NHL Free Agent Predictions – Defensemen

The Free Agents

Unrestricted

  • Andrei Markov, 38: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $5,750,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Montreal:
      • 62 regular season games: 6 goals, 30 assists, +18 rating, 12 powerplay points, 1 shorthanded point, 6.1 S%, 21:50 ATOI, 39 hits, 73 blocks, 54.0 CF%
      • 6 playoff games: 0 goals, 1 assist, -1 rating, 26:09 ATOI, 4 hits, 10 blocks
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Markov is an aging veteran who has changed his style of play in recent seasons and has developed himself into a slower, more methodical type of player.  By making that change in his play, he has proven that he is still capable of making an effective defenseman in the NHL.  Even as he has aged, Markov missed just two games over the past four seasons before this season.  He is also still important to the Canadiens and played on their top defense-pairing this season with Shea Weber.  I think that there will be mutual interest from both sides to get a deal done to ensure that Markov returns to Montreal next season.  The Canadiens have two young defensemen in Nathan Beaulieu and Mikhail Sergachev, who will both eventually develop into top four defensemen, but that time hasn’t occurred yet.  Markov is a vital part of the Canadiens’ defense group and will play a role in helping the team’s young defensemen develop in the NHL.
      • Markov has only ever played for Montreal and has made sacrifices to help the team and to ensure that the team has had cap room to sign other players.  He has had the same cap hit now for ten seasons when he easily could have asked for an average salary of over $6 million.  I think that the Canadiens owe it to Markov to offer him a fair deal and help make sure that he is able to finish out his career with the Habs.  I expect that Markov and Montreal agree to a two year deal with an AAV of $5 million.  This is still a slight reduction in salary from his previous cap hit but is actually a raise from the $4.25 million in actually salary he earned last season.  Two years will allow Sergachev and Beaulieu to further develop and also take Markov to age 40 when retirement will be a serious consideration.
  • Dennis Wideman, 34: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $5,250,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Calgary:
      • 57 regular season games: 5 goals, 13 assists, -6 rating, 5 powerplay points, 5.7 S%, 20:14 ATOI, 61 hits, 74 blocks, 50.2 CF%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Wideman has had quite a bit of struggles over the past two seasons, beginning with last season’s suspension for making contact with an official and culminating with only playing in 57 regular season games this season.  He also didn’t dress for any of their four playoff games.  I am completely confident that Calgary does not want him back as they have a fairly competent defense group already and have plenty of cap space to sign more talented defensemen than Wideman on the free agent market.  I also don’t know how many other teams will even have interest in him since his game really doesn’t translate well to the modern game.  I think because of that there is a chance Wideman either has to play in a European league or retire.  However, I will still list teams that I think could have interest in him.  These are New Jersey, Arizona, Chicago, Colorado, and Vancouver.
      • I think with the potential of Chicago losing a defenseman in the Expansion Draft, they will have an opening with next to no cap space available.  I think that they will sign Wideman to a 1 year, $950,000 deal.
  • Mark Streit, 39: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $5,250,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, split between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh:
      • 68 regular season games: 6 goals, 21 assists, -12 rating, 13 powerplay points, 5.3 S%, 18:45 ATOI, 38 hits, 92 blocks, 52.3 CF%
      • 3 playoff games: 0 goals, 2 assists, -1 rating, 15:03 ATOI, 3 hits, 4 blocks
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Although Streit is nearing 40 years old and is approaching the end of his career, he is still very talented and brings a skillset that is useful to many teams.  He isn’t as good of a shutdown defender as he once was and his footspeed has taken a step back, but he is still really good on the powerplay and has one of the best shots from the point in the league still.  I think with the way Streit has played for the Penguins, he should still draw serious interest from teams looking to better their powerplay.  I think that Colorado, Vancouver, New York Islanders, Arizona, and Florida.
      • I think that Streit will end up signing a 1 year, $2.5 million deal with the Panthers.  Florida could use a veteran presence on their blueline and they can certainly use help at improving their powerplay.
  • Dmitry Kulikov, 26: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $4,333,334
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Buffalo:
      • 47 regular season games: 2 goals, 3 assists, -26 rating, 3 powerplay points, 4.8 S%, 21:54 ATOI, 60 hits, 72 blocks, 45.2 CF%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Kulikov’s value has taken a significant hit after his one season with Buffalo.  He had a career low in points, tied for his worst season in plus/minus rating, wasn’t productive on the powerplay, despite receiving his average ice time of his career. I attribute much of this to the lackluster coaching of Dan Bylsma, who has been proven to not be a very good tactical coach and that his success with Pittsburgh was the result of their roster.  I think that Kulikov is still highly valuable, still young enough to turn his career around, and could benefit greatly from playing for a better head coach with a solid system.  I think that he serves best on a team’s second pairing and is still able to skate well and move the puck well.  I’m actually pretty confident that Buffalo will make a strong push to re-sign Kulikov but they are going to have to present a serious offer after the lackluster season he just had there.  I also think that New Jersey, Toronto, Arizona, Calgary, Colorado, Dallas, Edmonton, San Jose, and Vancouver will all be interested in signing Kulikov.
      • I predict that Kulikov will sign with Dallas on a 2 year deal with an AAV of $3.75 million.  This will allow him to prove that he is a talented defenseman while also giving the Stars a solid addition to a questionable defense group.  Playing under head coach Ken Hitchcock will also be beneficial to Kulikov’s game.
