#7 / Defense / New Jersey Devils
2013 Cap Hit: $1,300,000
Defense. Mark Fayne's biggest strength this past season was, simply put, his defense. He was excellent in pairing with the criminally underrated Andy Greene as NJ's top pairing. Fayne combined with Greene to consistently face by far the toughest competition of the Devils blueliners and excelled to a level that would surprise anybody who has yet to look up their numbers. Simply put, the Greene-Fayne combo was awesome. They dominated excellent competition night in and night out. Fayne, specifically, was given the most defensive zone starts and it did nothing to sway him from continuing his excellence. Despite his lack of offense, Fayne is well-equipped to play a more offensive role in a system that allows the defensemen more freedom to play with the puck than New Jersey currently does. He likely won't ever wow anyone and should he hit the 30 point mark it would be surprising but his passing and vision would allow him to thrive offensively in other systems. His positioning defensively is sound and he has excellent size along the blueline to consistently overwhelm opponents.
Fayne's biggest knock in my eyes is his overall lack of physicality. He's not afraid of contact but unlike the recently re-signed Matt Greene, he isn't looking to constantly use his excellent size to physically overwhelm and punish opponents for coming across his blueline. Despite playing on their top pairing, Fayne only averaged 18:18 TOI per game. This mostly had to do with the Devils defense being stocked full of PK/PP specialists such as Volchenkov/Salvador on the PK and Gelinas on the PP but he still hasn't proven he can be a minute-munching horse over the long haul. Outside of that, I honestly don't have any negative bullets in the gun to fire off. Fayne was excellent last year and overcame his lack of killer instinct to still put up outstanding possession numbers against top competition. How big of a weakness could he really have had?
Fayne was an absolute steal for the Devils last season as he completed a 2-year, $2.6M contract. As he just finished a career year, one can expect the Devils defensive logjam to prevent Fayne's return to NJ and means he should hit the market and be eyeballing the same kind of contract Anton Stralman is.
Why It Works:
He was great defensively last year and the Avs weren't. This is the 5th defenseman preview I've written and I've run out of clever ways to say the Avs are bad defensively and need help and almost all of these guys would be upgrades over the likes of Nate Guenin/Nick Holden/Cory Sarich.
Sign him. He's my top target this off-season. He instantly becomes our second best defenseman behind EJ and I don't care that he's right-handed. You bring that talent in and make it work. Done.