The NHL’s Olympic Roster Freeze has now been lifted, and teams have until 3:00 p.m. on March 5th to make their moves before the NHL’s trade deadline. This is expected to be a very active trade deadline, with a number of high profile players potentially finding themselves in new homes. This week, I look around the league and try to look at some of the top names who could be available.
Yesterday we looked at the goaltenders. You can read it by clicking here.
Today we move on to the Top 10 defencemen who may be available. Of the three articles we are doing this week, this is clearly the weakest position available, and one that many teams want. A huge issue here is that many of the best defencemen possibly available are with teams who aren’t exactly “sellers” this year. As a result supply and demand may drive up prices here.
1.) Dan Girardi, New York Rangers
2013-14 Stats: 59 GP, 4 G, 13 A, 17 Pts
Contract Situation: $3.325 million cap hit, UFA after this season, 29-years-old
The New York Rangers are facing an issue with two of their most important players in Girardi and captain Ryan Callahan, both needing new contracts. The two are reportedly looking for huge contracts, and the Rangers just don’t have a lot of cap space right now. Trade rumours on both players have been swirling for several weeks now, and it would not be a huge surprise if one, or both of the players is traded. Girardi is a solid two-way defenceman who can play against other team’s top lines while providing a bit of offensive production as well.
Prediction: The Rangers keep Girardi, and re-sign him to a long-term extension, if not before the deadline, then just before he hits free agency.
2.) Andrei Markov, Montreal Canadiens
2013-14 Stats: 59 GP, 5 G, 26 A, 31 PTS
Contract Situation: $5.75 million cap hit, unrestricted free agent this summer, 35-years-0ld
Markov has had surgeries on both knees in recent years, but he has not missed a game since the start of the lockout shortened 2012-13 season. He is the clear number two defenceman on the Habs, and plays big minutes and in all situations. He may have lost a step with his injuries, and isn’t as good defensively as he was in his prime, but he’s still a decent player in his own end of the ice. Offensively he remains one of the best passers in the NHL, and an outstanding powerplay quarterback. Markov is set to become a free-agent, and recent reports indicate that while he’s not that far apart with the Canadiens money wise, term could be an issue. Will the Habs risk losing him for nothing in July?
Prediction: Montreal keeps him for the playoffs. Marc Bergevin re-signs Markov to a two or three-year deal before he hits free agency.
3.) Andrew MacDonald, New York Islanders
2013-14 Stats: 60 GP 4 G 20 A 24 PTS
Contract Situation: $550,000 cap hit, UFA at the end of the season, 27-years-old.
According to reports, MacDonald and the Islanders are far apart when it comes to negotiations on a contract extension. He plays big minutes for the Islanders, and is a good defender who also brings strong puck moving abilities and a few points at the offensive end of the ice. Plays on the Isles top pair, but is probably best suited to a second pairing type of role. The Islanders are going nowhere this season, and have a ton of defensive prospects. With contract negotiations not going well, and the fact that so few good defenders are available, it only makes sense that he moves at the deadline.
Prediction: Andrew MacDonald is traded to the Boston Bruins, who need a defenceman to take up some of the minutes they lost when Dennis Seidenberg was lost for the season.
4.) Dan Boyle, San Jose Sharks
2013-14 Stats: 52 GP, 8 G, 14 A, 22 PTS
Contract Situation: $6.67 million cap hit, UFA this summer 37-years-old
Dan Boyle is still a valuable part of the Sharks defence, as he is still a key offensive contributor from the backend. However he has slowed down defensively, and is no longer their number one defenceman as he is behind players like Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun in terms of even-strength ice time. However he is still their key power play point man. The Sharks probably can’t afford to re-sign Boyle, but this is a team that thinks they have a shot at contending now, so trading him would be a difficult decision to make.
Prediction: The Sharks keep Boyle, who moves on to a new club in the summer.
5.) Sergei Gonchar, Dallas Stars
2013-14 Stats: 52 GP, 2 G, 16 A, 18 PTS
Contract Situation: $5.5 million Cap Hit, UFA after the 2014-15 season, 39-years-old
Gonchar had a resurgent season in 2012-13, as he played number one defenceman minutes for the Ottawa Senators after Erik Karlsson was injured, and led the Pesky Sens to the playoffs. He was traded to the Dallas Stars before becoming an unrestricted free agent and signed a two-year deal. However things aren’t working out in Dallas, as Gonchar is not playing as well as he did last season, and is reportedly not happy with his ice time. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Stars try to unload him at the deadline.
