Every defenceman in the NHL goes on waivers

At least, that’s what it feels like. Hal Gill, Matt Hunwick, Kris Russell and Greg Zanon were all placed on waivers by their teams today, while Washington’s Jeff Schultz was put on unconditional waivers for buyout purposes. Additionally, Nashville Predators’ general manager David Poile says that if the team cannot get a trade for Jonathon Blum they will not give him a qualifying offer, making him an unrestricted free agent.

Candidates

Jonathon Blum. Pros: 2007 first round pick is only 24 years old, and has put up crooked numbers in both the WHL and AHL. A very strong puck-mover and a decent skater with solid offensive instincts. Not overly physical, but will hit and block shots. Has started a surprising number of shifts in his own end for a guy seen as a defensive liability (42.7 percent of non-neutral zone starts in his own end this year) and yet had decent on-ice totals. Regular partner Hal Gill was better with him than when playing with other defenders, though Blum’s numbers were actually better with other partners than with Gill.. Cons: Seen as a defensive liability, who needs to get stronger (despite his 6’1" frame, is lean at 190 pounds) and do a better job of protecting the crease. Isn’t used on the penalty kill. Despite strong numbers this year, was much worse last season. Spells "Jonathon" in a goofy way.

Hal Gill. Pros: The 6’7”, 244 pound defenceman certainly adds size in a major way to an NHL lineup, and with 1,102 regular season games under his belt there’s no questions about experience. Logged heavy minutes on the penalty kill last season, and had very good on-ice numbers despite being deployed mainly in the defensive zone. Cons: There’s a reason they call him the U.S.S. Hal Gill, and it isn’t all size – mobility isn’t a strong point. He played just over 10:00 per game against weak competition last year, getting much lower minutes at evens than any other Nashville defender. He has a $2.0 million contract for next season, and that’s a lot of money for a third-pairing defenceman.

Matt Hunwick. Pros: Where to begin? Hunwick played an astonishing 21:31 per game for the Avalanche last season and was given minutes in all situations, including the power play. A very strong skater, and a guy who can also make a good first pass, Hunwick’s one of those strange players who can move the puck but struggles to get points (he had six assists last season). Started more shifts in his own end of the rink than any other Avs defenceman and saw tough competition, yet had very strong on-ice numbers. Left side defenceman is in the prime of his career at 28. Has an extremely reasonable $1.6 million contract for next season. Cons: He isn’t big (5’11”, 190 pounds), and while he doesn’t shy away from the physical game and will hit, he doesn’t play a bruising style. As noted above, struggles to score despite puck-moving abilities.

Kris Russell. Pros: Fantastic skater is also an excellent puck-mover. Played regular even-strength minutes (14:52 per night 5-on-5) for a very good team in St. Louis. Young defender just turned 26, and is a restricted free agent coming off a $1.3 million/year contract with the Blues. Cons: Lacks size (listed at 5’10", 172 pounds) and is frequently on injured reserve. Played carefully sheltered minutes in St. Louis (lots of offensive zone starts, third-pairing opposition) yet had some of the lowest on-ice numbers on the team, with the Blues allowing significantly more shots with Russell on the ice than with him on the bench. Has only been a middling point producer at the NHL level.

Jeff Schultz. Pros: The NHL’s plus/minus leader in 2009-10, with a plus-50 rating. 6’6", 227 pound defenceman adds size, and is a regular penalty-killer. At 27, he’s still relatively young, particularly for a guy with just under 400 games played. Cons: Has a $3.0 million cap hit for next season, which is presumably the main reason he’s untradable. Plays a lot of minutes in the defensive zone, but hasn’t seen tough competition in some time; despite this, for three years the Caps have been getting lit up on the shot clock when he’s on the ice. Requested a trade from Washington earlier this year due to dissatisfaction with his minutes/role. Spent most of last season as Washington’s seventh defenceman; it’s difficult to project him as an upgrade on a player like Mark Fistric.

Greg Zanon. Pros: Veteran defensive defenceman logged significant minutes for Colorado at even-strength (16:32 per game) and on the penalty kill (2:40 per game). One of the league’s best shot-blockers, and also very willing to step up and make a hit. Has for some time played extremely tough minutes – a heavy ratio defensive zone starts and good opponents, though that lightened a little this year. Cons: At age 33, on the wrong side of his career. Coming off a decidedly subpar season by his standards, playing much easier minutes than he normally does and getting peppered on the shot clock. Lacks ideal size (5’11", 202 pounds) for the role he plays. Has one year left at $2.25 million, which isn’t bad if he plays top-four minutes but isn’t good in a third-pairing role (which, after this past season, is where I’d slot him on a typical NHL depth chart).      

