Top six potential UFA defensemen for 2011 (plus complete list)

charaz.jpgWhen a sports team (or group of fans) spouts the “Wait ’til next year” line, they usually mean that the next season could bring better things. Yet after a few days of the free agent frenzy, that saying might also apply to July 2011.

It’s very early to look at future unrestricted free agents – especially since many of them will probably sign extensions at some point before then – but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun picturing different scenarios.

In the next few posts, I’ll go over some of the most promising unrestricted free agents by position.

I began with the forwards, so let’s move on to the defensive guys. All of the eligible defensemen (listed by CapGeek.com) are included in the spreadsheet below. (Click to enlarge)

2011ufaD.JPG

Note: I’m not even going to put Nicklas Lidstrom on this list, because barring a disaster, he’ll either play the 2011-12 season as a member of the Detroit Red Wings or retire.

Zdeno Chara
Current Age: 33
Previous Cap Hit: $7.5 million

It’s rare that a hockey player can live up to such a huge cap hit, but the Big Z often (dare I say) even exceeded that value. The question is, will the Boston Bruins want to give him another Chara-sized deal once he gets older? If not, he’ll get big money somewhere else.

Andrei Markov
Current Age: 31
Previous Cap Hit: $5.75 million

Markov is one of the league’s most underrated defenseman. He’s one of the best point producers, a guy who makes a big difference for Montreal’s powerplay unit. He’s at the right age to receive one more nice deal.

Tomas Kaberle
Current Age: 32
Previous Cap Hit: $4.25 million

Aside from being an annual (heck, semi-annual) source of trade rumors, Kaberle’s also been one of the league’s best passing defenseman. He can really help a team’s powerplay, much like Markov.

Kevin Bieksakevinbie.jpg
Current Age: 29
Previous Cap Hit: $3.75 million

He hasn’t really “put it all together” but Bieksa brings a nice set of skills and nastiness to the table. Plus he’s still young enough to earn a few years.

Christian Ehrhoff
Current Age: 27
Previous Cap Hit: $3.1 million

I’m going out on a limb a bit with this one because Ehrhoff had a great season with the Vancouver Canucks. If he can put two good years together, he could be a very well-sought after player at his age.

Chris Phillips
Current Age: 32
Previous Cap Hit: $3.5 million

He’s not flashy – and certainly not worthy of being a No. 1 draft pick – but Phillips is a solid shutdown defenseman still more or less in his prime.

Honorable Mentions

Intriguing: Hal Gill, Andy Greene, Roman Hamrlik

Washed up or not?: Ed Jovanovski

Injury prone: Sami Salo, Eric Brewer

Frustrating: Bryan McCabe, Tom Poti

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    Latest way the Wild lost? Killed by penalty kill

    Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk sits on the ice after giving up a goal to St. Louis Blues' Jori Lehtera, of Finland, during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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    It’s said that variety is the spice of life, yet it seems to be the spite of the Minnesota Wild.

    As head coach Mike Yeo said, this struggling team appears to find a new way to lose virtually every night. That couldn’t have happened once again on Saturday, when they fell 4-1 to the St. Louis Blues, could it?

    Actually …

    If you ask Jarret Stoll, the latest problem was the penalty kill.

    Honestly, Stoll may have been too specific, likely trying to throw his own unit under the bus. Instead, it might be more accurate to say that Minnesota’s special teams let them down.

    Indeed, the Wild struggled to limit the Blues’ power play, which went an unsettling 3-for-6. That said, Minnesota had a chance to trade blows with St. Louis. Instead, the Wild managed one power-play goal on seven opportunities.

    The silver lining is that the Wild believe that they showed more fight than this fragile bunch had been generating before.

    On the other hand, with Jonas Brodin on IR and Jared Spurgeon apparently hurt, that silver lining may not be so easy to see.

    Statement in Blackhawks’ blowout of Stars? Coach Q says they’re even

    Chicago Blackhawks center Artem Anisimov (15) scores a goal against Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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    Worry (if you’re pulling for the Stars) or gloat (if you’re a Blackhawks fan) all you want, but the bottom line is that the Central Division’s No.1 spot is clearly in Chicago’s control after Saturday night.

    The Blackhawks earned a decisive 5-1 win against the Dallas Stars, giving them a five-point standings lead over Dallas for the Central Division lead.

    You may feel like that’s more of the same, but consider this: things would look a lot closer if Dallas won or gained points, as they hold three games in hand on the ‘Hawks.

    At least one Blackhawks player admits this game means a little more than your average W.

    Indeed, while Antti Niemi was pulled from the game and Kari Lehtonen faced his own struggles in Dallas’ net, Corey Crawford ranked as one of the big reasons why the score was so lopsided.

    (Artem Anisimov had a big say in that, too.)

    As a wise coach with 1,000+ games of experience would do, Joel Quenneville didn’t go overboard in assessing the victory.

    Was this a statement game? Who knows, but a certain statement is that the Blackhawks now have a five-point standings lead.

    Brad Marchand wins it … on a penalty shot … in overtime

    Boston Bruins' Brad Marchand celebrates after scoring on a penalty shot during the overtime period of the Boston Bruins 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres in an NHL hockey game in Boston Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
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    Looking at the standings, beating the Buffalo Sabres was pretty important for the Boston Bruins. The Atlantic Division’s run for spots appears particularly congested out East.

    Of all the Bruins to get a chance to win it all, the team might have wanted Brad Marchand to have that opportunity. He’s on pace to destroy his previous career-highs for scoring, and Marchand’s been particularly hot lately.

    Either way, Marchand came up big indeed, scoring the rare overtime game-winner on a penalty shot. Check out the drama below:

    That can be a big extra point and ROW (regulation/overtime win) when the regular season is finished.

    Note: Many believe that Marchand should not have received a penalty shot on the play.

    Crosby kills the Cats: Penguins end Panthers’ winning streak

    Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) collides with Florida Panthers' Connor Brickley (86) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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    For quite some time, it looked like the Florida Panthers would keep the Pittsburgh Penguins under wraps.

    Florida nursed a 1-0 lead into a 2-0 margin almost halfway through the third period, looking to win its sixth consecutive game. That looked great … and then Sidney Crosby + Kris Letang happened.

    Let’s put it this way: this GIF of Crosby being frustrated is amusing, yet it doesn’t exactly tell the story of Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win for the Penguins:

    Instead, Crosby grabbed his 900th point assisting on a Letang goal, and finished the night with 902 by collecting the game-tying goal and grabbing a helper on Letang’s overtime game-winner.

    Crosby crossing that barrier is indeed special, even if it prompts “What if?” questions about No. 87’s health.

    The resurgence of Crosby and Letang already played a big role in the Penguins going from disjointed and frustrating to sneaky and scary, so it  shouldn’t be that surprising to see them play so well. Doing so in such brisk order is a little bewildering, however.