Matt Irwin

NHL free agent defensemen Dustin Byfuglien Andy Greene
Getty Images

Byfuglien and other veteran NHL free agent defensemen with unclear futures

After covering forwards and goalies, let’s close things out with a look at fringe veteran NHL free agent defensemen.

Before we start, note that this isn’t about top defensemen available. Alex Pietrangelo likely only stands on the fringe between a huge contract or just a very big contract. Also, the sheer glut of defensemen means a lot of borderline players will either be off this list, or merely mentioned in passing.

A lot of stuff to consider with Buff

Going to an earlier post, health questions limit Corey Crawford‘s earning potential. Those issues loom even larger for very large defenseman Dustin Byfuglien.

After missing the 2019-20 season, it’s unclear how close Byfuglien can be to full-strength. Most of all, Byfuglien must decide if he even wants to come back. And at what cost.

Being that Byfuglien turned 35 on March 27, he’d need a 35+ contract. That could be a Byfuglien-sized sticking point if the defenseman wants term in any deal.

All of that aside, even a compromised version of Byfuglien towers over many of the fringe options.

Other reasonably prominent fringe NHL free agent defensemen

Let’s go over a few of them, while Cap Friendly features a more expansive list that drives home the glut.

  • Mike Green — There were times when it felt like criticisms were way, way too harsh for Green. (Maybe it was fury at the fauxhawk?) The temperature’s changed in 2020, though. Most of the people who bashed Green have moved on to (insert latest offensive defenseman who might win a Norris). But there are just enough teams with nostalgia for Green that he might get a chance in his reduced, 34-year-old form. Consider the Oilers trading an actual draft pick for Green during the past deadline if you need evidence.

While Green’s defensive game slips with age, he also doesn’t provide that zip on offense, either.

It’s sadly not too surprising to see Green — and some other fringe veteran NHL free agent defensemen — at the bottom of the ranks of this GAR chart from Evolving Hockey:

worst GAR NHL free agent defensemen Evolving Hockey
via Evolving Hockey
  • While Green’s fellow 34-year-old defenseman Roman Polak plays a different style, he also finds himself in the dregs of that list. It’s even more common for some NHL GM to talk themselves into a hard-nosed Polak than it is for them to believe Green could rekindle his scoring touch, too. Both ideas seem ill-advised, although if you need to appease an old-school coach, maybe you throw them a bone by giving Polak a very cheap contract (that you can bury or get rid of)?
  • It was tough not to chuckle when the Islanders spent a second-round pick to acquire Andy Greene.

That’s not really a knock against Greene, generally speaking. He has some value as a defense-first defensemen. Instead, it’s just that the Islanders felt the need merely to add more of the same.

This isolated impact chart from Hockey Viz reinforces those points well enough:

Andy Greene iso NHL free agent defensemen
via Hockey Viz

Regardless, if the Islanders are willing to spend a prominent pick on Greene, the 37-year-old will probably draw some attention. By the muted expectations of this quantity-over-quality group, you could do worse … if you don’t pledge much money or especially term.

(There’s an argument that Greene is viable enough not to be fringe. Still, his advanced age makes it seem reasonable to list him.)

  • If your team must have someone like Polak, how about Justin Braun? The 33-year-old doesn’t bring offensive value, but he’s more useful defensively.
  • My guess is that there will be at least some market for Ron Hainsey. At 39, it’s fair to wonder how much Hainsey has left in the tank. That’s also a fair question for most of the veteran NHL free agent defensemen we’re discussing.

