Bryan Allen (Photo: Benjamin Reed/Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 2.0)
The 2012 crop of free agent defenceman was decidedly weak. That weakness hurt a number of teams, including the Edmonton Oilers, since there was more need for help on the blue line than there were candidates to fill the role.
With the signing of Michal Rozsival and Carlo Colaiacovo, and an NHL lockout just a day away, the free agent period for rearguards is all but over. What does the final list look like?
The following is a list of unrestricted free agent defencemen to sign deals with an average annual value (AAV) of $1.0 million or more per season since July 1.
* played only 17 games.
I’ve split the above list into three groups.
- The big guns: Ryan Suter, Matt Carle and Jason Garrison all signed deals worth more than $4.5 million/season and to terms longer than five years. They are the trio most highly coveted by NHL general managers.
- The mid-range guys: 11 defencemen signed deals for between one and three years, for a cap hit between two and four million. These are the guys who were expected to get paid in a big way, given the weak market.
- The rest: Five others – mostly bottom-pairing types – signed for between one and two million dollars.
Could the Oilers have landed a defenceman?
Now, we’re dealing with a relatively small group. If we rule out Suter (a package deal with Parise) and Garrison (who made it clear he was signing in Vancouver early on) then we’re left with a dozen names, give or take.
Let’s start by eliminating the bad contracts. Mileage may vary, but my list would include Carle, Kuba, Salo, Souray, Brookbank, Rome and Carkner. Let’s further eliminate guys who aren’t of interest given the current makeup of the team; I’d add Lundin and Hannan.
That still leaves eight players. Is it ridiculous to suggest that with a little extra money or term the Oilers could have landed one of Allen, Salvador, Colaiacovo, Zanon, Rozsival, Aucoin, Corvo or Bouillon? Particularly given that Colaiacovo and Rozsival didn’t sign until the last few days, and when they did the contracts signed were extremely reasonable?
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that. If the Oilers had signed Colaiacovo to $8 million over three years, or Rozsival to $5 million over two, or Aucoin to $2.5 million over one year, nobody would be screaming that they’d made a massive overpay. Given recent commitments to guys like Andy Sutton (averaged 16:41/game last year, cap hit of $1.75 million) and Cam Barker (played 16:24/game in 2010-11, earned $2.25 million last year), those sort of stop-gap contracts would have barely registered a ripple.
Would they have solved the Oilers’ underlying defensive problems? No. But they would have bought time for young players to develop, and helped secure the blue line in the short-term. They would have added depth and stability and helped the team continue to improve this coming season. It would have been a good decision to bring in at least one of those guys.
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