As is the case quite often these days, this free agent class isn’t loaded with difference makers that can significantly alter the makeup of a team.
That said, there are quite a few very good defensemen set to become unrestricted free agents in July, and if you’re a team looking for help on the backend there are several top-4 options that could be available.
Notes: Corsi For% is simply used to track shot attempts taken while a player is on the ice. If Player X is a 60% Corsi player, that means 60% of all shot attempts when he’s on the ice go towards the opposing net, while only 40% head in the direction of his goaltender’s net. This number is used to see who’s driving play, and generally having higher Corsi numbers leads to more production. Corsi For% relative to the team compares a player’s numbers to those of his team when he’s not on the ice. If Player X is a 60% Corsi player and his team is 55% without him, which gives him a Corsi Relative% of +5%.
Points per 60 minutes is simply how many points Player X records per 60 minutes of any given situation. If Player X had 10 5 vs 5 points in 120 minutes of ice, his 5 vs 5 points/60 would be 5. The same goes for goals and assists.
All numbers are via CapGeek, War-On-Ice and HockeyAnalysis.
Honorable mentions: Matt Irwin (Sharks), Johnny Oduya (Blackhawks), Mike Weaver (Canadiens).
12. Marc Staal – New York Rangers – 27 years old
Prior contract: five years, $19.875 million ($3.975M cap hit)
I think Staal is a candidate to be grossly overpaid this summer, because he’s a guy who has some tools (and a big name) but really doesn’t provide a whole lot.
From 2010-14 Staal has averaged just .53 points/60 of 5 vs 5 play, which ranks 156th among defensemen with 2,000+ minutes in that span.
He’s OK in possession, but he’s not a driver and there isn’t much offense to speak of with Staal.
He’s a good penalty killer and he has some tools but, again, the production isn’t really there in any situation and he’s probably going to bring in $5 million per.
11. Zybnek Michalek – Arizona Coyotes – 32 years old
Prior contract: five years, $20 million ($4M cap hit)
With Michalek you know exactly what you’re going to get, and that is a guy who can eat big minutes against relatively tough competition and hold his own in possession.
He’s not a possession driver and he won’t produce much offense, but he’s good on the penalty kill and is a good depth blue liner to have.
10. Lubomir Visnovsky – New York Islanders – 38 years old
Prior contract: two years, $9.5 million ($4.75M)
Visnovsky may be getting up there in age, but he’s still a very effective player. The problem with him is that the last time he played over 40 games was 2011-12.
He’s a very good skater who can move the puck with the best of them and is very good in possession but, again, he’s a risky investment due to injury concerns.
If he’s healthy he will produce some offense and is a weapon on the power play, but at this point that’s a pretty big if.
9. Francois Beauchemin – Anaheim Ducks – 34 years old
Prior contract: three years, $10.5 million ($3.5M cap hit)
Beauchemin isn’t a top-pairing guy, but he’s still capable of eating up some tough minutes and playing in a team’s top-4 with the right partner.
He likes to engage physically, but he’s not a typical guy labeled as a defensive defensemen in that he doesn’t spend most of his shifts chasing play in his own zone.
Beauchemin has a 51.05CF% on the year and the Ducks are better in possession with him on the ice than off it.
I think he’s a guy Anaheim will want to keep, but if he reaches the open market there will likely be plenty of suitors.
8. Jeff Petry – Edmonton Oilers – 27 years old
Prior contract: one year, $3.075 million
Petry isn’t flashy and doesn’t put up a ton of points so he tends to be underappreciated, but he’s a very good defenseman.
He is a fluid skater who can log big minutes, make a good first pass and drive play up ice.
He doesn’t lay big hits and he won’t get points, so there isn’t much that’s memorable in his game to the casual observer, but he’s steady and probably wouldn’t cost too much to lock up.
7. Marek Zidlicky – New Jersey Devils – 37 years old
Prior contract: one year, $4 million ($3M cap hit)
There aren’t many better options in this free agent class if you’re looking for offense from the backend.
His 5 vs 5 rate stats aren’t great (.69 points/60) but he recorded 42 points last season, and is on pace for about 40 this year.
He has a big shot, is still a weapon on the power play and wouldn’t cost a ton to bring in, so there should be plenty of interest.