2011 UFA Defensemen

This very easily could be wishful thinking.  The Avs haven't exactly been too high on the whole UFA signing thing for the past few seasons.  However, if we trade/sign a goalie or two that isn't Vokoun, the Avs may have a VERY hard time even making it to the cap floor.  If that happens, they might be forced to sign an UFA.  So, I'm going to be taking a look at who they could choose over the next few days. 

First up - Defense.  Since the mantra is "Draft for skill, Trade/Sign for need" let's start by looking at what the Avs already have and what they might need.

Right Defense:  EJ, O'Byrne, Elliott, Barrie, Holos

Left Defense:  Quincey, Gaunce, Wilson, Hunwick, Cumiskey, Siemens, Chouinard

So even though our left side has more players on it, it's definitely not as skilled as our right.  And there are some serious question marks surrounding Quincey.  Is he capable of being our long-term #2 defenseman to go with EJ?

Another area of concern is age.  With the trading of Liles, O'Byrne is now our elder statesman on the blueline, and he turns 27 next month.  I understand we're a young team, yes, but when the average age of the defensemen listed above is only 22.7, that raises a bit of concern.  On top of that, they only average 2 years NHL experience, and Quincey and Cumiskey lead the pack with 5 years.  Since defensemen usually take 3 or so years to reach their prime, this is scary stuff we're talking about here.  Yes, we have a bunch of talent, but we also have an inexperienced coaching staff and no more Adam Foote.  Basically, we need a veteran. 

Also, size will probably play a part.  Like it or not, the Avs look like they'll probably be playing in a division that at least resembles the Pacific after next year.  It's a big, mean, competitive group of teams, and small defenseman will struggle against such competition.   Also, it looks as if the Avs have been trying to get bigger and meaner for the past few months via trade and draft.  Even though they just traded JML, I highly doubt they'll bring someone his size back into the roster via UFA if they can help it. 

So, what we are looking for on the UFA market is

A)   A nice big cap hit (At least $1,000,000)

B)    A #1-2 defensemen that will compliment EJ 

C)   A veteran that will mentor all our young blueliners

D)   Someone Pacific Division ready

 

Ed Jovanovski

Former Team:  PHO 

Age:  34

Side: Left

Height:  6'-3"

Weight:  221

'10-‘11 Cap Hit: $6.5 mil

'10-'11 Stats:  50GP / 5G / 9A / 14P / +4 / 39PIM / 20:28ATOI

What others are saying:

Ed Jovanovski -- The 34-year-old veteran of more than 1,000 NHL games likely will be one of the most desirable defensemen on the market this year. He's a gritty, physical player, but also has the skill to quarterback a power play. He has at least 9 goals in four of the last five seasons, and this season he became the first defenseman in Coyotes/Jets franchise history to record a hat trick.  (NHL.com)

D, Ed Jovanovski -- Jovanovski is 34 and still can provide offense from the blue line. The Coyotes veteran will probably wind up with a team that needs his experience and to perhaps mentor a younger player. How about the Avs' Erik JohnsonBest guess: He signs in Colorado. (Different NHL.com article) 

Jovanovski is known as a two-way defenceman. Able to contribute offensively, he is an adept puck-carrier and joins plays deep in the opposing team's zone. He plays defence physically, bodychecking opponents primarily with his shoulder. In both aspects of his game, he is considered to play with a high level of risk, taking the chance of being out of position in favour of a good scoring chance or a hit. (Wikipedia)

Does he fit criteria:
A) Yes - $6.5 million will definitely get us to the floor if we sign our other RFAs/UFAs and bring in a couple young goalies
B) Yes - He shoots left.  Plus, his style of play seems similar to EJ's - who better to mentor him?
C) Yes -  16 years in the NHL?  Yeah, that will work.  He was a rookie with the Panthers when we beat them in '96.  Plus, he's 34 and looks like he might have a few more years in him.  
D) Yes - who better to be Pacific Division ready than someone already in the Pacific Division?


Tomas Kaberle

Former Team:  TOR/BOS

Age:  33

Side: Left

Height:  6'-1"

Weight:  214

'10-‘11 Cap Hit: $4.25 mil

'10-'11 Stats:  82GP / 4G / 43A / 47Pts / +4 / 18PIM / 21:14ATOI

What others are saying:

Tomas Kaberle -- There were high expectations placed upon Kaberle when the Bruins acquired the 33-year-old in a mid-season trade with Toronto. He never really fulfilled what was expected from him, but he did help Boston reach the Stanley Cup Final. Kaberle has scored at least 47 points in five of the last six seasons and remains a threat any time he's on the power play. (NHL.com)

D, Tomas Kaberle -- The 33-year-old is perhaps the most interesting free agent on the market in terms of what he's worth and where he'll land. He's coming off a sound offensive season with 47 points in 82 games and now has a Stanley Cup on his resume after the Leafs dealt him to the Bruins at the trade deadline. But he received diminished minutes with the Bruins. Will a team view him as a 25-minute workhorse or an 18-minute player who can quarterback a power play? He could land absolutely anywhere, but how about he comes to New York to add experience and offense to the Rangers' blue line? Best guess: He signs in New York. (Different NHL.com article) 

Does he meet criteria:

A) Yes - $4.25 million is very close to what we lost when we dealt Liles.  If a big name goalie isn't in our plans, the Stanley Cup vet might be. 
B) Yes - Since this team seems to really like offense, he would be a great fit in that regard.  Can you imagine Kaberle and EJ on the Power Play?  Their shots alone would help us win games.  
C) Yes - He's been in the league for 12 seasons, and just won the Cup.  Maybe he wouldn't mind making a few big bucks and mentoring our defensemen until he retires.   
D) Possibly - He's 6'-1 and over 200lbs, but isn't the most physical of defensemen.  Still, he's an upgrade over Liles and has proven he can play for (and against) teams that like to hit.  


