Offseason Shopping List: Defensemen

Having unanimously settled a new first-line center for the Caps, it's time to find a new "number one" defenseman. As was the case with centers, should the team choose to go the free agent route, there are certainly some options out there. Unlike centers, however, this year's free agent class of defensemen is relatively weak as compared to last year's.

First, a look at likely market conditions. In the offseason leading up to the 2006-07 season, teams were working with a $44 million salary cap. The top (unrestricted) free agent defensemen available were Nicklas Lidstrom, Zdeno Chara, Wade Redden, Ed Jovanovski, Rob Blake and Bryan McCabe. A quick look at the deals each got:

  • Lidstrom (36 years old): 2 years, $15.2 million ($7.6 million per year); 2005-06 stats:16-64-80
  • Chara (29): 5 years, $37.5 million ($7.5 million per year); 2005-06 stats: 16-27-43
  • Redden (29): 2 years, $13 million ($6.5 million per year); 2005-06 stats: 10-40-50
  • Jovanovski (30): 5 years, $32.5 million ($6.5 million per year); 2005-06 stats: 8-25-33
  • Blake (36): 2 years, $12 million ($6 million per year); 2005-06 stats: 14-37-51
  • McCabe (31): 5 years, $28.75 million ($5.75 million per year); 2005-06 stats: 19-49-68

Now, that's one hell of a class of blueliners. Sure, a couple of 'em are a bit long in the tooth and there are some injury concerns there, but any one of those guys (with one exception) could conceivably put together a Norris Trophy finalist season (and some have already, multiple times). Compare that to this year's top-five UFAs (in no particular order): Mathieu Schneider, Sheldon Souray, Kimmo Timonen, Brian Rafalski and Roman Hamrlik. See any Norris winners there? Any perennial finalists? Me neither.

So what will these guys cost? As we discussed with the centers, for 2007-08, the salary cap is expected to rise to between $46 and $47.5 million, but for the ease of this exercise, let's call it $48 million, a 9% increase over 2006-07. It would stand to reason that the top free agents, then, will cost around 9% more than they did last offseason (of course this assumes that some other factors, such as supply of and demand for these players holds constant, but again, pinpoint accuracy isn't important here). In other words, get ready to shell out around $6 million - bare-minimum - for the next 2-5 years. With all of that in mind, let's take a look at the candidates for the top-D spot (stats through 6 March 2007):