My View

It’s a little hard to believe that some of these names weren’t moved on draft day, given how it seems every team in the league is crying out for defencemen and the UFA market this summer is mostly spare parts. There are definitely players here that might be of interest to the Oilers. In order:

  • Matt Hunwick very well might slot in as a second-pair defenceman on the Oilers right now; he would be an exceptional fit as a third-pairing defender and comes on an extremely reasonable contract. The age, price-point and skill-set are all good fits for Edmonton’s system.
  • Jonathon Blum’s age and season make him an intriguing option as a reserve defenceman in Edmonton. He has more upside than Corey Potter and for my money isn’t a bad bet to be the superior player right now. Right-hand shot is also a good fit for third-pairing/reserve slot.
  • Kris Russell has a case, though injuries and struggles in St. Louis make me nervous. Also working against him is his left-handed shot, something the Oilers have in abundance for the 5-7 roles. 

Then there are guys that don’t really seem like good fits in Edmonton to me.

  • Hal Gill and Jeff Schultz both make too much money, and neither guys is likely to be an upgrade on a cheaper Mark Fistric. Unless Fistric’s asking for the moon, why not stick with the in-house option?
  • Greg Zanon is a plausible upgrade on Fistric – not a certain one, but a plausible one – but the money’s too high for his likely role in Edmonton.

Recently around the Nation Network

At Flames Nation, Kent Wilson goes through the Flames’ depth chart, lays out the roster, and comes to the following conclusion

There is some promise in Backlund, Brodie, Baertschi and it will be interesting to see how the goaltending settles out and perhaps what Corban Knight can do, but clearly this is a roster hunting for a good draft position and not the cup. It’s going to be long summer Flames fans, and likely an even longer 2013-14 season.

Click the link to read more, or alternately, feel free check out some of my other pieces here:

  • T__Bone88

    @Bonvie

    I agree but whch teams have a top type defenceman to trade to the Oilers right now….in your opinion.

    Also, I am very excited/curious to see what Klefbom can do this year and Nurse within two yrs…so in your opinion…is there really someone out there worth a high to overprice trade for a big ontract of at least 2 to 3 yrs?

    • Bonvie

      I am not sure there are about 10 or 15 names i could throw out but I think a trading partner for this type of trade would be someone who covets one of the young scoring wingers we have or is in a bit of a pullback on spending I like to think there is a possibility that Myers could be pried out of Buffalo. Kind of like the Pronger deal these guys aren’t offered up, they are only given up to address their own needs. My preference would be to use Yakapov but, as i like Eberle too much. Realistically we know that in order to get the stud on D we need we are going to have to give up a coveted piece which might be as low as Gagner but unlikely.

  • Bonvie

    Depth on Defense is not the Oilers problem, it is the anchor position on D that is left wide open. We need a true top pairing two way defenseman. If we acquired this guy all of 3-8 would look much better. Another 4 to 8 does nothing for us.

    • T__Bone88

      Colorado probably feels that they have a cheaper option in their farm system that can be as effective as Hunwick and there wasn’t a market to trade a Hunwick that made sense to Colorado.

  • Waivers, UFA’s, buyouts/compliance buyouts, etc, all mean that these players are either overpaid and are too big/wrong caphits or they are declining rapidly

    Now…Jonathan Blum is very interesting as to being let go by Nashville. He is of 6′ and about 190 lbs but he is 24 yrs olny, was paid under a million per yr in the NHL this past couple of seasons, and he is a puck moving defenceman with pretty good skating/mobility skills. I wonder if the Oilers target this kid or not….Hmmmmmmm.

    I don’t think that Horton is the one the Oilers should look at and I don’t think he would come here either. I could be wrong but as of today I believe the Oilers would target both Stalberg and Khudobin/Emery first before looking at Horton. I also think the Oilers are then gonna shoot for Gordon as well from Phoenix.

  • LinkfromHyrule

    going after Thomas is unrealistic and not going to happen. You really think he’s leaving ‘murica to live in an igloo in Canada? I don’t.

    I’m curious as to how much macT has been floating our prospects as trade bait. We have excess d depth, and even some forwards that don’t necessarily fit the oilers (rajala, arcobello, etc.).

  • T__Bone88

    Would a Hunwick or Russell be an upgrade over Potter? If so it wouldn’t hurt to pick up one of these player to replace Potter on the PP and bottom 6 pairing.

