The free agent class this summer is, in a word, weak. NHL GMs are re-signing their talent, standing pat and making the rest of us extremely bored on July 1st. Have they no heart?
If the free agent class is weak, the free agent defensemen class is dreadful. Any time Ed Jovanovski and James Wisniewski are the top availbale players, it gets a bit depressing. The Wild, of course, are not searching for a top pairing defenseman via free agency, at least that's not the feeling we get. ZZ Top will return next year, Nick Schultz and Jared Spurgeon, Clayton Stoner and a yet to be named sixth and seventh defenseman.
The kids will, once again, get a shot at those spots. Marco Scandella, Justin Falk, Nate Prosser, maybe even Tyler Cuma. Even if that happens, the Wild will be inclined to look at a third pairing D-man, or at least so says Mike Russo. So, we did into the dearth of talent to bring you a look at a few d-men the Wild may take a look at themselves.
#33 / Defenseman / Calgary Flames
May 06, 1984
|2010 - Anton Babchuk||82||11||24||35||14||32||6||1||2||132|
Current Cap Hit: $1.4 million
JS: A very large, inconsistent but able offensive defenseman, with a few kinks defensively. Sound familiar? Well, I read reports of his defensive game not being too polished, but he finished a team-leading +18 on the Flames, so he can't be that bad. Babchuk could be a wonderful addition to, at the very least, quell Burns' departure while we wait for the young guys to develop, but I would be amazed if he stayed as inexpensive as he was this year, because he was quite the bargain at 1.4 mil from what I gather. At 27, he's in his prime years, but he will command a raise that I believe could look like 3-4 million, so trading Burns just to replace him with Babchuk probably wouldn't make all that much sense.
Verdict: Likely too expensive, if not, maybe 1-2 years at reasonable price.
Bryan: Babchuk is a big man, and has the makings of a serviceable d-man. He has some offensive ability, and some defensive ability, but he is less than impressive as a total package. Sounds like a perfect third pairing d-man to me. Now, the rest of the NHL may see him as more than that, so he may get somewhat spendy. Not worth the gamble if the market out classes the brains tomorrow.
Verdict: One year, $2 million
Nathan: I'd love having someone with Babchuk's size and talent on the roster. He wouldn't be the 7th defenseman, he'd be the fourth or fifth and would be around for a few years. He has size, skill, can move the puck and has a cannon of a shot. I'd take him right now, but he won't fit into the budget.
Verdict: Watch him get $3.5+M/year. This is a horrible class.
#8 / Defenseman / Tampa Bay Lightning
Jul 23, 1981
|2010 - Randy Jones||61||1||12||13||-4||15||0||0||0||52|
Current Cap Hit:$1 million
JS: Since the Wild are rumored to be looking for a 3rd pairing defenseman, I believe Jones would fit the bill well, and that's not because he's from New-Brunswick, just like yours truly :). He's had some good offensive seasons and can play in important situations, as he and Eric Brewer were tops in SH minutes per game for Tampa Bay. He is extremely inconsistent, but could be a serviceable 3rd pairing guy. Besides, Fletch is probably not looking to make a splash, FA-signing wise. Think of it as the Hnidy signing: we didn't really care, yet he turned out to be serviceable.
Verdict: 1 year, around 1 million.
Bryan: I have to admit, I don't know a ton about Jones. His stats, and what I read about him suggests he is a stay at home type, with decent speed and skill. He is inexpensive and he has a few years of experience. Even if the man isn't Randy Jones, it will be a Randy Jones type player. Plus, rumor has it he has a mean fastball. (Nathan's note: That's Randy Johnson. Jeez)
Verdict: One year, $1.2 million
Nathan: I don't think he fits the need. I'd rather see Bagnall or Falk or the following FA get the gig.
#52 / Defenseman / Detroit Red Wings
Mar 02, 1984
|2010 - Jonathan Ericsson||74||3||12||15||8||87||1||0||0||89|
Current Cap Hit: $900K
Bryan: Again, not a flashy guy, but the perfect target. Sure, he played for a very good Red Wings which could pad his stats a bit, but he is a solid third pairing guy. The 87 PIMs suggest he will stand up when needed, and he did score three goals, which is more than a certain defenseman currently on the roster. I like the idea of Ericsson, which likely means it doesn't happen.
Verdict: One year, $1.1 million
Nathan: I would consider him on a one-year deal for under 1.25M. He would fill a space on the third pairing. He has great size, good mobility, a mean streak and isn't afraid to take a shot. He'd provide some depth without being a major liability. I like this idea.
Verdict: One year, $1.25 million