Veteran free agent NHL defensemen lightning round

  • I usually cut these lists off at 30+, but Dmitry Kulikov and Zach Bogosian are two 29-year-old defensemen who’ve garnered more attention than I’d usually expect. Maybe they will again? Teams can get pretty desperate for defense.
  • I haven’t mentioned Kevin Shattenkirk until now because I feel like anyone who observed his work in 2019-20 would give him a low-risk contract. But just in case, the 31-year-old would be a standout if he’s “fringe” material.
  • There are plenty of defensemen who might retire as much for health reasons as a lack of interest. Factor in age, too, and you could mark that box for defensemen including Jonathan Ericsson, Jay Bouwmeester, Deryk Engelland, and maybe Andrej Sekera.
  • Again, there are quite a few middling options who may ride meager name recognition. Teams have regularly inflated the value of 33-year-old Michael Stone, for instance.
  • Are Matt Irwin and Yannick Weber still NHL defensemen? GMs will decide that too.

(In case you’re wondering, Zdeno Chara‘s calling his own shot, and expected to be back. So that’s why he didn’t get a mention only now.)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Looking at the 2019-20 Nashville Predators

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to take a look at where each NHL team stands at this moment with a series of posts examining their season. Have they met expectations? Exceeded expectations? Who has been the surprise? All of that and more. Today we look at the Nashville Predators.

Nashville Predators

Record: 35-26-8 (69 games), fifth in the Central Division, eighth in the Western Conference
Leading Scorer: Roman Josi — 65 points (16 goals and 49 assists)

In-Season Transactions:

• Acquired Michael McCarron from the Montreal Canadiens for Laurent Dauphin.
• Traded Miikka Salomaki to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Ben Harpur.
• Acquired Korbinian Holzer from the Anaheim Ducks for Matt Irwin.

Season Overview:

Even though they went from Shea Weber, to P.K. Subban, to Steven Santini over the last few seasons, the Predators still have one of the stronger group of defensemen in the NHL. Captain Roman Josi was having a season to remember, as he was leading the team in scoring at the time of the pause. They still have Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm on their blue line and Dante Fabbro has become a full-time NHLer. That’s a solid group.

There’s a couple of issues with their roster though. First, they’ve invested some good money into some of their forwards and some of them just aren’t delivering consistently enough. Last summer, they gave Matt Duchene a seven-year deal worth $8 million per season. In his first year with the Preds, he managed to pick 13 goals and 42 points in 66 games. Not enough production there, but it’s his first year with a new team. We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

The other forward that seems to under-achieve every other year is Ryan Johansen. To acquire Johansen from Columbus a few years ago, it cost general manager David Poile Seth Jones. Yeah, that trade hasn’t panned out too well. Johansen had 14 goals and 36 points in 68 games. Despite his disappointing campaign, you can’t give up on a 27-year-old center with the kind of size that he possess.

The bottom line is that they need more offense from their forwards. It’s a must. It’s odd to see that two of their defensemen are listed among their top four scorers this season. And Ellis, who has 38 points in 2019-20, missed 20 games due to injury.

The other problem was Pekka Rinne‘s dip in play between the pipes. Look, Rinne was a terrific goaltender for a number of years, but he was going to take a step back at some point. The 37-year-old has an 18-14-4 record with a 3.17 goals-against-average and a .895 save percentage.

Those are the two biggest issues and it’s the reasons why their position in the playoffs was far from safe. Technically, the Preds would get into the postseason if it started today, but only because they had one more regulation win than Vancouver. They were that close to missing the playoffs for the first time since 2013-14.

Big decisions will have to be made whenever the off-season starts. They let go of head coach Peter Laviolette during the season and replaced him with John Hynes, but more changes might happen. Who do they keep? Who do they unload? The roster is getting older.

Highlight of the Season:

As much as Rinne has struggled this season, we can’t deny that he had the highlight of the year for the Preds. It occurred on Jan. 9 against the Chicago Blackhawks when he fired the puck into an empty net.

Goalie goals are always the best.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

What’s the long-term outlook for the Ducks?

Ducks
Getty Images

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the long-term outlook for the Anaheim Ducks.

Pending free agents

The core

The face of the franchise at this point is still John Gibson, and while his numbers took a bit of a hit this season he is still one of the league’s elite goalies. As long as the Ducks have him as their foundation there is always the chance that he can give them a chance.