  • Roman Hamrlik
    • DOB: April 12, 1974
    • Nationality: Czech
    • 2006-07 salary: $3,500,000
    • Honors and Awards: 1996, 1999, 2003 NHL All-Star; 1998 Olympic Gold Medal
    • 2006-07 stats: 59 GP, 5-25-30
    • Career regular season stats: 983 GP, 129-368-497
    • Career playoff stats: 49 GP, 1-19-20
    • Games played over the last five NHL seasons prior to 2006-07: 351/410
    • Why he's a prime target for the Caps: Former number one overall pick (and we know how the team loves to collect former first rounders), Hamrlik is a good skater, shooter and passer who plays a physical (enough) game.
    • Why he's not: He's somewhat injury-prone and makes mistakes in the defensive zone at times. More than that, he's not a true #1 defenseman.
  • Brian Rafalski
    • DOB: September 28, 1973
    • Nationality: American
    • 2006-07 salary: $4,200,000
    • Honors and Awards: 2000, 2003 Stanley Cup; 2002 Olympic Silver Medal; 2002, 2004, 2007 NHL All-Star
    • 2006-07 stats: 67 GP, 7-36-43
    • Career regular season stats: 526 GP 43-256-299
    • Career playoff stats: 91 GP 15-37-52
    • Games played over the last four NHL seasons prior to 2006-07: 384/410
    • Why he's a prime target for the Caps: Rafalski is a winner and comes from a franchise that knows what winning is all about. His numbers may not be the most impressive, but they've been held down somewhat by playing in a defense-first system. He's a smart player, a great skater, and a capable offensive defenseman.
    • Why he's not: He's not big (5-10, 190). Seriously, that's just about the only "negative" I could write about Raffy. Maybe the fact that he'll be 34 by Opening Night 2007 is another, or the fact that at a $4.2 million 2006-07 salary, his 2007-08 salary will likely be one of the highest in the League.
  • Mathieu Schneider
    • DOB: June 12, 1969
    • Nationality: American
    • 2006-07 salary: $3,300,000
    • Honors and Awards: 1993 Stanley Cup; 1996, 2003 NHL All-Star
    • 2006-07 stats: 54 GP, 11-37-48
    • Career regular season stats: 1118 GP, 200-459-659
    • Career playoff stats: 92 GP, 7-39-46
    • Games played over the last five NHL seasons prior to 2006-07: 356/410
    • Why he's a prime target for the Caps: Schneider has a cannon from the blueline and passes extremely well - an ideal powerplay quarterback. Plus, he'd fill the on-ice Jew quota that has been deficient since Jeff Halpern left town.
    • Why he's not: He'll be 38 on Opening Night 2007, doesn't have great size and misses a handful of games every year with injuries.
  • Sheldon Souray
    • DOB: July 13, 1976
    • Nationality: Canadian
    • 2006-07 salary: $2,432,000
    • Honors and Awards: 2004, 2007 NHL All-Star
    • 2006-07 stats: 67 GP, 23-32-55
    • Career regular season stats: 492 GP, 63-114-177
    • Career playoff stats: 34 GP, 3-7-10
    • Games played over the last five NHL seasons prior to 2006-07: 224/410
    • Why he's a prime target for the Caps: Souray has a laser of a shot from the point and plays with an edge. Also, he's recently reconciled with his wife, and she's certainly a plus.
    • Why he's not: He will likely be the highest-paid free agent defenseman by far, but is a guy who has played 55% of his team's games over the past five years and who has well over 30% of his career production so far this season worth that much? Add in that he's not a terribly skilled passer, not the most skilled defensively and takes bad penalties and I think you have your answer.
  • Kimmo Timonen
    • DOB: March 18, 1975
    • Nationality: Finnish
    • 2006-07 salary: $2,280,000
    • Honors and Awards: 1998 Olympic Bronze Medal; 2006 Olympic Silver Medal; 2004, 2007 NHL All-Star
    • 2006-07 stats: 66 GP, 10-37-47
    • Career regular season stats: 559 GP, 76-217-293
    • Career playoff stats: 11 GP, 1-3-4
    • Games played over the last five NHL seasons prior to 2006-07: 392/410
    • Why he's a prime target for the Caps: Timonen is durable, fast and a good passer with a good shot.
    • Why he's not: He's smallish and perhaps a marginal number one guy.

From a quick glance at the above and my gut impressions of these five, I'd rank them Rafalski, Timonen, Souray, Schneider, Hamrlik in terms of how they'd fit what the Caps are doing. I'm sure I'll meet a lot of resistance ranking Souray so low, but his injury-riddled past and defensive/discipline lapses scare me - I'd gladly trade a few MPH on the slapper for a few more takeaways and plusses at the other end.

Finally, as we did with the centers, having attempted to pick an unrestricted free agent, let's explore the restricted free agent route, where the money saved could be spent on a center and/or a rightwing. Of course you would be giving up some picks, but with all of the prospects the Caps will have compiled by then and names like Ryan Whitney, Joni Pitkanen and Ryan Suter on the market, maybe it's an option worth exploring (if for no other reason than to screw Pittsburgh and/or Philly financially by making them match a high offer).

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Japers' Rink

You must be a member of Japers' Rink to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Japers' Rink. You should read them.

Join Japers' Rink

You must be a member of Japers' Rink to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Japers' Rink. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9355_tracker