  • Kevin Shattenkirk, 28: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $4,250,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, split between St. Louis and Washington:
      • 80 regular season games: 13 goals, 43 assists, -7 rating, 28 powerplay points, 8.1 S%, 19:56 ATOI, 88 hits, 95 blocks, 52.9 CF%
      • 13 playoff games: 1 goal, 5 assists, -4 rating, 1 powerplay goal, 2.8 S%, 18:27 ATOI, 20 hits, 22 blocks
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Shattenkirk was the biggest piece moved at the trade deadline this season and will be the biggest available free agent this summer.  He is also almost guaranteed to be overpaid as most big ticket free agents are.  His tenure with the Washington Capitals did not help to elevate his status as a defenseman and was often out of position and looked to be lost in his own zone at times.  If you look at his on-ice statistics, Shattenkirk is not a top pairing defenseman based on how he has been used throughout his career.  He averaged just under 20 minutes of ice time per night while top pairing d-men typically are in the 23-25 minute range.  He doesn’t kill penalties well and wasn’t used much on the PK this season and therefore isn’t an all-situation player.  Despite this, I do understand that he will be paid like a top pairing defenseman and is certain to get a long-term contract and is certain to become one of the highest paid defensemen in the league.  There are also a lot of teams that will be lining up to pitch offers to Shattenkirk, trying to find that elusive number one defenseman.  I think that Buffalo, Montreal, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Toronto, Calgary, and Dallas.
      • It has been a foregone conclusion that Shattenkirk was going to win up signing with the Rangers, as they have the need for a player with his skillset and he is from the New York City area.  However, for this to happen, the Rangers are going to have to free up some money because signing Shattenkirk would mean they would be unable to re-sign their current free agents.  I actually don’t think that he will end up as a Ranger and believe that it will come down to Buffalo, New Jersey, and Dallas.  I put Buffalo and New Jersey in the conversation because they are both in the state of New York and they both have plenty of cap space to sign him to a big deal.  I also think that Dallas could be involved because they have a lot of cap space with a need for Shattenkirk, plus there is no sales tax in Texas so he would maximize his actual earnings.  All three of these teams are also either current contenders or are moving towards becoming contenders.  I am actually predicting that he will end up signing with Buffalo to a 7 year deal with an AAV of $8 million.  That will make him the second highest paid defenseman in the league in terms of annual cap hit.  I also think that a darkhorse contender could be the Maple Leafs but Shattenkirk would have to be comfortable signing a two or three year deal but Toronto could afford to pay him $10 million per season, making him the highest paid defenseman. He would also have a very good chance to win a Stanley Cup with Toronto before hitting free agency again.  It’s something to keep in mind.
  • Michael Stone, 27: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $4,000,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, split between Arizona and Calgary:
      • 64 regular season games: 3 goals, 12 assists, Even Rating, 5 powerplay points, 3.7 S%, 19:49 ATOI, 125 hits, 143 blocks, 43.5 CF%
      • 4 playoff games: 1 goal, 0 assists, -1 rating, 20.0 S%, 18:46 ATOI, 8 hits, 10 blocks
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • For me, it is difficult to determine the quality of defenseman that Michael Stone is, after playing his entire career with the Coyotes before being moved to Calgary at this year’s trade deadline.  He has been an above 50% Corsi player just one time in his career, but has proven to be a solid point producer throughout his career.  That being said, it is hard to judge someone when they play for Arizona, a franchise that typically doesn’t have an overly talented roster.  He played much better after being traded to the Flames and proved that he can be a solid top four defenseman on most teams in the league.  He can play in all situations and is a good weapon on a team’s second powerplay unit.  I think that Stone could be viewed as an alternative to Kevin Shattenkirk and there will probably be plenty of teams wanting to sign him in an offseason that has a fairly weak free agent market.  Considering how well he fit in Calgary, I think that they will make a push to re-sign him and Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, New Jersey, the Rangers, and Dallas could all have interest.
      • I predict that Stone will re-sign with Calgary and agree to a 6 year deal with an AAV of $5 million.  I was a little torn on the term with this deal because Stone is already 27 years old and signed a one year bridge deal last offseason with Arizona, his last year as an RFA.  Being that age means that even a short-term contract takes him past his prime and a max deal of eight years makes him 35 years old, possibly making it difficult to sign a new contract towards the end of his career.  I think that six years is a nice length for his deal because it is line with the lengths the Flames front office have given to their free agents in the past.  It also gives Stone security and he will have interest in re-signing with Calgary as they are a competitive franchise that should continue getting better and he is from Manitoba, and will mean he is closer to home.
  • Michael Del Zotto, 27: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $3,875,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Philadelphia:
      • 51 regular season games: 6 goals, 12 assists, -5 rating, 1 powerplay point, 1 shorthanded point, 6.5 S%, 19:30 ATOI, 173 hits, 85 blocks, 50.5 CF%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Del Zotto has had an up and down career thus far, struggling with the Rangers and then bouncing back in his three seasons with the Flyers.  This past season wasn’t his best, often a healthy scratch down the stretch.  He has also missed at least 15 games each of the past three seasons, bringing into question his ability to stay on the ice.  Despite that, Del Zotto is still a solid puck-moving defenseman who has shown an ability to play a struck puck possession game during his time with Philadelphia.  In a free agent period with a weak defensemen market, Del Zotto is going to be attractive to a team looking to find an offensive-first defenseman who can anchor their powerplay.  Teams who are interested in signing Kevin Shattenkirk will be intrigued by Del Zotto and he could be a solid fallback option.  I think that Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, New Jersey, Calgary, and Dallas will all have interest in signing Del Zotto.
      • I think that Dallas will sign Del Zotto to a 2 year deal with an AAV of $3.5 million.  This will give Dallas a left-handed defenseman who can play on the powerplay and could be beneficial to the Stars’ young defensemen as they continue to develop.  Two years also protects Dallas and forces Del Zotto to earn another contract and he will still be young enough to receive a long-term deal if he performs well.
  • Johnny Oduya, 35: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $3,750,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, split between Dallas and Chicago:
      • 52 regular season games: 2 goals, 7 assists, -4 rating, 5.4 S%, 18:16 ATOI, 29 hits, 123 blocks, 46.8 CF%
      • 4 playoff games: 0 goals, 0 assists, -3 rating, 19:21 ATOI, 2 hits, 7 blocks
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Oduya is no longer the strong puck possession defenseman he was when he was originally with Chicago.  At his age, playing top four minutes isn’t a reality but he can still be valuable to a competitive team looking to add depth and a winning, veteran presence to their roster.  I also think that some of the bad teams in the league will be interested in him but at his age, getting a chance at another Stanley Cup has to be important to him.  I think that Buffalo, Detroit, Florida, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Arizona, Colorado, Edmonton, and Vancouver could all be teams trying to sign him.