Joni Pitkanen

(UPDATE:  Well, I guess you can disregard this.  As I was writing this post, he was writing his name on a 3-year deal with Carolina.)

Former Team:  CAR

Age:  27

Side: Left

Height:  6'-3"

Weight:  210

'10-‘11 Cap Hit: $4 mil

'10-'11 Stats:  72GP / 5G / 30A / 35Pts / -2 / 60PIM / 25:01ATOI

What others are saying:

Joni Pitkanen -- Pitkanen has recorded at least 40 points three times in seven NHL seasons. The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder has averaged more than 23 minutes per game in his seven-year NHL career and has totaled 70 assists in the last two seasons.

D, Joni Pitkanen -- There were reports that Pitkanen could be looking for an extremely hefty contract. But instead of pricing himself out of Carolina, it seems he and Rutherford came together at the Entry Draft, and now it sounds like he'll be staying in Carolina. Best guess: He stays in Carolina.

A) Yes - $4 mil would be a help in reaching the floor, no doubt.  
B) Yes - Of all the possible UFAs this year, he had the highest ATOI.  If nothing else, he'd be able to handle the workload that our top pairing will get next year.  
C) Possibly  -  He's only a hair older than O'Byrne.  He has been in the NHL for 8 years though, which would certainly be an improvement over what we have.   
D) Yes - He may not be the most physical defenseman out there, but his 6'-3" 210lb frame won't be overly easy to push around either.  


Christian Ehrhoff

Former Team:  VAN

Age:  28

Side: Left

Height:  6'-2"

Weight:  203

'10-‘11 Cap Hit: $3.1 mil

'10-'11 Stats:  79GP / 14G / 36A / 50Pts / +19 / 52PIM / 23:59ATOI

What others are saying:

Christian Ehrhoff -- Ehrhoff finished the regular season with a career-high 50 points. The 28-year-old was tied for sixth among defensemen with 14 goals in the regular season, which tied the career-best total he posted last season. 

D, Christian Ehrhoff -- With Bieksa re-signing with the Canucks on Monday, that leaves GM Mike Gillis the task of re-signing his best offensive defenseman. In the open market, Ehrhoff could probably command more money than what Bieksa received. One team with money to spend is Detroit. The Red Wings lost Brian Rafalski to retirement, so there's room for Ehrhoff on that team.Best guess: He signs in Detroit.

Ehrhoff is known as an offensive defenceman. He has strong skating ability, which allows him to quickly carry the puck up the ice, starting plays from his team's defensive zone, as well as join offensive plays deep in the opposing team's zone. He also possesses a hard shot, which earns him significant time on the power play. Upon joining the NHL with San Jose, he had to adjust his game to be more defensive. He gradually became counted upon more in defensive situations and has been used on the penalty kill, as well. (Wikipedia)
A) Yes - Even though $3.1 mil isn't as much as the other two, he could be looking at a significant raise because of his performance in the playoffs.  He would help us get to the floor.  
B) Yes - His shot would also be a sight to see alongside EJ's.  Plus, he's only 28, which could lend itself to a more long-term pairing.
C)  Possibly - He's only 28 and only has 7 NHL seasons under his belt.  Sure, that's an improvement over what we have right now, but it's far from Adam Foote territory.  Plus, he played for the diving douchebags Canucks last year.  Do we really want someone from that organization on our team? 
D)  Possibly - He's 6'-2", but is more concerned with offense than hitting.  However, he played on a team that hit well and could probably withstand some considerable punishment from the other teams - assuming of course that he wanted to.  

Jan Hejda

Former Team:  CBJ

Age:  33

Side: Left

Height:  6'-4"

Weight:  237

'10-‘11 Cap Hit: $2 mil

'10-'11 Stats:  77GP / 5G / 15A / 20Pts / -6 / 28PIM / 21:07ATOI

What others are saying:

Hejda, perhaps the most solid defenseman the franchise has had, has stated his desire to remain in Columbus, and the Blue Jackets have hinted in recent weeks that the feeling is mutual. (dispatch.com)

It is clear that when Jan Hejda is on the ice, his team outscores their opponents.  It is also clear that his team is outshot significantly in the process.  The logical conclusion is that Hejda forces opponents to take bad shots instead of creating good offensive opportunities.  This is consistent with observation of his play.  (Kukla's Korner)
A) Possibly - $2 mil would be a help, although he may not single-handedly push us over the magic $48.3.  But in combination with 2 young goalies, this could be a great signing.  
B) Yes - He's more of a shut-down defenseman, which would allow EJ to concentrate more on that spiffy shot of his.  
C) Maybe - He's 33, but he's only had 5 season in the NHL.   
D) Yes - He's basically the same size as EJ and recorded 152 hits last year.  He'd easily bring a physical nature to our blueline.  

Other UFA's of Note:

Bryan McCabe, NYR, 36, $5:75 mil, 28pts, 15:54 ATOI, 6'2, 233, L

Sami Salo, VAN, 26, $3.5 mil, 7pts, 20:20 ATOI, 6'3, 212, R

James Wisniewski, MTL, 27, $3.25 mil, 30pts, 22:42 ATOI, 5'11, 208, R

Brent Sopel, MTL, 34, $2.333 mil, 7pts, 15:54 ATOI, 6'2, 205, R

Radek Martinek, NYI, 34, $1.5 mil, 35pts, 20:50 ATOI, 6'2, 210, R

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