Is it unfair to put so much on one player to carry a team? Of course it is, but right now he is the reason for hope.

Beyond him, the Ducks have a handful of long-term contracts on their books.

Defenseman Cam Fowler is signed through the 2025-26 season. Forwards Adam Henrique and Jakob Silfverberg are signed through 2023-24, while Rickard Rakell, Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson are all signed through the 2021-22 season.

Ryan Getzlaf, one of the franchise icons, still has one more year after this one at $8.25 million.

Long-term needs

Offense, offense, and more offense.

Even when the Ducks were still a contender as recently as a couple of years ago they were still only a middle-of-the-pack team offensively. Over the past two years, though, they have plummeted to the bottom of the league.

Since the start of the 2018-19 season they are the second-lowest scoring team in the league (2.47 goals per game, ahead of only the Detroit Red Wings), second-worst in shots per game (again ahead of only Detroit) and third-worst on the power play (ahead of only Nashville and Detroit).

Rickard Rakell and Jakob Silfverberg are still good top-six options, and they do have some young players starting to break into the league (Sam Steel, Max Jones being at the top of the list) but they need to start taking big steps in the coming seasons.

For as promising as those young players may be, they still lack a young franchise player to serve as a long-term building block. Their best hope for acquiring that: Some draft lottery luck. The Ducks have two first-round picks this season (Bostons, plus their own pick which will be a lottery pick) and along with their own second-round pick will have three of the top-40 picks in the 2020 draft.

Long-term strength

For all of their current and long-term flaws, they still have an impact player at the one position that can make a meaningful difference — goaltender.

Even though Gibson had a down year this season he is still one among the league’s best and is capable of single-handedly changing their short-term outlook.

Since becoming Anaheim’s starter during the 2015-16 season his .919 save percentage ranks eighth in the NHL among 55 goalies that have appeared in at least 100 games.

They have him signed long-term at $6.4 million per season. Given how good Gibson has been, how dominant he can be when he is at at his best, and his age, that is a more than fair number for the Ducks to build around. The issue now is whether or not they have the players and resources to do that.

MORE:
Looking at the 2019-20 Anaheim Ducks
Ducks’ biggest surprises, disappointments so far

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

ProHockeyTalk’s 2020 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

The Pro Hockey Talk 2020 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker is your one-stop shop for all completed deals. The 2020 NHL trade deadline is Monday, Feb. 24 at 3 p.m. ET.

NHL Trade Deadline candidates
Non-UFAs who could move
Teams that need to be most active at trade deadline
• Trade Deadline live blog

Feb. 24, 2020
San Jose Sharks: Brandon Davidson
Calgary Flames: Future consideration

Feb. 24, 2020
Anaheim Ducks: Joel Persson
Edmonton Oilers: 2022 conditional seventh-round pick, Angus Redmond

Feb. 24, 2020
Anaheim Ducks: Christian Djoos
Washington Capitals: Daniel Sprong

Feb. 24, 2020
Toronto Maple Leafs: Matt Lorito
New York Islanders: Jordan Schmaltz

Feb. 24, 2020
Philadelphia Flyers: Nathan Noel
Chicago Blackhawks: T.J. Brennan

Feb. 24, 2020
Columbus Blue Jackets: Conditional 2020 seventh-round pick ( If Hannikainen plays 10 games for Coyotes the rest of this season, Columbus will receive the pick.)
Arizona Coyotes: Markus Hannikainen

Feb. 24, 2020
Anaheim Ducks: Matt Irwin, 2022 sixth-round pick
Nashville Predators: Korbianian Holzer

Feb. 24, 2020
Vegas Golden Knights: Nick Cousins
Montreal Canadiens: 2021 fourth-round pick

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Carolina Hurricanes: Brady Skjei
New York Rangers: 2020 first-round pick

