On the blueline
|Player||Tm||GP||Pts||2006-07 cap hit||2007-08 est. price|
|1||Souray||Mon||81||64||$2.318||$5.5 - 7||1-2|
|2||Nas||80||55||$2.375||$5 - 6||1-2|
|3||Rafalski||NJ||82||55||$4.200||$4.5 - 5.5||1-2|
|4||Schneider||Det||68||52||$3.300||$4 - 5||1-2|
|5||Hannan||SJ||79||24||$2.157||$3.4 - 4||1-2|
|6||Stuart||Cal||75||22||$2.150||$2.8 - 3.3||1-2|
|7||SJ||71||24||$2.565||$2.5 - 3.5||1-2|
|8||Poti||NYI||78||44||$2.750||$2.5 - 3||3-4|
|9||Hamrlik||Cal||75||38||$3.500||$2.5 - 3||3-4|
|10||D. Markov||Det||66||16||$2.500||$2 - 3||3-4|
|11||Sarich||TB||82||15||$1.900||$2 - 3||3-4|
|12||Ana||79||17||$1.634||$2 - 2.5||3-4|
|13||Sutton||Atl||55||16||$1.900||$2 - 2.5||3-4|
|14||Miller||LA||82||8||$2.470||$2 - 2.5||3-4|
|15||De Vries||Atl||82||24||$2.166||$1.8 - 2.3||3-4|
|16||Numminen||Buf||79||29||$2.600||$1.8 - 2.2||3-4|
|17||Tjarnqvist||Edm||37||15||$1.625||$1.5 - 2.2||3-4|
|18||Preissing||Ott||80||38||$0.550||$1.5 - 2||3-4|
|19||Sopel||Van||64||28||$2.400||$1.5 - 2||3-4|
|20||Sydor||Dal||74||21||$2.128||$1.5 - 2||3-4|
|21||Modry||LA||76||18||$1.824||$1.5 - 2||3-4|
|22||Vaananen||Col||74||8||$0.998||$1.5 - 2||3-4|
|23||Skoula||Min||81||15||$1.575||$1.1 - 1.5||5-6|
|24||Tanabe||Car||60||17||$0.900||$1 - 1.5||5-6|
|25||Lukowich||NJ||75||12||$1.000||$1 - 1.5||5-6|
|26||Vishnevski||Nas||67||13||$1.550||$0.8 - 1.3||5-6|
|27||DiPenta||Ana||76||8||$0.500||$0.8 - 1.2||5-6|
|28||Pratt||TB||81||8||$0.625||$0.8 - 1.2||5-6|
|29||Berard||Cmb||11||3||$2.250||$0.8 - 1.2||5-6|
|30 ||Niinimaa||Mon||41||3||$2.470||$0.8 - 1.2||5-6|
|31||Ozolinsh||NYR||21||3||$2.750||$0.8 - 1.2||5-6|
|32||Heward||LA||71||24||$0.675||$0.8 - 1||5-6|
|33||Robidas||Dal||75||17||$0.550||$0.8 - 1||5-6|
|34||Melichar||Pit||70||12||$0.725||$0.8 - 1||5-6|
|35||Brisebois||Col||33||11||$2.250||$0.8 - 1||5-6|
|36||Klee||Col||81||19||$0.700||$0.7 - 1||5-6|
|37||Scuderi||Pit||78||11||$0.525||$0.7 - 1||5-6|
|38||Muir||Was||26||7||$0.600||$0.7 - 1||5-6|
|39||Klemm||Dal||38||3||$0.950||$0.6 - 0.8||spare|
|40 ||Jackman||Ana||31||12||$0.800||$0.5 - 0.8||spare|
|41||Richardson||TB||27||3||$0.500||$0.5 - 0.6||spare|
The answer to the question 'Who needs defencemen?' is: Absolutely everyone. I'd be surprised if there are more than a handful of teams who don't sign an unrestricted free agent on the blueline this summer.
Everyone's saying this is a weak UFA class, but while the top-end talent may not be there (the Scott Niedermayers of the world), there's depth here, and there are a ton of useful talent in the No. 3 to 6 spots in particular.
To me, how the defencemen shake out this off-season will determine who excels next season more than any other position. Last year, defenders like Jay McKee and Pavel Kubina drew huge deals when the big names went for even more ridiculous cash (Zdeno Chara comes to mind), and those contracts weighed heavily on their respective teams.
That could definitely be in the cards here again given the number of good teams, let alone the dogs, that are looking to replenish players lost.
Here's a look at who teams will be trying to replace or re-sign on defence:
Anaheim: O'Donnell, DiPenta, Jackman
Atlanta: De Vries, Sutton, Hnidy
Calgary: Hamrlik, Stuart
Colorado: Brisebois, Vaananen, Klee
Columbus: Berard, Eriksson
Dallas: Sydor, Klemm
Detroit: Schneider, Markov
Los Angeles: Miller, Weaver, Modry, Heward
Montreal: Souray, Niinimaa
Nashville: Timonen, Vishnevski
New Jersey: Rafalski, Lukowich
N.Y. Islanders: Poti, Hill
N.Y. Rangers: Ozolinsh
Pittsburgh: Melichar, Cairns, Scuderi
San Jose: Hannan, Rivet
Tampa Bay: Sarich, Pratt, Richardson
Vancouver: Sopel, Fitzpatrick
As I said, some teams desperately need defencemen, and unlike with those searching for 'tenders, there are a lot of good teams in the mix here. The Ducks need a partner for Pronger; Atlanta has a few big holes and not a lot of cash; Calgary lost a couple of top fours; Colorado lost their depth behind Liles and Leopold; Detroit needs another high-ender; I'm not sure what Los Angeles will do other than throw Johnson in the fire; Montreal definitely needs a replacement for Souray/Rivet; Pittsburgh will upgrade; San Jose loses two biggies; Tampa Bay's already ailing defence has a big loss in Sarich, and Washington's going to be a surprise player in a lot of areas.
Let the bidding begin.
From the sound of things, Souray's headed to the west coast, likely LA or San Jose, while the Timonen sweepstakes are sure to get up there dollar-wise, with the Flyers likely very interested. Rafalski probably stays in New Jersey as the No. 1, but given the dollars he could command, that's no lock. Detroit seems uncertain about Schneider sticking around behind Lidstrom, while I think Hannan's one of the real prizes to be had among the whole free-agent class.
In the middling portion, Sutton will command a big deal simply because of his physical package, while the savvy GMs are going to chase less-heralded shutdown guys like Rivet, Markov and Sarich. The Avalanche would like to keep Vaananen, but if he's available, there's another little-known gem to be had.
If I'm one of the GMs looking for a blueliner, I don't want to play this game of musical chairs for long. There are a few guys I'd place in the 'desirable' category that will go quickly, and a lot of bargain-bin fodder that is going to linger until mid-July before they panic and sign in Columbus, Phoenix or Tampa.
And you have to wonder if players like Ozolinsh, Berard, Brisebois, Klemm, Jackman, Richardson, Klee and Hill will find any takers.
My guess is they won't — from the playoff-bound teams.
Labels: free agency