      • I think that Oduya will end up signing with Florida on a 2 year deal with an AAV of $2.5 million.
  • Cody Franson, 29: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $3,325,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Buffalo:
      • 68 regular season games: 3 goals, 16 assists, -5 rating, 2 powerplay points, 3.2 S%, 18:29 ATOI, 87 hits, 68 blocks, 50.4 CF%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • At 6’5″, Cody Franson is one of the tallest defensemen in the NHL, yet has the skating ability of a player of a shorter stature. Throughout his career he has shown the ability to get to pucks efficiently and can skate the puck out of the defensive zone quite well.  He is not known for his offense, however, so looking at his offensive output is not a good indicator of his performance.  He has been a solid possession type player throughout his career, even if the his two seasons in Buffalo weren’t beneficial for this metric, since Dan Bylsma hasn’t been the strongest analytics-driven coach.  I think that Cody Franson has a lot to bring to many teams, especially those seeking to increase their size on the back end.  Teams like Detroit, New Jersey, New York Rangers, Toronto, Washington, Edmonton, and Vancouver.  I also think that Buffalo will be interested in re-signing Franson but they will have to convince him that their new head coach will actually be beneficial to his career.
      • I think that Franson will land with the Maple Leafs on a 2 year deal with an AAV of $3.5 million.
  • Trevor Daley, 33: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $3,300,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Pittsburgh:
      • 56 regular season games: 5 goals, 14 assists, +7 rating, 4 powerplay points, 1 shorthanded point, 6.0 S%, 20:23 ATOI, 29 hits, 83 blocks, 46.1 CF%
      • 21 playoff games: 1 goal, 4 assists, +7 rating, 1 powerplay point, 3.8 S%, 19:07 ATOI, 15 hits, 31 blocks
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Daley has had a resurgence to his career in his year and a half with the Penguins.  He has emerged as one of the better puck-moving defensemen on the team and has been relied upon in every situation.  In this year’s playoffs, he has been one of Pittsburgh’s most depended upon defensemen with the absence of Kris Letang.  I think that his play will have many teams interested in signing him and I’m certain that Pittsburgh would like to re-sign him but he has most likely played his way out of their budget.  I could see Boston, Florida, Montreal, New Jersey, New York Rangers, Toronto, Calgary, and Edmonton offering contracts to Daley.
      • I think that Daley will sign a 4 year deal with an AAV of $4 million with the Rangers.  Daley will bring an ability to move the puck, something that the team currently lacks outside of Ryan McDonagh and Brady Skjei.  I also see the Rangers trading away one of Marc Staal or Dan Girardi this offseason, freeing up money and opening up a spot on the defense.
  • Kris Russell, 30: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $3,100,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Edmonton:
      • 68 regular season games: 1 goal, 12 assists, +5 rating, 1 powerplay point, 1.5 S%, 21:13 ATOI, 67 hits, 213 blocks, 46.5 CF%
      • 13 playoff games: 0 goals, 4 assists, +2 rating, 22:02 ATOI, 21 hits, 54 blocks
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Kris Russell is the game’s premiere shot-blocker, a skill that is more valuable today than at any other point in league history. He is not a skilled offensive defenseman and he has had a negative Corsi each of the past four seasons.  There is a logical reason for this, however, since Corsi includes blocked shots and Russell blocks a lot of them.  Despite all of these blocked shots, he still needs to attempt more shots than he has been throughout his career.  Russell should gain the attention of teams seeking to strengthen their defense and aren’t looking to gain offense out of his spot.  He does make life easier for his goaltender by insulating them from seeing an abundance of shots.  I think that Edmonton will have interest in re-signing Russell but they may not want to go as long as he will be seeking.  I also think that Buffalo, Dallas, and St. Louis will all have interest in him.
      • I predict that Dallas and Russell will agree to a 5 year deal with an AAV of $3.75 million.  Russell played for Dallas just a season ago but he should have interest in returning there since Ken Hitchcock is the coach there and Russell played for him when he was with St. Louis and Columbus.  Dallas also needs help on the blueline as they gave up way too many goals the last couple of seasons.  With new goaltender Ben Bishop in Dallas, this should already help the Stars and a defenseman who can insulate Bishop will go even further.  The 5 year deal may seem long but it lowers his AAV to a very reasonable level.  Plus, he won’t have to pay any state taxes living in Texas so his actual earnings will be higher than if he played for nearly any other team.
  • Deryk Engelland, 35: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $2,916,668
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Calgary:
      • 81 regular season games: 4 goals, 12 assists, +2 rating, 3.7 S%, 18:20 ATOI, 135 hits, 134 blocks, 46.6 CF%
      • 4 playoff games: 0 goals, 0 assists, -3 rating, 15:17 ATOI, 8 hits, 8 blocks
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • For some unknown reason, Engelland was given a three year, $8.75 million deal by Calgary and that contract has finally expires.  He is a two-way defenseman who can produce while also playing a hard-nosed game.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t really do any of these very well and is only a third pairing defenseman and his minutes should be limited.  I don’t really think any teams trying to compete for a Stanley Cup next season will have interest in Engelland since he can’t really bring any positives to a team.  Therefore, I think that Detroit, New Jersey, Arizona, Colorado, and Vancouver may have interest in him.  If none of these teams do, then he will probably only be signed to a depth role as a seventh or eighth defenseman and would likely spend much of the season in the AHL.
      • I think that Engelland will sign a 1 year, $1 million deal with Vancouver.  The Canucks will not be good anytime soon and will players to fill out their roster.
