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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    Kings give another kid a look, recall AHL All-Star Brodzinski

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    Last summer, Kings head coach Darryl Sutter stressed that some of the club’s young prospects needed to make an impact at the NHL level.

    And now it’s happening.

    Following the recalls and NHL debuts of Adrian Kempe and Paul LaDue, the Kings have brought up Jonny Brodzinski from AHL Ontario, the club announced on Thursday.

    Brodzinski, 23, made the AHL All-Star team this year and leads the Reign in goals, with 25 through 56 games. The former St. Could State sniper left school early two years ago to join the Kings organization, after L.A. took him in the fifth round of the ’13 draft.

    As mentioned above, this recall is in lockstep with what’s developed throughout the year. Kempe, 20, was the club’s first-round pick (29th overall) in ’14 and has fared well since joining the big club, with six points in 16 games.

    LaDue, 24, was a sixth-round pick in ’12 that — like Kempe and Brodzinski — fared well in the American League before getting recalled in February. LaDue has appeared in 15 games for the Kings, scoring five points while averaging 16:25 TOI per night.

    Los Angeles is still technically in the playoff race, but sits eight points back of Nashville for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference — with just 10 games to play. As such, the focus might now shift to giving some youngsters NHL experience.

    Brodzinski will have to wait for his, however. Per LA Kings Insider, it doesn’t look like he’ll play tonight, when the Kings host the Jets at Staples.

     

     

    Polak gets two games for boarding Bjorkstrand

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    Roman Polak‘s hit on Oliver Bjorkstrand has drawn more than the ire of Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella.

    Today, the NHL announced that Polak, a defenseman for the Toronto Maple Leafs, has been suspended two games for boarding Bjorkstrand Wednesday in Columbus.

    In making the ruling, the league’s Department of Player Safety determined that Polak sent Bjorkstrand “violently” into the boards from behind, causing an injury. The DoPS also noted that the hit was avoidable, with the onus on Polak to “ensure that he avoids this hit entirely, or at the very least, minimizes the force of the impact.”

    You can watch the full ruling below:

    Wild prospect Kunin leaves Wisconsin, turns pro

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    Minnesota is getting one of its prized youngsters in the mix.

    Luke Kunin, the club’s first-round pick (15th overall) at last year’s draft, is leaving the University of Wisconsin following his sophomore campaign, per the Star-Tribune. Kunin will reportedly join Minnesota’s AHL affiliate in Iowa on an amateur tryout.

    Kunin, 19, is coming off a pretty successful campaign. He was the first soph to captain the Badgers in over 40 years, and led the team in goals (22) and points (38). That came after he captained the U.S. to gold at the world juniors, scoring four points in seven games.

    Per TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Kunin will play out this year in the minors, and his entry-level deal will kick in next season. That means he won’t be with the Wild at all this year — regular season or playoffs.

    As mentioned, Kunin is just one of the many talented prospects Minnesota has in the fold. Russian Kirill Kaprizov, Sweden’s Joel Eriksson-Ek and Kunin’s U.S. junior teammate, Jordan Greenway, all showed extremely well at the worlds.

    Hurricanes sign Finnish prospect Kuokkanen

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    The Carolina Hurricanes have another talented, young Finn under contract.

    The ‘Canes announced this morning that they’ve signed forward Janne Kuokkanen to a three-year, entry-level contract.

    Kuokkanen was drafted in the second round, 43rd overall, in 2016. The 18-year-old is currently with the OHL’s London Knights. He finished the regular season with 26 goals and 36 assists in 60 games.

    “Janne was outstanding in our rookie tournament in Traverse City in September, and stayed in North America to continue his development in the Ontario Hockey League,” said ‘Canes GM Ron Francis in a release. “He’s a smart, skilled forward and we look forward to the start of his professional career.”

    The ‘Canes already have two Finnish forwards in Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen.

    Aho and Kuokkanen were teammates in the Karpat (Liiga) development system in Finland.