06/28/finding-home-for-15-unrestricted-free-agents/#ixzz1QdBFm2LF

4. Bryan McCabe

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    2010-2011: 67 Games: 7 G 21 A = 28 Points

    The Rangers acquired McCabe at the trade deadline in the hopes of finding a veteran blue line presence who could quarterback the power play. Things didn't exactly work out, though, as their power play went 1-for-20 in a first-round playoff loss to the Capitals. Still, McCabe has some firepower left in him and would be a solid addition to any young team.


    Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2011/06/26/markov-signing-sets-d-men-free-agent-market/#ixzz1QdCqDqs5

3. Joni Pitkanen

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    2010-2011: 72 Games: 5 G 30 A = 35 Points

    PItkanen is reportedly very close to re-signing with the Carolina Hurricanes. The veteran defenseman would provide an offensive and defensive lift to any team. Pitkanen is a big body and is not afraid to get physical. Potential suitors include the Red Wings and Sharks.

2. Tomas Kaberle

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    82 Games: 4 G 43 A = 47 Points

    Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli:

    “You know what he brings, and you saw it more against Vancouver. He brings the ability to both slow down the play and speed it up with his passing and skating,” said Chiarelli. “And he freezes guys. He freezes guys for the opposing forecheck, he freezes them in the neutral zone. He makes great passes, he skates into the trap. I think he was our top defensive scorer. He was a real important component here and I know he was criticized for a time."

    According to a tweet from TSN’s Darren Dreger, the Bruins sent out an email Tuesday offering Tomas Kaberle‘s negotiating rights to other teams. Any team that acquired Kaberle would, as the Bruins do now, be able to negotiate with the defenseman exclusively leading up to the opening of free agency on Friday.

1. Christian Ehrhoff

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    2010-2011: 79 Games: 14 G 36 A = 50 Points

    Without a doubt, Chrisitan Ehrhoff has definitely been the most sought after defenseman this off-season. The New York Islanders gave up a fourth-round pick just for the rights to negotiate with Ehrhoff.

    "I just want something that is fair and obviously if I end up staying here it's natural that you have got to come their way a little bit," Ehrhoff said. "It's just meeting at the right point, you know."

    Ehrhoff reportedly turned down a deal with the Canucks. He is definitely going to make more than the $3.1 million that he made this year.