  • Ron Hainsey, 36: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $2,833,333
    • 2016-17 Stats, split between Carolina and Pittsburgh:
      • 72 regular season games: 4 goals, 13 assists, -8 rating, 3 shorthanded points, 5.6 S%, 22:02 ATOI, 93 hits, 120 blocks, 49.8 CF%
      • 25 playoff games: 2 goals, 6 assists, +5 rating, 6.9 S%, 21:07 ATOI, 37 hits, 44 blocks
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Hainsey has played incredibly well for Pittsburgh after being acquired by them from Carolina at the trade deadline.  In his first taste of the playoffs in his long career, he has arguably been the team’s best defenseman, averaging over 21 minutes of ice time per game.  He is a defensively responsible defenseman who doesn’t bring much to a team’s offense but has generally been a good shot suppressor, and has been a near 50% Corsi player for his career.  He has actually had a worse Corsi with Pittsburgh than he did with Carolina, largely a representation of how poorly Pittsburgh has been controlling shots recently.  I actually think that it would be smart for the Penguins to consider re-signing Hainsey to a one-year deal if he is willing to accept that short of a contract. They could probably sign him to a cheap contract, which is key since the Penguins won’t have much cap space next season.  They also currently have just three defensemen under contract for next season and having a veteran with experience in the team’s system could be key to the franchise’s continued success.  In addition to the Penguins, I think that Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Toronto, and Dallas will all be interested in signing Hainsey.
      • If the Maple Leafs decide they don’t want to sign Franson to a multi-year deal, they would likely have interest in Hainsey and would like that he would probably settle for a one-year deal.  However, I think that Hainsey will re-sign with the Penguins for 1 year and $2 million.
  • Karl Alzner, 28: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $2,800,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Washington:
      • 82 regular season games: 3 goals, 10 assists, +23 rating, 3.7 S%, 19:47 ATOI, 105 hits, 162 blocks, 46.3 CF%
      • 7 playoff games: 0 goals, 0 assists, -1 rating, 15:45 ATOI, 9 hits, 12 blocks,
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Karl Alzner is a free agent who is almost guaranteed to be overpaid this offseason.  He is not an offensive defenseman but is a solid shutdown defender who is typically a solid skater.  He didn’t have a great season last year but it has been rumored that this was because of lingering side effects from sports hernia surgery he underwent last offseason.  He still managed to play in every regular season game for the seventh consecutive season.  Any team who had problems at preventing goals from being scored should be interested in signing Alzner.  I think these will include Colorado, Dallas, Arizona, Detroit, New Jersey, Toronto, Buffalo, Florida, Calgary, and Vancouver.
      • I believe that Toronto will sign Alzner to a 5 year deal with an AAV of $4.5 million.  The Maple Leafs could certainly use a defenseman with Alzner’s skillset and if they can get him locked in at $4.5 million it will make it cost effective for the team, especially with the need to extend Jake Gardiner, Auston Matthews, and Mitch Marner in the next few seasons.  For Alzner, he will get an excellent opportunity to win a Stanley Cup.
  • Brendan Smith, 28: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $2,750,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, split between Detroit and the Rangers:
      • 51 regular season games: 3 goal, 6 assists, +1 rating, 3 powerplay points, 4.8 S%, 19:15 ATOI, 59 hits, 65 blocks, 49.7 CF%
      • 12 playoff games: 0 goals, 4 assists, +8 rating, 19:41 ATOI, 25 hits, 14 blocks
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Similar to Karl Alzner, Smith is not much of an offensive threat from the blueline.  That being said, Smith is still a very effective defenseman who played quite well after being traded to the Rangers at the trade deadline.  He helped form a solid pairing with Brady Skjei and that duo was the Rangers’ best in the playoffs.  I think that re-signing Smith is actually a better allocation of funds than signing Kevin Shattenkirk, especially since Shattenkirk will cost significantly more.  If the Rangers miss out on signing Shattenkirk, I definitely think that they will pursue Smith.  However, none of this will be possible if they don’t find a way to move one of or both Marc Staal and Dan Girardi this offseason.  In addition to the Rangers, I think that Buffalo, Detroit, Florida, New Jersey, Arizona, Colorado, Vancouver, and Dallas will have interest in signing Smith.
      • I think that the Rangers will re-sign Smith to a 4 year deal with an AAV of $4.25 million.
  • Roman Polak, 31: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $2,250,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Toronto:
      • 75 regular season games: 4 goals, 7 assists, +10 rating, 6.3 S%, 17:55 ATOI, 232 hits, 133 blocks, 47.3 CF%
      • 2 playoff games: 0 goals, 0 assists, +1 rating, 17:37 ATOI, 9 hits, 4 blocks
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • At 6’2″, 235 pounds, Polak plays a heavy type game and is a defensive defenseman who brings very little to his team’s offense.  He broke his leg early into Toronto’s first round matchup against Washington but has said that he will be ready for next season.  I am almost entirely certain that Toronto will not re-sign Polak since they are looking to allow their younger players take bigger roles on the team.  I do think that he will have some suitors this offseason, especially teams looking to get bigger in size on the blueline.  Vancouver, Chicago, and New Jersey could all be interested in signing him. Teams looking to get better at preventing goals could also be interested in Polak except that I think there are better defensive defensemen on the market than Polak who are better puck-movers.
      • I think that Polak will sign a 1 year, $1 million contract with Chicago.  I understand that Chicago doesn’t have the cap space to sign him but they are going to need to move salary this offseason to even be cap compliant to start the season as is. They are likely to lose Trevor van Riemsdyk in the Expansion Draft, giving them just six defensemen for next season and Polak could be a bargain for the Blackhawks.  This would also be a good situation for Polak as he is unlikely to receive a multi-year offer with the injury he is recovering from.
  • Chad Ruhwedel, 27: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $575,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Pittsburgh:
      • 34 regular season games: 2 goals, 8 assists, +9 rating, 3 powerplay points, 4.4 S%, 17:20 ATOI, 36 hits, 26 blocks, 48.5 CF%
      • 6 playoff games: 0 goals, 0 assists, -3 rating, 14:07 ATOI, 12 hits, 3 blocks
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Chad Ruhwedel has emerged as a solid, puck-moving defenseman with some offensive upside while playing for the Penguins as a result of numerous injuries their blueline incurred.  He played this season on a one year deal worth the league minimum and should receive several multi-year offers this offseason as teams will probably be willing to take a chance on him.  I am certain that Pittsburgh would like to re-sign Ruhwedel since he is familiar with their system and has proven capable of succeeding while being asked to pinch down in the offensive zone.  The Penguins will also likely be losing Trevor Daley and there have been rumors that they may even trade Olli Maatta this offseason.  In addition, Detroit, New Jersey, Washington, Arizona, Colorado, Los Angeles, and Vancouver could all be interested in Ruhwedel.