Prediction: The Stars trade him to the Pittsburgh Penguins, one of Gonchar’s former teams. The Penguins look for a little help at the point on the powerplay with the uncertainty surrounding Kris Letang. The Stars retain part of Gonchar’s salary and cap hit to make the deal happen.
6.) Henrik Tallinder, Buffalo Sabres
2013-14 Stats: 44 GP, 2 G, 5 A, 7 PTS
Contract Situation: $3.375 million cap hit, UFA at the end of the season. 35-years-old
The fire sale is on in Buffalo once again and just like last year EVERYTHING MUST GO! While Tallinder isn’t the same player he was just a few years ago, he still can be a decent defensive defenceman in a third pairing role. The contract is cost prohibitive, but with only a few weeks of the season left, teams may be able to fit it under the cap. The Sabres could also keep some salary to make the deal happen if they get a decent asset here (think mid round pick). Tallinder was recently part of Sweden’s Olympic Team, and even though he didn’t play much in the tournament, the very fact he made the roster shows that he is still held in high regard by some in the hockey establishment.
Prediction: Tallinder is traded to the Anaheim Ducks as a rental.
7.) Tom Gilbert, Florida Panthers
2013-14 Stats: 58 GP, 3 G, 22 A, 25 PTS
Contract Status: $900,000 Cap Hit, UFA this summer, 31-years-old
Gilbert was signed as a bargain basement addition by the Florida Panthers this summer, after he was bought out by the Minnesota Wild. He’s been one of the best value free agents in hockey this season, playing big minutes for the Panthers, and producing offence for the team as well. However, the Panthers are not going anywhere this season, and even though they would love to re-sign Gilbert, the smart move in this trade market is to move him for assets. They could even try to bring him back in July as a free agent again.
Prediction: Gilbert is traded to the Colorado Avalanche.
8.) Marek Zidlicky, New Jersey Devils
2013-14 Stats: 58 GP, 8 G, 21 A, 29 PTS
Contract Status: $4.0 million cap hit, UFA after the season, 37-years-old
Zidlicky is still a valuable offensive contributor from the blueline, despite his age. The Devils may sit only three points out of a playoff spot, but they also must pass five teams to get that spot, and they have played more games than three of the five teams ahead of them, and the same number of games as the other two teams. Making the playoffs certainly won’t be easy. The Devils also have a number of good young defenceman who may be able to take Zidlicky’s role on the powerplay such as Jon Merrill and Eric Gelinas on the current roster; Adam Larsson yo-yoing between the NHL and AHL; and Damon Severson finishing up his junior career. It may be the right time to move Zidlicky and let some of the youngsters get extra ice-time.
Prediction: Zidlicky is moved to the Tampa Bay Lightning who have some injury issues at the back end right now. However a hot-run over the next week could turn the Devils from sellers to a team that keeps the veteran defender.
9.) Mark Stuart, Winnipeg Jets
2013-14 Stats: 47 GP, 2 G, 6 A, 8 PTS
Contract Status: $1.7 million cap hit, UFA after the season, 29-years-old
Stuart doesn’t light up the score board, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a valuable player. He’s a gritty, hard-nosed defensive defenceman who plays big penalty-kill minutes for the Jets. Stuart is the type of no-nonsense crease clearer who always seems to move at this time of year. With the Jets just two points out of a playoff spot right now, how they perform over the next week could help them decide if they are buyers or sellers.
Prediction: The Jets need to push for the playoffs, they keep Stuart, and may even become a trade deadline buyer.
10.) Ron Hainsey, Carolina Hurricanes
2013-14 Stats: 57 GP, 4 G, 8 A, 12 PTS
Contract Status: $2 million cap hit, UFA this summer, 32-years-0ld
The Hurricanes are in much the same situation as the Devils, just three points out of a playoff spot, but they must pass four teams (plus beat out the Devils) in order to get in. As such, the next week will decide if they are buyers or sellers. Hainsey remained on the free agent market a long time last summer before the Hurricanes snapped him up on a one-year deal. He used to be a big offensive producer from the blue line, but his game has evolved over the years. He has become a strong defensive defenceman with good mobility and can still make a strong first pass out of his own zone, but does not really get involved in the offensive end as much as he used to. He plays the third most minutes on the Carolina blue line.
Prediction: Again this depends on what the Hurricanes do over the next week, but I predict if he’s traded, he ends up with the Minnesota Wild.
Note: The predictions are for fun and are all basically an exercise in educated guess work. I’m not claiming to be an NHL insider here. Feel free to make your own predictions in the comments, or tell me why mine are off-base.
Check back tomorrow for the forwards.
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