Feb. 24, 2020
San Jose Sharks: 2020 first-round pick, Anthony Greco
Tampa Bay Lightning: Barclay Goodrow, 2020 third-round pick

Feb. 24, 2020
Vancouver Canucks: Louis Domingue
New Jersey Devils: Zane McIntyre

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Vegas Golden Knights: Robin Lehner, Martins Dzierkals (Vegas retains 22% of Lehner’s salary)
Chicago Blackhawks: Malcolm Subban, Slava Demin
Toronto Maple Leafs: 2020 fifth-round pick (Maple Leafs retain 50% of Lehner’s salary)

Feb. 24, 2020
Anaheim Ducks: Sonny Milano
Columbus Blue Jackets: Devin Shore

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Carolina Hurricanes: Sami Vatanen
New Jersey Devils: Fredrik Claesson, Janne Kuokkanen, 2020 conditional fourth round pick

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Buffalo Sabres: Dominik Kahun
Pittsburgh Penguins: Evan Rodrigues, Conor Sheary

Feb. 24, 2020
Dallas Stars: 2020 sixth-round pick
Florida Panthers: Emil Djuse

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Calgary Flames: Erik Gustafsson
Chicago Blackhawks: 2020 conditional third-round pick (Chicago will receive the earlier of Calgary’s two third-round picks in 2020.)

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Edmonton Oilers: Tyler Ennis
Ottawa Senators: 2021 fifth-round pick

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Calgary Flames: Derek Forbort (Kings retain 25% of Forbort’s salary)
Los Angeles Kings: 2021 conditional fourth-round pick (If Flames make Western Conference Final and Forbort plays half the games or if they re-sign Forbort, it becomes a 2022 third rounder.)

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Detroit Red Wings: 2020 and 2021 second-round picks, Sam Gagner
Edmonton Oilers: Andreas Athanasiou, Ryan Kuffner (Oilers retain 10% of Gagner’s salary.)

Feb. 24, 2020
Montreal Canadiens: 2020 seventh-round pick, Aaron Luchuk
Ottawa Senators: Matthew Peca

Feb. 24, 2020
Anaheim Ducks: Danton Heinen
Boston Bruins: Nick Ritchie

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
New Jersey Devils: Conditional 2021 fifth-round pick (Turns into a fourth if Sabres make the playoffs and Simmonds plays 10 games)
Buffalo Sabres: Wayne Simmonds (Devils retain 50% of Simmonds’ salary.)

Feb. 24, 2020
Anaheim Ducks: Kyle Criscuolo, 2020 fourth-round pick
Philadelphia Flyers: Derek Grant

Feb. 24, 2020
Toronto Maple Leafs: Calle Rosen
Colorado Avalanche: Michael Hutchinson

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Pittsburgh Penguins: Patrick Marleau
San Jose Sharks: 2020 conditional third-round pick (Pick becomes a second if Penguins win the Cup.)

Feb. 24, 2020
Philadelphia Flyers: Nate Thompson
Montreal Canadiens: 2020 fifth-round pick

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Carolina Hurricanes: Vincent Trocheck
Florida Panthers: Erik Haula, Lucas Wallmark, Chase Priskie, Eetu Luostarinen

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Ottawa Senators: Conditional 2020 first-round pick, 2020 second-round pick, conditional 2022 third-round pick. (If the 2020 first-rounder is top three, it moves to 2021. Ottawa only receives the 2022 pick if the Islanders win the 2020 Stanley Cup.)
New York Islanders: Jean-Gabriel Pageau

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Ottawa Senators: 2021 fourth-round pick
Colorado Avalanche: Vladislav Namestnikov

Feb. 23, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Edmonton Oilers: Mike Green (Red Wings retain 50% of Green’s salary)
Detroit Red Wings: Kyle Brodziak, 2020 or 2021 conditional pick (Detroit gets a fourth-round pick in 2020. It turns into a third-rounder in 2021 if Edmonton reaches Western Conference Final, and he plays in half of their games.)