      • I think that Ruhwedel will sign a 2 year deal with an AAV of $1.5 million with Los Angeles.  Ruhwedel is from southern California so he could have interest in returning to that area plus the Kings have a need on their blueline with the cap space to sign him.
  • Yannick Weber, 28: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $575,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Nashville:
      • 73 regular season games: 1 goal, 7 assists, +1 rating, 1.4 S%, 11:55 ATOI, 72 hits, 53 blocks, 47.7 CF%
      • 22 playoff games: 0 goals, 1 assist, Even Rating, 11:09 ATOI, 20 hits, 8 blocks
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Re-signed 6/13: 1 year, $650,000
      • Weber was signed by Nashville last offseason to provide some defensive depth.  He ended up spending most of the season in the team’s starting lineup and played quite well in an insulated role with restricted ice time.  Predators’ head coach Peter Laviolette has been excellent in his usage of Weber, putting him on the ice against the opposition’s bottom six forwards as much as possible.  I think that anyone Nashville signs to play on their third defense pairing will be played on a limited role considering the quality of the team’s top four defensemen.  Because of that, I feel fairly confident that the Predators will look to re-sign Weber and Weber will have interest in re-signing with the team because he has looked quite good playing in Laviolette’s system.  He was paid the league minimum this season and will receive a raise from whichever team he signs with.
      • I think that Weber will re-sign with Nashville on a 2 year deal with an AAV of $1.5 million.  This deal rewards Weber for how well he played with the Predators this season and it also continues to give the team solid defensive depth.  The length of this deal is smart because it doesn’t put Nashville at risk by signing him to a lengthy deal.  The team also doesn’t want to offer a long-term deal to Weber because they have three talented defense prospects in Dante Fabbro, Samuel Girard, and Frederic Allard, all in their minors and should be receiving their call-ups to the NHL club in the next few seasons.

Restricted

  • Erik Gudbranson, 25: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $3,500,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Vancouver:
      • 30 regular season games: 1 goal, 5 assists, -14 rating, 2.5 S%, 20:20 ATOI, 66 hits, 44 blocks, 47.6 CF%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • At 6’5″, 220 pounds, Gudbranson has the size of a defenseman teams should be lining up to sign.  Instead, he has never developed into being even an average defenseman and next season may be his last opportunity to prove that he can stay in the NHL if he doesn’t perform.  With how quickly prospects are able to slot into NHL lineups anymore, there isn’t room or time for once-coveted prospects to take a long time to develop. I think that only mediocre teams like Arizona, Buffalo, Detroit, Colorado, and Vancouver will be interested in Gudbranson as they will have open spots on the blueline and won’t have high expectations for Gudbranson.
      • I think that Vancouver will re-sign Gudbranson to a 1 year, $1.5 million deal.
  • Dmitry Orlov, 25: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $2,750,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Washington:
      • 82 regular season games: 6 goals, 27 assists, +30 rating, 6 powerplay points, 4.8 S%, 19:32 ATOI, 122 hits, 94 blocks, 54.2 CF%
      • 13 playoff games: 0 goals, 3 assists, -1 rating, 21:25 ATOI, 26 hits, 20 blocks
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Orlov has now played three consecutive seasons under bridge contracts and he has to be expecting that it is now the time for him to receive a long-term deal from the Washington Capitals. It just so happens that he is also needing a new contract following a year when he had his best season of his career. He has now played in all 82 regular season games for the second consecutive season and has had his Corsi For Percentage increase each of the past three seasons.  He also worked with Matt Niskanen to create the most effective defense pairing for the Capitals season, a pairing that was relied upon heavily in the playoffs, skating over 21 minutes each game.  If there is one downside to his game it is that he has had problems with turning the puck over but that along with those turnovers come a high-level offensive skillset that sees him make difficult plays in the offensive zone.  Typically in these RFA situations, the team holds all the bargaining power, but I don’t think that is necessarily the case with these negotiations.  Orlov has already been patient with the Capitals by agreeing to two consecutive bridge contracts, including a one year, $2.57 million deal for this season.  That means that he will be expecting a long-term contract and I think that he is deserving of that deal.  It has also been rumored that a KHL team in Russia has interest in bringing Orlov back to his native country to play in their league so if Washington doesn’t want to be flexible and negotiate with him, he has a backup option. There is something to be said that perhaps Orlov will have interest in returning to Russia with the Olympics situation looming next season.  Washington also knows that they cannot afford to lose Orlov as they are most likely already  going to lose Karl Alzner and won’t be able to afford to re-sign Kevin Shattenkirk, both defensemen.  At to that the potential RFA negotiations with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky and the Capitals are going to have to bend in order to not lose these players, as Kuznetsov could return to Russia as well. Losing any or all of these three players means a significant regression for the team next season.  I think ultimately a deal gets done that sees Orlov in Washington again next season and for the long-term future, but the Capitals are going to have to work with Orlov and give him the length that he wants in order to ensure that he is happy playing for them.
      • I believe that Orlov’s new deal will be for the maximum 8 years as he has mentioned that he wants a long-term deal and going longer will lower his AAV, something the Capitals will want.  I believe that the AAV on his contract will be $5 million, a significant increase from his previous contract while also giving Washington a bargain when comparing him to other top four defensemen with the potential of developing into a top pairing player.  It also covers Orlov’s prime years and means that there may only be one down year at the end of the contract, when he is 33 years old.
