Zach Bogosian

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.

What is the Lightning’s long-term outlook?

Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning
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 Tampa Bay Lightning.

Pending Free Agents

The Core

The Lightning have been favorites to win the Stanley Cup for the past few seasons due to their cornerstone pieces at every level. Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov lead the forward group and are the top two point scorers on the Bolts roster through the first 70 games. Victor Hedman is the most prominent name on a well-balanced blueline and Andrei Vasilevskiy was in the discussion for the Vezina Trophy.

In addition to the stellar building blocks, the Lightning also have secondary offensive firepower. Brayden Point is close to becoming a foundational player, if he is not there already. Alex Killorn was closing in on a 30-goal season, Anthony Cirelli, Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Yanni Gourde and others contribute in a meaningful way.

Tampa Bay also hasn’t seen the true impact of trade deadline acquisitions of Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman.

The Lightning have all the pieces needed to accomplish their goal of winning a championship but remain in limbo until society solves the COVID-19 pandemic.

Long-Term Needs

The wish list in Tampa Bay is quite short. The organization has accomplished a lot in recent years but still needs to get over the final hump and win a Stanley Cup. Ultimately, the Lightning’s regular season performance had little impact on the judgment of this team as long as they reached the postseason.

The long-term needs for the franchise are essentially the same as other teams that have a core in place and compete for a championship year in and year out. Find value in the NHL Draft process and continue to produce prospects that can contribute in one way or another to the varsity team. General manager Julien BriseBois also needs to manage the salary cap effectively and not fall into the trap of paying for past performances but rather remain focused on the future.

Long-Term Strengths

The best asset of the organization is their current core group of players. Hedman, Kucherov, Stamkos and Vasilevskiy are all locked up for the next several seasons. Point’s contract does not expire until the end of the 2021-22 season and is close to becoming an integral part of the team, if not already.

If the NHL season does not return, the Lightning will be one of the more fascinating teams to watch this upcoming offseason. Will they blow it up as if they didn’t achieve their goal? Does Jon Cooper remain coach? Or, do they take another shot at a championship next season and reevaluate at that time?

The pause in action created a murky situation for the future of several NHL teams and the Lightning are near the top of that list.

MORE ON THE LIGHTNING
• Looking at the 2019-20 Tampa Bay Lightning
• Lightning biggest surprises and disappointments so far


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

The Buzzer: Connor McDavid does not miss a beat in return

Connor McDavid shines in return The Buzzer
Getty Images
4 Comments

Three Stars

1. William Karlsson, Vegas Golden Knights

What matters more: a hat trick, or a two-goal, two-assist night? Maybe the tiebreaker can be who ends up the winner.

I’m going with that, and thus handing Sunday’s top star to Karlsson. “Wild Bill” broke a 20-game goal drought with the third hat trick of his NHL career. The Ducks almost ended up spoiling his big night (more on that here, and in a moment), but Vegas held strong. Now the Golden Knights are on a six-game winning streak.

For all we know, a Karlsson hot streak could be the difference between Vegas winning the Pacific Division or not.

2. Adam Henrique and Nick RitchieAnaheim Ducks

Both Henrique and Ritchie authored those two-goal, two-assist nights discussed in the first star section.

Henrique provided the greatest dramatics, as his two goals unexpectedly sent Sunday’s Golden Knights – Ducks game to OT.

Henrique now has 23 goals and 37 points in 62 games this season. It would be tempting to call the 30-year-old a possible trade deadline target, but his $5.825M AAV extends to 2023-24, so I’m not sure teams really want to take that type of risk.

3. Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers managed remarkably well without number 97, but it must have been exhilarating to get him back. Perhaps it even gave Oilers GM Ken Holland the extra push to trade for Mike Green later on Sunday?

Either way, it was a promising return by McDavid. The all-world player scored a goal and two assists, pushing his 2019-20 totals to 31 goals and 84 points in just 56 games. It’s pretty staggering that players are skilled enough to generate such numbers in a very clamped-down NHL (even if games are slightly higher scoring lately).

Anders Lee (2G, 1A), Jordan Binnington (32 out of 33 saves) and Anton Khudobin (31 out of 32) rank as other players worthy of honorable mentions. When in doubt, go with McDavid, especially during a return from injury.