Feb. 23, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Washington Capitals: Ilya Kovalchuk (Canadiens retain 50% of Kovalchuk’s salary)
Montreal Canadiens: 2020 third-round pick

Feb. 23, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Edmonton Oilers: Mike Green (Red Wings retain 50% of Kovalchuk’s salary)
Detroit Red Wings: 2020 or 2021 conditional fourth-round pick

Feb. 22, 2020
Nashville Predators: Ben Harpur
Toronto Maple Leafs: Miikka Salomaki

Feb. 21, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Winnipeg Jets: Cody Eakin
Vegas Golden Knights: Conditional 2021 fourth-round pick (becomes third-rounder if Eakin re-signs or Jets make playoffs)

Feb. 21, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Anaheim Ducks: Axel Andersson, David Backes (Bruins retain 25% of Backes’ salary)
Boston Bruins: Ondrej Kase, 2020 first-round pick

Feb. 20, 2020
Florida Panthers: Danick Martel
Tampa Bay Lightning: Anthony Greco

Feb. 20, 2020
Pittsburgh Penguins: Riley Barber, Phil Varone
Montreal Canadiens: Joseph Blandisi, Jake Lucchini

Feb. 19, 2020
Toronto Maple Leafs: Max Veronneau
Ottawa Senators: Aaron Luchuk, conditional 2021 sixth-round pick

Feb. 19, 2020
New York Rangers: Jean-Francois Berube
Philadelphia Flyers: future considerations

Feb. 19, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Los Angeles Kings: 2020 second-round pick, 2021 second-round pick
Vegas Golden Knights: Alec Martinez

Feb. 19, 2020
Toronto Maple Leafs: Denis Malgin
Florida Panthers: Mason Marchment

Feb. 18, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Washington Capitals: Brenden Dillon (Sharks retain 50% of Dillon’s salary)
San Jose Sharks: 2020 second-round pick, conditional 2021 third-round pick

Feb. 18, 2020
New York Rangers: Julien Gauthier
Carolina Hurricanes: Joey Keane

Feb. 18, 2020 (PHT analysis)
St. Louis Blues: Marco Scandella
Montreal Canadiens: 2020 second-round pick, conditional 2021 fourth-round pick

Feb. 18, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Winnipeg Jets: Dylan DeMelo
Ottawa Senators: 2020 third-round pick

Feb. 17, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Los Angeles Kings: Tim Schaller, Tyler Madden, 2020 second-round pick, 2022 conditional fourth-round pick (if Toffoli re-signs)
Vancouver Canucks: Tyler Toffoli

Feb. 16, 2020 (PHT analysis)
New Jersey Devils: 2020 first-round pick, Nolan Foote
Tampa Bay Lightning: Blake Coleman

Feb. 16, 2020 (PHT analysis)
New Jersey Devils: 2021 second-round pick, David Quenneville
New York Islanders: Andy Greene

Feb. 10, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Pittsburgh Penguins: Jason Zucker
Minnesota Wild: Alex Galchenyuk, Calen Addison, conditional 2020 or 2021 first-round pick

Feb. 5, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Toronto Maple Leafs
: Jack Campbell, Kyle Clifford
Los Angeles Kings: Trevor Moore, 2020 third-round pick, conditional third-round pick in 2021

Jan. 17, 2020
Dallas Stars:
Oula Palve
Pittsburgh Penguins: 
John Nyberg

Jan. 7, 2020
Nashville Predators: Michael McCarron
Montreal Canadiens: Laurent Dauphin

Jan. 2, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Buffalo Sabres: Michael Frolik
Calgary Flames: 2020 fourth-round pick (originally owned by San Jose)

Jan. 2, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Montreal Canadiens: Marco Scandella
Buffalo Sabres: 2020 fourth-round pick (originally owned by San Jose)