  • Calvin de Haan, 26: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $1,966,668
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with the Islanders:
      • 82 regular season games: 5 goals, 20 assists, +15 rating, 2 powerplay points, 4.3 S%, 19:51 ATOI, 139 hits, 190 blocks, 48.0 CF%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Calvin de Haan has emerged as one of the Islanders’ better defensemen on a unit that includes several high quality ones. He appeared in all 82 regular season games for the first time in his career, had his best season offensively, setting career highs in goals, assists, and plus/minus, and had a great showing for Team Canada at World’s.  He is coming off a three year bridge deal that carried an annual cap hit of just under $2 million and will likely be looking for something long-term in the 3-5 year range and is deserving of a serious raise in salary.  The issue is that while the Islanders would love to be able to re-sign him, they are in a bit of a problem with their salary cap situation and have just over $2 million available in cap space and de Haan will be getting paid significantly more than that annually.  As a result of giving hefty contracts to aging free agents, they will have to move at least one big contract (Jaroslav Halak or Mikhail Grabovski) in order to free up the space to re-sign de Haan.  There is also the chance that they could lose de Haan in the Expansion Draft as they are going to be unable to protect him.  If that is the case, and they can’t free up the cap space to re-sign him before the Expansion Draft, then I think that they will either have to pull some strings and ensure Vegas doesn’t take de Haan, or the Islanders will trade him preemptively.  The Red Wings have been linked to him already, the Capitals could have interest in him, the Maple Leafs could trade one of their young forwards for him, and I think that the Avalanche would be interested in acquiring him in a package for Gabriel Landeskog.
      • I think that regardless of who signs de Haan, his deal will be for 7 years (or 8 if the Islanders re-sign him) with and AAV of $5 million.  This may seem excessive but de Haan will be looking for some security and $5 million per season is a nice number for some with top four capability.  For the team, locking him down now would be smart, since it is a fair market price for his current abilities and a bargain if he continues to develop offensively like he has.  Plus, eight years takes him to 34, meaning that there may only be one or two down years at the back end of the contract.
  • Andrej Sustr, 26: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $1,450,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Tampa Bay:
      • 80 regular season games: 3 goals, 11 assists, -10 rating, 3.2 S%, 17:35 ATOI, 45 hits, 102 blocks, 49.0 CF%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • What Tampa Bay does with Andrej Sustr this offseason will be an interesting situation to watch as the summer progresses. He is a defensive defensemen who is very tall at 6’7″ but isn’t overly physically, compiling just 139 hits in 274 NHL games. This season he finally developed into a shot-blocker but he is certainly going to have to work on becoming more of a shutdown defender in order to excel in the league.  This season wasn’t a very good one for him to come out of immediately before reaching free agency, as his Corsi numbers regressed from last season to this one, and the team was actually better when he was off-ice compared to when he was on-ice.  While on the ice, the team also had a PDO of 98.9 while the league average should 100.0.  There is something to be said about who his defensive partner was this season, as he split between playing with Braydon Coburn and Jason Garrison.  Coburn is a good defenseman with solid Corsi numbers while Garrison is quite bad.  Sustr also started in the defensive zone nearly 64% of the time, inflating his negative Corsi numbers.  Sustr certainly has room to grow as a defenseman but is still quite good and the Lightning should seek to re-sign him, especially with the state of their defense outside of Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman.  However, financially the Lightning may not be able to reach a deal with Sustr with all of the other free agents they have to make decisions on this offseason.  If the team doesn’t think they will have the money to make a deal work or if they want to spend their assets elsewhere, then I think there will be plenty of teams with which the Lightning can trade with.  Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, New Jersey, Toronto, Arizona, Calgary, Colorado, Dallas, and Vancouver would all put forth packages for Sustr.
      • I think that ultimately Sustr will re-sign with Tampa Bay to a 2 year deal with an AAV of $3.25 million.  I think this falls in line with what the Lightning have done with Nikita Kucherov and Andrei Vasilevskiy.  Two years allow Sustr to hit free agency as a 28 year old, when he would be able to capitalize on his earning potential but it also gives him a raise compared to what he earned last season.
  • Justin Schultz, 26: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $1,400,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Pittsburgh:
      • 78 regular season games: 12 goals, 39 assists, +27 rating, 20 powerplay points, 7.8 S%, 20:27 ATOI, 67 hits, 116 blocks, 51.2 CF%
      • 21 playoff games: 4 goals, 9 assists, 3 powerplay goals, 15.4 S%, 19:44 ATOI, 16 hits, 27 blocks
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Justin Schultz has rejuvenated his career with Pittsburgh after falling out of favor with Edmonton.  He signed with the Oilers as a college free agent after a fairly illustrious three seasons with the University of Wisconsin but never amassed more than 33 points in a season in his three full seasons in Edmonton.  His style of play has fit in perfectly with the system Mike Sullivan implements and he has become one of the game’s better offensive defensemen who is also savvy in his own zone.  He re-signed with the Penguins last offseason on a one year, $1.4 million deal, a bargain for the team as he was coming off a solid playoff performance, helping the team to win a Stanley Cup.  This season, his first full one in Pittsburgh, he was even better, and his 51 points were tied for seventh most among defensemen.  He also became one of the team’s most trusted blueliners in the playoffs as their defense unit was depleted.  I think that there will be interest on Schultz’s part to return to Pittsburgh for the future as he has had his highest level of success with the Penguins, but there is no way he will agree to play for as low a contract as he did this season.  For Pittsburgh, they will certainly want to bring Schultz back as Trevor Daley, Ron Hainsey, Mark Streit, Brian Dumoulin, and Chad Ruhwedel are all free agents and only Dumoulin is pretty much guaranteed to return.  Add to that the health questions of both Kris Letang and Olli Maatta and there are quite a few potential holes on defense next season. The good news is that they should have the money to re-sign everybody they want, especially if Marc-Andre Fleury waives his NMC and the team doesn’t have to buy him out.  Even so, if they want to re-sign Schultz they are going to have to pay him quite a bit and it is almost a given that he will be their second-highest paid defensemen after Letang.