Highlight of the Night (yes, from a great return by Connor McDavid)

Is it wrong to describe this as “vintage McDavid?” McDavid celebrated his return with a triumphant, very “McDavid” goal:

Factoids

  • The Blues have only allowed two goals total over the last four games, all wins. That’s only the eighth time they’ve managed to allow two or fewer over a four-game span during their history. Remarkably, they last pulled off the feat in February 2019. (NHL PR)
  • Speaking of the Blues, they will face the Wild in the 2021 Winter Classic.
  • If Calgary makes it into the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, chalk it up to being scrappy. They’re an NHL-best 14-4-1 on the road since Nov. 23. (Sportsnet Stats)
  • The Canadiens traded Ilya Kovalchuk to the Capitals, while the Oilers snagged Mike Green from the Red Wings. Zach Bogosian signed with the Lightning.
  • For better or worse, the Stars continue to play with a small margin for error. They’re tied with the Blue Jackets for the most wins in one-goal games this season with 18. (NHL PR)
  • Sabres goalie Jonas Johansson earned his first NHL win. (Sabres)

Scores

WSH 5 – PIT 3
BUF 2 – WIN 1
DAL 2 – CHI 1
NYI 4 – SJS 1
CGY 4 – DET 2
STL 4 – MIN 1
VGK 6 – ANA 5 (OT)
EDM 4 – LAK 2

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.

Lightning add defensive depth by signing Zach Bogosian

Getty Images
1 Comment

With the trade deadline nearing, teams are coughing up picks and prospects, even for sheer depth. By that standard, the Lightning got a deal in merely signing Zach Bogosian off of the scrap heap. The team announced that it is a one-year deal with a prorated $1.3 million AAV.

Tampa Bay locked up Bogosian not long after he parted ways with the Sabres.

Injuries may have played a role in the signing, as the Bolts are a bit banged-up. Looking at the defense alone, Erik Cernak joins Ryan McDonagh and Jan Rutta as blueliners dealing with bumps and bruises. The Lightning didn’t want to chalk up a slight hiccup (two straight losses) to injuries, but they’re worth noting.

“It’s easy to blame that. That’s not who we are,” Victor Hedman said, via the Lightning website. “We’ve been battling injuries for a long time. I think we’ve done a great job of overcoming that. Bottom line is we’ve got to play better and not give up as many goals and just be better as a team.”

Bogosian mainly brings depth to Lightning

Expecting too much from Bogosian wouldn’t be wise. Injuries limited Bogosian to 19 games played so far in 2019-20. When he’s played, the impact has been minimal, with just five points and generally mediocre underlying stats. Gander at his RAPM charts at Evolving Hockey and you’ll gain further evidence that he’s mainly just a depth option.

That said, Bogosian brings experience, size, and a right-handed shot to the table. The Lightning don’t even need to give up a low-end pick for Bogosian, either, so that’s a nice luxury this late into the season.

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.

Sabres waive Bogosian, plan to terminate contract

Zach Bogosian’s time with the Buffalo Sabres seems to be over.

After suspending him this week for failing to report to the American Hockey League, the team announced on Friday that the veteran defenseman has been placed on unconditional waivers for the purpose of terminating his contract.

Assuming he clears waivers (it seems likely that he will) he will become an unrestricted free agent. The key, though, is that he will have to sign with a team by Monday’s NHL trade deadline (3 p.m. ET) in order to be eligible to play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The 29-year-old Bogosian has played in just 19 games this season for the Sabres due to injuries and a significantly decreased role with the team.

He had requested a trade earlier this season.

While he may not be an attractive option at his current salary cap number (over $5 million) he could find a home as a free agent for a potential playoff team looking to add some depth to its blue line. Calgary, Vegas, Edmonton, and maybe even Toronto could be potential landing spots. If nothing else it can not possibly hurt to have another NHL caliber defenseman on the roster for a playoff team. It remains to be seen how much he has left to offer, but it’s also kind of hard to judge based on the way things unfolded for him in Buffalo this season.

MORE: PHT’s 2020 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

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.