Ranking the Top Defensemen Set to Become Free Agents After 2014-15
With pending unrestricted free agent Johnny Boychuk agreeing to a seven-year, $42 million contract Thursday, as Newsday's Arthur Staple reported, the market for defensemen this summer is...well...
Ever get to the supermarket the day before a blizzard hits? Only it's late in the day, and the place has already been ravaged, and all that's left is store-brand potato chips and some low-fat vanilla-flavored yogurt that nobody wants? That's what the 2015 offseason is looking like now that Boychuk and the New York Islanders have consummated a new deal.
NHL free agency has become a perennial exercise in overpaying players (Vinny Lecavalier, Andrew MacDonald) who will eventually be traded (David Clarkson) or bought out (Brad Richards), but the list of available defensemen this summer is downright terrifying if you're a team in major need of back-end help. There are a few viable options, sure, but no one who can make a huge impact.
With that encouraging setup out of the way, here are the blueliners who will be lurking out there after this season.
11. Matt Irwin, San Jose Sharks
Age: 27 (will be 28 in November)
2014-15 Numbers: 7 goals, 15 points, 40 games
Skinny: Matt Irwin is an interesting study. He put up decent offensive numbers in the AHL, and he's done more of that in the NHL, but he has just 140 games (46 points) under his belt. His most frequent defense partner is Scott Hannan, and when Irwin is apart from him, he has a 51.2 percent Corsi in 375 five-on-five minutes. Otherwise, Irwin (49.8) is in the red overall.
10. Barret Jackman, St. Louis Blues
Age: 34 (will be 35 next March)
2014-15 Numbers: 2 goals, 14 points, 66 games
Skinny: Barret Jackman is a decent possession player on a really good possession team, so it's not exactly a guarantee he'll match his numbers away from the Blues should he leave. His WOWYs the past two seasons show he's benefited from playing a lot with Kevin Shattenkirk and Ian Cole. Still, there will be a market for Jackman.
9. Francois Beauchemin, Anaheim Ducks
Age: 34 (will be 35 in June)
2014-15 Numbers: 8 goals, 18 points, 51 games
Skinny: There's nothing wrong with having Francois Beauchemin join your team, although he will be even closer to 40 when he gets there. Experience is his biggest selling point—he has played 81 postseason games in his career—and he has tied a career high in goals this season. He has been relatively healthy in recent years, but it's risky to think that will continue in his late-30s.
8. Zbynek Michalek, St. Louis Blues
Age: 32 (will be 33 in December)
2014-15 Numbers: 2 goals, 8 points, 53 games
Skinny: If you want an idea of how badly teams want right-handed defensemen, realize the Blues gave up a third-round pick even though Zbynek Michalek has been plagued by concussion woes this season and has yet to make his St. Louis debut. He plays a rugged game, which means there are a lot of miles on Michalek. It should be "buyer beware," although someone will overpay for the big Czech blueliner.
7. Jeff Petry, Montreal Canadiens
Age: 27 (will be 28 in December)
2014-15 Numbers: 4 goals, 15 points, 64 games
Skinny: Jeff Petry doesn't make his living scoring. At 6'3", 200 pounds, Petry is your rock-solid, right-handed defensive defenseman whom teams covet. He can greatly increase his value with a strong playoff showing in Montreal, although as one of the few decent under-30 defensemen available, he can probably forget how to play defenseman between now and the end of the season and still get paid handsomely in the summer.
6. Andrej Sekera, Los Angeles Kings
Age: 28 (will be 29 in June)
2014-15 Numbers: 2 goals, 18 points, 63 games
Skinny: As an under-30 defenseman capable of playing top-pairing minutes, Andrej Sekera was already going to get paid a healthy sum this summer by somebody. Now with the Kings, Sekera can increase his asking price with a strong postseason—should the Kings get there, of course. He's a steady possession player, although it remains to be seen if his 44 points in 2013-14 with Carolina were a fluke or if he can deliver 30-plus-point seasons regularly.
5. Johnny Oduya, Chicago Blackhawks
Age: 33 (will be 34 in August)
2014-15 Numbers: 2 goals, 5 points, 60 games
Skinny: This has been Johnny Oduya's worst season statistically, maybe ever. He had two goals and 11 assists as a rookie in 2006-07 with the New Jersey Devils, although his possession numbers have plummeted this season—a big reason why the Blackhawks acquired Kimmo Timonen from the Flyers at the deadline. Despite those knocks, he brings a Stanley Cup ring and plenty of postseason experience to whichever team signs him.
4. Christian Ehrhoff, Pittsburgh Penguins
Age: 32 (will be 33 in July)
2014-15 Numbers: 3 goals, 13 points, 44 games
Skinny: Many, including me, thought the Penguins signing Christian Ehrhoff to a one-year, $4 million show-me deal after he was bought out by the Buffalo Sabres was genius. Despite coming to a team rich in talent, Ehrhoff hasn't been productive, and now concussion issues are clouding his value. Even when healthy, Ehrhoff hasn't been all that great. Still, looking at this market, someone will want him—like Amanda when she broke up with Mike Dexter at that party.
3. Cody Franson, Nashville Predators
Age: 27 (will be 28 in August)
2014-15 Numbers: 6 goals, 35 points, 65 games
Skinny: At his age, Cody Franson is likely staring down a massive contract in the summer. He can play top-four minutes and serve on any team's top power-play unit. He's a right-handed defenseman, which means general manager Ken Holland may cut off his right hand to bring him to Detroit in the summer. Franson won't command Boychuk dollars, but don't be surprised if he gets something that's way more than he's worth.
2. Paul Martin, Pittsburgh Penguins
Age: 34 (will be 35 next March)
2014-15 Numbers: 3 goals, 17 points, 58 games
Skinny: Martin has been working mostly as the stay-at-home defenseman on a pairing with Kris Letang this season and looks like he still has a few good years left. At 34, though, he's liable to fall off that cliff at any moment, making him a dangerous long-term buy. Martin is probably looking at a three- or four-year deal, and it's not out of the question he remains in Pittsburgh. Although, the team will probably have to decide between him and Christian Ehrhoff, as the Penguins have plenty of good young defensemen ready to play now.
1. Mike Green, Washington Capitals
Age: 29 (will be 30 in October)
2014-15 Numbers: 5 goals, 38 points, 58 games
Skinny: The gifted offensive defenseman has been relegated to a third-pairing role in Washington behind John Carlson and Matt Niskanen, although he has been quite effective. He's putting up points in limited even-strength minutes but is still terrific on the power play. There's probably a team out there that is willing to restore Green to a top-four D-man and maybe even a top-pairing role this summer, and he won't come cheap.