Photo by Sean Russell, via Wikimedia Commons
We’ve considered the weak free agent market for defensemen a few times now. Teams looking for a defenseman under the age of 30 who played 20+ minutes per game last season now have exactly three choices: Ryan Suter, Jason Garrison and Matt Carle. That’s the entire list.
The worse news is that there’s absolutely no shortage of teams looking for help on the back end.
The Detroit Red Wings lead the way. With the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom and the return of Brad Stuart to California, Detroit needs one high-end defenseman and could probably use two. They’re the best run team in the NHL over the last decade, have mountains of cap room, and supposedly have Ryan Suter top of mind.
Of course, Suter has no shortage of options. The Pittsburgh Penguins are a continual contender, they cleared cap rook at the draft and they are supposedly interested in his services. The Minnesota Wild are said to be preparing a massive bid to land Suter as well, and the Nashville Predators have rather pointedly failed to trade away the defenseman’s rights because they think they still have a shot at keeping him. Chicago is rumoured to be attempting to clear cap room to make a bid for Suter as well. Only one of those teams will land the free agent; everyone else is going to be forced to settle for leftovers.
Carle and Garrison are going to get paid. We saw Dennis Wideman, a comparable player in some respects, ink a five-year, $5.25 MM/season contract with the Calgary Flames – that’s the contract those players are going to be looking at. They’ll likely get it too – the teams that missed out on Suter will be joined by other clubs that are looking for help. Philadelphia and Florida are both trying to hang on to Carle and Garrison, respectively – if Philly fails they’ll want to sign a defenseman to help out on the back end while if Florida misses out they’re likely to hand the job over to youth. Anaheim, Carolina, the New York Islanders and St. Louis are all very interested in augmenting their bluelines.
What does this mean for the Edmonton Oilers? It means that the summer ahead is likely to be difficult, expensive, or both. It’s like a game of musical chairs at this point – when the music stops, a few teams are going to be out of luck. The Oilers, tasked with selling to free agents a team that’s been terrible forever in a city well to the north of where most NHL’ers want to live, don’t exactly have a strong hand to play from. Given the need to maintain flexibility to get all the young kids under contract – starting next summer – it’s not like they’re going to be able to offer huge contracts that run until forever, either.
It’s a good thing the Oilers are on Justin Schultz’s short list. It will be a far better thing if they can somehow get him under contract.
A tip of the hat to Spector’s Hockey, arguably the best site around for keeping track of which teams want to land which players.
This week by Jonathan Willis
- Ralph Krueger: in the driver’s seat
- Oilers’ development camp invites
- Jets re-sign Ondrej Pavelec, pay top dollar
- Oilers issue qualifying offers to seven
- Report: Oilers interested in Blackhawks’ defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson
- The 2012 NHL Entry Draft: Recap
- Should the Oilers have made a pitch for Zbynek Michalek?
- The Oilers select forward Mitch Moroz 32nd overall
- The Jets select Lukas Sutter 39th overall
- The Canucks select Alexandre Mallet 57th overall
- The top five ranked players left after the end of the first round
- Moving up and down at the NHL Draft