With Dennis Wideman being traded to, and signing with, the Calgary Flames yesterday, the list of free agent defensemen becomes even shorter than it was before. This is a list that really couldn't afford to become any shorter, to be honest. If a team was looking to address defensive concerns via free agency, this is a really bad summer to do so.
Still, there are a couple names remaining worth looking at, which we do right now. To be fair, the Wild do already have a nearly full roster of d-men returning from last season. Tom Gilbert, Marco Scandella, Jared Spurgeon, Justin Falk (currently an RFA), and Clayton Stoner are all still here. Steven Kampfer is in Houston, and Jonas Brodin could challenge for a spot on the roster as well.
This leaves room to sign a couple guys, including those types that no one can predict. The Mike Lundin's of the world.
For now, let's look at the last two remaining players on our list of free agent targets.
Current Cap Hit: $3.437 million
JS: Probably the safest choice out of all defensemen. Sure, Suter is excellent, but what if he's not the same without Weber? What if he gets injured and his price tag becomes a ball and chain? Carle will be a little less expensive, yet will get the job done. He seems to be a tad underrated by the readers here at HW. In Pronger's absence this season, Carle led the Flyers in ice-time while posting a very respectable 38 points.
A minute-muncher who has missed 2 games in the last 3 years, can start plays from his zone AND play good defensively? Sign me up! He will ask for some big bucks, but nowhere near Suter territory (hopefully). I think Carle should even be a priority. Let the 4-5 teams more likely to land Suter fight over him and get Carle into a Wild jersey!
VERDICT: 4-5 years, around 5 million a year.
Bryan: JS is right. Readers around here discount Carle a little too much. I'm not a fan of offensive defensemen, but as they go, Carle is pretty good (defensively even). He'll certainly demand a good price, but one the Wild would be more than willing to pay to boost an anemic blue line. With the price Wideman got yesterday, I can't imagine Carle is going to take less. It seems to me, he might be worth it. If you can stand to watch offense from the blue line.
Verdict: 4-5 years, $5 to $5.5 million per seems about where it will end.
Current Cap Hit: $675K
JS: I know a lot of people will be looking at Garrison and apparently, he's on the Wild's radar. Personally, I'd be careful with a guy who had never scored more than 5 goals in a season prior to this one. Don't forget he was being set-up by Brian Campbell most of the time. I fully expect Garrison to have only caught lightning in a bottle. That being said, he remains an OK option, good all-around, but I'm very scared of the raise he's going to get for that ONE good season.
VERDICT: If reasonably priced, jump on it. I would personally go 3-year, around 2.5 million per, but if Fletch goes for him, his market price will likely be around 3.5 million. I trust Fletch to do the right move here and not go too crazy for that one good season.
Bryan: Garrison certainly knows when to have a career year, which scares me off, but only a bit. His numbers have never been great, but throw a 30 point season on, and people get all excited. Thirty point d-men certainly aren't everyday things, but they aren't the rarest creature on the planet either. I wouldn't be opposed to Garrison, just so long as no one gets caught up in one season of productivity in a contract year.
Verdict: Other than Brodin, the Wild don't have a ton of defensemen ready to move to the NHL anytime soon. Give Garrison a 2-3 deal, make him prove his numbers were real. Around $2 - $2.5 million sounds about right, so expect him to sign for around $3.5 million per.
Now, if you have any doubts at just how thin the defensemen in this class are, take a look at the list over at CapGeek. It is ripe with players like Filip Kuba, Joe Corvo, Jeff Finger, Mark Eaton, Sami Salo, Adrian Aucoin... it's either guys at the end of their careers, or guys you would likely rather have a heart attack then give a job.
You can almost bet the Wild will be signing a d-man. Who it will be will be an interesting thing to watch.