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 are included in the spreadsheet below. (Click to enlarge)


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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    Bruins’ second line officially goes under the microscope

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    While much has been written about the Boston Bruins’ depleted defense, there’s also a good amount of intrigue about the forward group, which will look dramatically different tonight compared to last year’s season opener.

    Here are the Bruins’ expected lines versus the Jets:

    Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronLoui Eriksson
    Matt BeleskeyDavid KrejciDavid Pastrnak
    Jimmy HayesRyan SpoonerBrett Connolly
    Chris KellyJoonas KemppainenZac Rinaldo

    The line most under the microscope may be that second one. In today’s Boston Globe, there’s a lengthy story on Krejci. The 29-year-old center with the big contract only played 47 games last season due to injuries. He finished with just 31 points.

    So, where is Krejci’s game now?

    Then there’s free-agent addition Matt Beleskey, a.k.a. Milan Lucic‘s replacement. Prior to scoring 22 times last year for the Ducks, the 27-year-old Beleskey had never tallied more than 11 goals in a season.

    So, is Beleskey a legitimate top-six forward?

    On the other wing, it’s David Pastrnak, the 19-year-old who, somewhat surprisingly, emerged as one of the top rookies in the league last year.

    So, can Pastrnak take another step forward?

    “It’s been a good three plus weeks where we’ve been able to kind of work individually, as a group, as a line, with different players and different personalities,” said coach Claude Julien. “We’re pleased with it. We’re optimistic and we just have to let things work themselves out too.”

    Lucic: If I wanted to hurt Couture, ‘I would have hurt him’


    Last night in Los Angeles, Kings forward Milan Lucic received a match penalty after skating the entire width of the ice to give San Jose’s Logan Couture a two-hand shove to the face.

    Lucic didn’t hurt Couture, who had caught Lucic with an open-ice hit that Lucic didn’t like. Couture’s smiling, mocking face was good evidence that the Sharks’ forward was going to be OK.

    This morning, Lucic was still in disbelief that he was penalized so harshly.

    “I didn’t cross any line,” Lucic said, per Rich Hammond of the O.C. Register. “Believe me, if my intentions were to hurt him, I would have hurt him.”

    While Lucic knew he deserved a penalty, he said after the game that he didn’t “know why it was called a match penalty.” His coach, Darryl Sutter, agreed, calling it “a borderline even roughing penalty.”

    And though former NHL referee Kerry Fraser believes a match penalty was indeed warranted, Lucic said this morning that he hasn’t heard from the NHL about any possible supplemental discipline.

    Nor for that matter has Dustin Brown, after his high hit on Couture in the first period.

    In conclusion, it’s good to have hockey back.

    Related: Sutter says Kings weren’t ‘interested’ in checking the Sharks