      • I think that Pittsburgh and Schultz will get a deal done for 5 years with an AAV of $5.25 million.  I predict this number because I don’t think that the team will be willing to go longer than five seasons given Schultz’s age and his relatively short track record of high-level output.  This means that his cap hit increases.  It’s hard to predict his contract because there aren’t a lot of good comparable contracts.  People can suggest the Seth Jones deal with Columbus but they are paying him for future development and hoping to get a bargain when he hits his prime years.  Duncan Keith and Drew Doughty have similar point totals on the season but Schultz isn’t the quality of defensemen that these two are, but then again, not many are.  I think that this contract is a fair number for both sides and Pittsburgh will want to be flexible and work with him because their defense unit will be severely hindered if he doesn’t return.
  • Mark Pysyk, 25: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $1,125,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Florida:
      • 82 regular season games: 4 goals, 13 assists, Even Rating, 4.7 S%, 18:34 ATOI, 72 hits, 99 blocks, 50.9 CF%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • I find it hard to judge Pysyk simply because I didn’t watch many Panthers games this season.  That being said his statistics show that he had the best season of his career, setting career highs in all offensive categories in his first season with Florida.  He seems to fit in well with that team after coming over from Buffalo and should only thrive further with a new coaching staff coming in that the front office is supportive of.  I believe that Florida will want to re-sign him given the strides he took this season and his young age, but the question will come down to length of contract for me.  He has already played on a bridge deal, one that he signed with Buffalo so I am expecting him to want something longer term with more security.  The question will be that because the Panthers weren’t the team to give him that bridge deal, how comfortable will they feel signing him to a longer contract?  I think that they should trust in his development and try getting him locked down to a longer deal with a lower cap hit.
      • I predict that they will agree to a 4 year deal with an AAV of $3.25 million.  This is probably slightly lower than what Pysyk could earn on the open market but there is something to be said about him playing in Florida where there is no state income tax so his earnings are greater than in almost any other location.  For Florida, this is a manageable number that doesn’t handcuff them in the future yet still gives them security of not having to re-negotiate a deal in a couple of seasons.
  • Alex Petrovic, 25: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $1,050,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Florida:
      • 49 regular season games: 1 goal, 13 assists, -1 rating, 1.8 S%, 18:09 ATOI, 106 hits, 55 blocks, 50.8 CF%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Petrovic missed nearly half of this season with a broken ankle he suffered in mid-November and didn’t return until late January.  He is a big, hard-hitting defenseman who has some offensive upside that was starting to show this season and there appears to be more potential to tap into.  He is a draft pick of the Panthers (2nd RD in 2010) so they have interest in seeing him succeed and I think that the two sides will work out a deal.  With new head coach Bob Boughner taking over behind the bench, this could be an excellent opportunity for Petrovic to flourish as Boughner played a similar type game. Petrovic played this season on a bridge contract and I think that he will end up having to settle for another short-term deal in order to better prove what his long-term potential is in the league.
      • I predict that Petrovic will agree to a 2 year deal with an AAV of $2 million with the Panthers.
  • Shayne Gostisbehere, 24: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $925,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Philadelphia:
      • 76 regular season games: 7 goals, 32 assists, -21 rating, 23 powerplay points, 3.5 S%, 19:36 ATOI, 43 hits, 94 blocks, 53.7 CF%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Signed 6/9: 6 year deal with an AAV of $4.5 million
  • Jamie Oleksiak, 24: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $918,750
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Dallas:
      • 41 regular season games: 5 goals, 2 assists, -4 rating, 1 shorthanded point, 15.2 S%, 16:13 ATOI, 51 hits, 53 blocks, 49.4 CF%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Oleksiak, at 6’7″ and 255 pounds, is the kind of defensemen most teams would love to have.  He can be physical, is a very smooth skater, and has good puck-handling skills for someone of his stature.  He has taken quite awhile to develop in Dallas and could be running out of time there, but I feel that part of that could be the result of playing for Lindy Ruff.  That will all change for next season, however, as Ruff is gone and Ken Hitchcock will be behind the bench for the Stars and Hitchcock has long been regarded as one of the game’s better defensive coaches.  He gets a lot out of his defensemen and makes his netminders look really good.  This could be very good for Oleksiak’s career, as he missed time this season with injuries and was also a healthy scratch quite often at the end of the season.  I am certain that Dallas will re-sign Oleksiak but that it will be a short-term until the team is confident that he can succeed in the NHL.
      • I predict that Oleksiak will re-sign with Dallas for 2 years with an AAV of $1.5 million.
  • Nikita Zadorov, 22: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $894,167
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Colorado:
      • 56 regular season games: 0 goals, 10 assists, -20 rating, 2 powerplay points, 19:02 ATOI, 153 hits, 69 blocks, 47.4 CF%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Zadorov is another big defenseman who has yet to develop into a well-rounded player on the blueline.  The good news for him is that the Avalanche are in a place to be patient with him since there aren’t really any expectations of competitiveness in the next few seasons.  For his contract, fellow Avalanche defensemen Tyson Barrie and Erik Johnson are good comparable players to look at.  At 22, the same age as Zadorov, Barrie signed a two-year deal with an AAV of $2.6 million before signing a bigger deal last offseason.  Johnson signed a four-year deal with an AAV of $3.75 million and he was 24 at the time.  I think that a deal closer to Barrie’s will make more sense than Johnson’s since Zadorov hasn’t really proven anything yet in the NHL.  The Avalanche do not want to be stuck paying him for four seasons if he doesn’t develop anymore.  There is always the chance that he will leave the NHL and return to the KHL if Colorado doesn’t meet his requests, but I think that is a risk worth taking.
      • I predict that Zadorov will re-sign with Colorado for 2 years with an AAV of $3 million.
