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Offseason Playbook: Defensemen

We've looked at the goalies, and here's a peek at the defensemen.

Up until the Detroit series, this was a position of strength for the team, but there will likely be some personnel changes this offseason. Currently under contract (with cap hit in parentheses):

  • Scott Hannan ($4,500,000)

  • Brett Clark ($3,500,000)

  • {{salei}} ($3,025,000)

  • {{leopold}} ($1,500,000)

  • {{cumiskey}} ($475,000)

All told, that's $13 million committed with at least 2 more players to come. I'm not very versed on our minor league system, but it doesn't seem like there's anyone in the "cubbard" who'll be ready to play soon. The top scoring defenseman for Lake Erie last year was former 7th round pick Michael Vernace, who notched 29 points.

The list of free agents is almost as long:

  • {{foote}}

  • {{liles}}

  • {{finger}}

  • {{sauer}}

  • {{jillson}}

  • {{boychuk}} (RFA)

Obviously, we won't be re-signing all of these guys. I'd be shocked if we signed more than two and wouldn't be completely surprised if we didn't see any of them wearing the unipron next year. I'd love to see both Foote and Liles return, but I'm guessing both guys will be pushing $4 million on their next contract. I absolutely do not want to see Liles move on, but, especially with Cumiskey on the roster, I think his time in Denver is about to come to an end. Too bad.

I'm a fan of both Finger and Sauer, even if their limitations were exposed a bit in the postseason. I doubt that both (either?) will be back next year. If I had to chose, I'd take Finger and then start a letter writing campaign to the team to find a coach who will encourage Finger to use that blistering shot of his on the powerplay.

As for other guys on the free agent market, there's some good-if-not-great players out there. Wade Redden seems to be the big fish (I'd pass), but there's other intriguing names on the list - Mattias Norstrom, Brad Stuart (again), Jason Smith (a guy I've always liked), Michal Rozsival, Brian Campbell, and Mark Streit to name a few (is there another big name I'm missing?). There's some intriguing RFAs as well, like Joni Pitkanen and Jay Bouwmeester, but I have a tough time picturing Francois Giguere going the RFA route.

I have to be honest - I don't have a clue what the Avs are going to do here. I suspect Foote is going to be the prime target, but beyond that I'm really curious to see what Giguere is going to do. With a good foundation already locked up, I don't know that the Avs will make a Hannan-like splash here this year.