Jan. 2, 2020
Ottawa Senators: Mike Reilly
Montreal Canadiens: Andrew Sturtz, 2021 fifth-round pick

WATCH LIVE: Predators visit Ducks on NBCSN

Getty Images

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the Nashville Predators and Anaheim Ducks. Coverage begins at 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Anaheim has lost three straight games and six of their last eight (2-5-1). They currently sit in last place in the Western Conference, 10 points outside the 2nd Wild Card. They saw their run of six-straight playoff appearances snapped last season, and are in jeopardy of missing out on the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1999-00 to 2001-02 (three straight seasons). In their last game at Arizona, the Ducks dropped a 2-1 lead, allowing three goals in the third period to lose 4-2.

For a second straight season, the Ducks are at the bottom of the scoring charts in the NHL. After finishing last in the league last season (2.39 goals/game), they are currently 30th in the league in scoring (2.49 goals/game – only DET is averaging fewer).

Speaking on Thursday, GM David Poile said that while he is not planning on firing head coach Peter Laviolette, there may be changes ahead if the Predators do not improve as the trade deadline approaches in February.

“I met with [Laviolette] this morning,” he said. “We had a long talk about lots of different situations going forward. I’m not contemplating making any coaching change at this time… We’ve really got some soul searching to do right now. I have to do some real thinking about where we’re going for the rest of this year… Right now, we’re not in the playoffs and I’m open for business, if you will… I guess the point I’m saying today is, sitting here outside of the playoffs, we have for the last several years been buyers at the trading deadline. If we don’t improve here shortly, we might be a seller for the first time in a number of years. I’m hoping that’s not the case, but as I said, I am open for business and I’m certainly going to be willing to listen to different teams’ thought processes on any of our players at this point.”

Ryan Ellis was placed on Injured Reserve on Friday after the defenseman took an elbow to the head from Dallas’ Corey Perry less than three minutes into the Winter Classic. Ellis needed help leaving the ice and did not return to the game, while Perry was handed a five-game suspension for elbowing. Ellis is tied for second on Nashville with 28 points and has averaged 23:24 TOI per game this season. Alexandre Carrier was called up from the AHL on Friday, with Jarred Tinordi, who was recalled from Milwaukee on Dec 26, expected to see some time in the lineup.

With his defensive partner Ryan Ellis sidelined, even more pressure will be on captain Roman Josi to produce. Josi, who signed an 8-year, $72.472M contract in October, leads the Predators in points (14G-27A, 41 points) and is averaging 25:36 TOI per game this season (fourth in NHL). Josi enters Saturday’s game against Los Angeles riding a career-long eight-game point streak (7G-8A, 15 points), which includes five multi-point games. Only one defenseman in franchise history has ever had a 9-game point streak (Shea Weber in 2010-11). Josi was selected to the All-Star Game this season, the 3rd selection of his career (second straight).

[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 10 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

WHAT: Nashville Predators at Anaheim Ducks
WHERE: Honda Center
WHEN: Sunday, Jan. 5, 10 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Predators-Ducks stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

PREDATORS
Filip ForsbergRyan JohansenViktor Arvidsson
Calle JarnkrokKyle TurrisMikael Granlund
Rocco GrimaldiNick BoninoCraig Smith
Yakov TreninColin BlackwellAustin Watson

Roman Josi – Yannick Weber
Jarred Tinordi – Mattias Ekholm
Dan HamhuisMatt Irwin

Starting goalie: Juuse Saros

DUCKS
Adam HenriqueRyan GetzlafSam Carrick
Max Jones – Sam SteelOndrej Kase
Max Comtois – Isac Lundestrom – Jakob Silfverberg
Nicolas DeslauriersDevin ShoreCarter Rowney

Hampus LindholmJosh Manson
Cam FowlerErik Gudbranson
Jacob LarssonKorbinian Holzer

Starting goalie: John Gibson

Alex Faust and analyst Brian Hayward will call the action from Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.