  • Colton Parayko, 24: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $858,750
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with St. Louis:
      • 81 regular season games: 4 goals, 31 assists, +7 rating, 10 powerplay points, 1 shorthanded point, 2.1 S%, 21:12 ATOI, 80 hits, 117 blocks, 50.8 CF%
      • 11 playoff games: 2 goals, 3 assists, +6 rating, 7.4 S%, 23:44 ATOI, 18 hits, 26 blocks
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Colton Parayko took a big step forward this season in his sophomore year.  After the trade of Kevin Shattenkirk, Parayko was given a more responsible role and his ice time increased significantly down the stretch and during the playoffs.  In my opinion, I think that Parayko is the team’s best overall defenseman and that the Blues even let the wrong player go at the deadline and should have traded Pietrangelo. Understanding that, I think that Parayko will continue to develop and see his role increase on the team and will become the Blues most relied-upon defenseman.  As far as contract negotiations go, I think that there are several ways they could go.  GM Doug Armstrong hasn’t been the type of GM to give the maximum eight years in recent negotiations and only gave Alex Pietrangelo seven years and he was a year younger than Parayko is.  Kevin Shattenkirk got four years from the Blues when he was 24 and he is a free agent once again.  I think that there is reason to think Parayko and the Blues could be interested in a deal of either length, and that the Blues would probably like to lock him down long-term while Parayko will have interest in a shorter deal and proving that he is going to continue to develop.
      • I predict that they will agree to a 4 year deal with an AAV of $5.5 million.  Parayko would probably like to only go three years but will end up agreeing to a fourth year.  His cap hit is still reasonable for a defenseman of his caliber and it will also allow him to hit free agency again at 28, when he can maximize on his earning potential.
  • Nate Schmidt, 25: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $812,500
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Washington:
      • 60 regular season games: 3 goals, 14 assists, +22 rating, 1 shorthanded point, 5.0 S%, 15:29 ATOI, 51 hits, 37 blocks, 53.6 CF%
      • 11 playoff games: 1 goal, 3 assists, +6 rating, 5.9 S%, 16:39 ATOI, 8 hits, 11 blocks
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Schmidt has been being groomed to receive a top four role on the blueline next season.  He is a solid defenseman in his own zone, as the Capitals had a higher save percentage with him on the ice than with him off the ice.  He also contributed offensively this season, setting new career highs in goals and points, while also helping to control shots at a 53% clip.  With the Capitals most likely losing both Kevin Shattenkirk and Karl Alzner, they are going to need to re-sign Schmidt and allow him to further develop into a top four defenseman.  I think that there is potential that Washington would like to sign Schmidt to a long-term deal and lock him in at a low AAV. Schmidt, however, will be looking to sign a shorter deal and prove that he is capable of playing in an elevated role and then sign a more lucrative deal in a few years.
      • I think that Schmidt and the Capitals agree to a 2 year deal with an AAV of $2.5 million.
  • Brian Dumoulin, 25: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $800,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Pittsburgh:
      • 70 regular season games: 1 goal, 14 assists, Even Rating, 4 powerplay points, 1.3 S%, 20:33 ATOI, 113 hits, 99 blocks, 50.7 CF%
      • 25 playoff games: 1 goal, 5 assists, +9 rating, 4.0 S%, 21:59 ATOI, 43 hits, 48 blocks
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Dumoulin is a mostly defensive defenseman who has slight offensive upside but is a very good puck-mover who was relied upon by the team this season and especially in the playoffs as the Penguins won the Stanley Cup.  He was their best overall defenseman in the playoffs on a unit that was depleted due to injuries.  He has also now played on two contracts with AAVs below $1 million and is going to be due a significant pay raise as he is already Pittsburgh’s second best defenseman (behind Kris Letang) and deserves to be paid as such.  I think that this could end up basically being a bridge deal that will reward Dumoulin for his play while also motivating him to continue his solid performance.  It will also give the Penguins more time to determine what his long-term role is on the team and also to free up some salary in order to sign him long-term when he becomes a free agent again.
      • I predict that Dumoulin and the Penguins will agree to a 2 year deal with an AAV of $4 million.
  • Esa Lindell, 23: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $745,883
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Dallas:
      • 73 regular season games: 6 goals, 12 assists, +8 rating, 2 powerplay points, 6.1 S%, 21:52 ATOI, 93 hits, 119 blocks, 49.0 CF%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • This past season was Lindell’s first full season in the NHL and he came through for the Stars, playing solid defense while also contributing offensively.  He should continue to get better as he gains more experience playing in the NHL and playing under Ken Hitchcock will also help his game.  Lindell is one of the Stars’ core pieces on defense, alongside John Klingberg, Stephen Johns, and Jamie Oleksiak and the team is going to want to ensure that they keep Lindell.  I think that there is a very good chance that Dallas will offer him the same seven year deal that they signed Klingberg to and that carries an AAV of $4.25 million and he was 22 at the time, a year younger than Lindell.
      • I think that Lindell and the Stars agree to a 7 year deal with an AAV of $4 million.  This could be a great bargain for the team and Lindell will be getting a solid raise and he will be playing in a state with no income tax.
  • Damon Severson, 22: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $605,833
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with New Jersey:
      • 80 regular season games: 3 goals, 28 assists, -31 rating, 13 powerplay points, 2.4 S%, 20:21 ATOI, 79 hits, 72 blocks, 50.0 CF%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Severson is already developing into one of the Devils best defensemen, despite being just 22 and in his third full season. He has solid numbers on a very bad team and will likely become a top two defenseman for the Devils in the next few seasons.  Because of that, I think that the team would be smart to lock him down long-term rather than sign him to a bridge deal and then have to pay him more when that one expires. There are success stories of teams signing defensemen out of their entry level contracts, including Ryan McDonagh, Drew Doughty, Roman Josi, and Cam Fowler.  The Devils are the perfect team to sign Severson to a long-term deal out of his ELC because they already have over $21 million in cap space for next season plus Ryan Clowe will be put on LTIR, giving them even more cap relief.  They also only have nine players on their NHL roster under contract beyond next season so they won’t be hindered by giving Severson a long-term deal.
      • I think that they will agree on a 6 year deal with an AAV of $4.5 million.

*All stats and information come from hockey-reference.com, eliteprospects.com, rosterresource.com, spotrac.com, capfriendly.com, and hockeyanalysis.com.

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