Michael Stone

NHL free agent defensemen Dustin Byfuglien Andy Greene
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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.

Video: Pinizzotto knocks Stone out of the game with heavy hit

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The Arizona Coyotes have lost defenseman Michael Stone for the remainder of Tuesday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers.

Stone was on the receiving end of a hard Steven Pinizzotto hit in the first period. He played only four shifts in the game, before leaving for the dressing room after the hit. Stone suffered an upper-body injury and will not return, according to Sarah McLellan of azcentral sports.

There was no call on the play.

With Arizona in shakeup mode, more trade calls could be coming

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A sixth straight home loss was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Following Thursday’s listless 4-0 defeat to L.A. at Gila River Arena, the Arizona Coyotes shook things up in a major way (by Coyotes standards, anyway) on Friday: Kyle Chipchura was waived, Rob Klinkhammer was traded and David Schlemko was sent to the minors.

On their way up? Andrew Campbell, a 26-year-old defenseman that’s appeared in just three NHL games and 22-year-old Jordan Martinook, the club’s second-round pick at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft who’s yet to make his big-league debut.

Those two will join the likes of Connor Murphy (21 years old) Tobias Rieder (21), Brandon McMillan (24), Michael Stone (24) and Brandon Gormley (22, on injured reserve) as some of the young faces on the active roster.

The shakeup shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. The Coyotes held a team meeting following last night’s embarrassing loss and, on Saturday, GM Don Maloney reportedly threatened to ship out some of the team’s players.

It’s the most definitive move Maloney’s made in recent months.

The organization has repeatedly flip-flopped on philosophy this season; in September, Maloney said Arizona would make a “concerted effort” to give young prospects a shot at making the NHL, and gave a sobering preview of what he expected for the year.

“We can’t sit here and say we match up, No. 1 line to No. 1 line, with many teams in the West,” he said, per Fox Sports Arizona. “But maybe we can control the top lines and outperform the lower lines.”

That approach didn’t last long.

In early October, the club scrapped the proposed youth movement — sending first-rounders Max Domi to junior and Henrik Samuelsson back to the AHL — because, according to Maloney, the Coyotes “need to be a playoff team.”

“We just think for our franchise right now, we have to be competitive,” he explained, per the Arizona Republic. “We need to be a playoff team. That’s what’s going to get people excited and in the building.

“Nobody has an appetite to just throw in the towel.”

In late October, Maloney flip-flopped again. He said the team was “not anywhere good enough,” adding “we need to get better or things are going to change around here.”

Last week, the GM seemed to be at his breaking point with his struggling team, one that currently sits second from bottom in the Pacific Division and 13th in the Western Conference.

“When you take a hard look at where you’re at relative to the competition and when you take a look at what’s happening around the league, I think that’s where we need to take this team,” Maloney said, per FOX Sports Arizona. “The team speed and tempo and pace that we play at it is not as high as it needs to be. The way you get more quickness is generally with younger players and you see that all around the league.

He added, “The last three to four years, we’ve been reaching down to older, veteran players and that’s how we started the season, but we haven’t gotten the results we had hoped to get.”

Given today’s moves, all eyes will probably turn to two of Arizona’s key assets: Antoine Vermette and Keith Yandle. Vermette’s a UFA at season’s end and already at the center of trade talks; Yandle’s rumored to have been on the block for what feels like three years, and is only under contract for one more season.

All of this, of course, comes with the franchise purchase by Andrew Barroway still looming. The transaction will reportedly be approved soon, at which time Arizona could make even more moves in an effort to further embrace the youth movement — or, make a potential foray into the Connor McDavid/Jack Eichel sweepstakes.

Coyotes waive Chipchura

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One year after posting the best season of his career, Kyle Chipchura is on waivers.

The Coyotes made the move on Friday, waiving the 28-year-old center that’d been with the club since 2011. The move comes after Chipchura played 9:39 in Thursday’s ugly 4-0 loss at home to the Kings; previously, he’d sat as a healthy scratch on a few occasions.

A decent two-way checking forward, Chipchura posted a career-high 20 points in 80 games for the Coyotes last year, despite the fact he averaged less than 10 minutes per night.

The decision to place him on waivers is perhaps another nod to GM Don Maloney’s proposed youth movement; last month, the club waived another veteran (defenseman David Schlemko) and has been slowly integrating younger players into the lineup, like Tobias Rieder, Brandon McMillan and Michael Stone.

Chipchura is in the second of a three-year deal that carries an $875,000 cap hit. It stands to reason he could be picked up off waivers from another club, especially given the need for center depth across the NHL.

Avs erase 3-0 deficit to edge Coyotes 4-3

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Antoine Vermette, Michael Stone and Tobias Rieder scored first period goals for the Arizona Coyotes chasing Colorado Avalanche starter Reto Berra after three goals on eight shots.

However, it was all Colorado after that.

Captain Gabriel Landeskog got the visitors on the board in the second period. Landeskog added his second of the night, and sixth of the season, in the third to pull the Avs to within one. Matt Duchene tied the game 3-3 at 4:05 of the third.

After hitting Colorado defenseman Erik Johnson with an elbow to the head early in overtime, Martin Hanzal put the puck into his own net for the overtime-winner, which was credited to Daniel Briere.

“We were resilient tonight. I think that is the story of the night,” Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said post-game. “Down 0- 3 and coming back. Like I said to the guys, ‘lets go and win the second period’ and see where we are after.

“I mean all last year I was reading a lot of comments on how resilient we were and we were playing with no fear. We were always going at the other team and that’s what we did.”

Roy did not have an update on Johnson, who may have suffered a concussion on the play.

Pickard was perfect in relief making 25 saves for his second win of the season and second win in as many games. The 22-year-old rookie stopped all 17 shots he faced in relief on Saturday in the Avs 4-3 win over Carolina.

Asked post-game if he had to tell Semyon Varlamov he had a new No. 1 goaltender, Roy had a good laugh.

“I guess so. We’re going to go with Pickard tomorrow,” he said. “It’s a tough stretch right now for Reto and unfortunately for him… but good for us Calvin’s playing well.”