  • vetinari

    Anything longer than 1 year/$4M to Tim Thomas is a massive risk/overpay… he also wouldn’t want to play anywhere as a backup or 1B situation and that doesn’t move Dubnyk’s progress ahead any… the guy’s also been out of the league for a year and obviously puts himself ahead of his team… not to mention his quirky political views… I say pass… now, if I wanted a quirky temperamental goalie, I would call Bryzgalov but again, be d@mn sure because that would likely mean the end of Dubnyk in Edmonton…

    • T__Bone88

      nah, i think it is a good move. remember the oil are in a new and VERY difficult division next year, having Timmy in net is a HUGE psychological boost and tool. He is a beast and hard worker, dooby will learn concentration and how to battle from him…i think the year off and shooting beer cans at his farm in mississipi did him good….he has something to prove now and a motivated tim thomas who thinks they world is out to get him and think he is done is for damn sure a bet worth gambling on

      • Bonvie

        You really think a 40 year old taking a year off drinking beer is going to be decent. Khabibulan would be a safer bet at least he maintains a fitness level. I would suspect that Thomas and his comeback will likely end in someone’s training camp.

        • Bonvie

          100% i do. Tim Thomas is a fiend, someone who would win a Survivor contest…go read about his life. In his mind right now, he is thinking “everyone thinks I am washed up and a loser….ill show them” that is EXACTLY the guy you want. Proven. Champion. Tireless. Full circle to his career…drafted by Edm and finishes it all there. Think Roloson, not Khabby

          • D'oh-ilers

            He was drafted by the Nordiques in ’94. Edmonton signed him as a free agent in ’98.

            That said, Thomas is certainly capable of coming back from a long layoff and performing well. Hasek did, and continued to play a strong game until he was 43. Whether Thomas can do the same, time will tell, but if he continues to perform like he did before he left, any team that signs him will be better for it.

            Oilers won’t be able to sign him, even if they want to, unless they’re willing to drastically overpay. Colorado might be able to sign him, since he lives there now, but he’ll likely end up going to a contending team on the east coast, namely Washington, Philly, or Pittsburgh.

          • Bonvie

            Roloson didn’t take a year off he kept digging in and working hard. Most NHL players get to where they are by hard work and tireless commitment, but all careers come to an end and so very few last past 35.

          • Bonvie

            Roloson’s entire career was “off”…was never a true, legit #1, even in Minny was pertually in a dogfight with Manny Fernandez and that is what gave him his crazy drive and focus..the results of which we saw live in ’06 when given a chance. Ditto with Thomas….whoever gets him will get the best hockey imaginable. I think you are overestimating his year off…its the same with goalies who are hurt and miss time, if he signs this friday, that gives him 3 months to train and he’ll be back to what he was. Id take a 39yr old Thomas over today’s Dooby every day of the week

          • Bonvie

            Can I get this post etched on a stone so we can look at it and have a good laugh at the end of the year.

            I believe Dubnyk fights for everything he has he had top 10 goaltender stats in front of a subpar defense, and still there are people possibly even management that think he should be upgraded. I would also like to go out on a limb and say this will be Dubnyk’s year to establish himself as one of the top 10 goalies, and definitely better than Thomas.

  • Nuge&Connorvs.Sam&Sean

    The more I read and think about it,poaching the waiver wire and at least one overpay (Horton) may be the better way to go.

    Think about it, would you really trade Marincin away after the growing pains that he has already gone through?

  • LinkfromHyrule

    i feel like a pent-up and frustrated MacT may miss the boat on Friday by firing his bullets in the wrong direction. Nathan Horton should be avoided big time, he is a concussion-prone player who has changed in the last 2 yrs…besides he wants to go to the ducks or rangers so his wife can continue her modelling career so he is not coming, point is, by wasting time chasing him, they may miss out on players they could get. I strongly think they should pursue Tim Thomas HARD. 2yrs and 8 or 9M…Andrew Ference for relatively cheap D veteran leadership and Ryan Clowe. Vancouver is apparently after Clowe too now, as Torts loved him for the 2 weeks he had him in NY.

  • StHenriOilBomb

    “On Monday morning Ballard was placed on conventional waivers, not the waivers required for a buyout.
    For the Canucks to buy Ballard out, they need to first notify him and then place him on unconditional waivers.”

    http://blogs.theprovince.com/2013/07/01/canucks-use-waivers-trying-to-avoid-a-keith-ballard-buyout/

    I suppose we will have to wait and see. Perhaps a trade would be possible if Gillis can get over the in-division thing.

  • LinkfromHyrule

    I’m assuming that you left the blog unfinished because there’s big news coming out of Edmonton Oilers?
    Possibly a roster player + Next years 2nd round pick for Coburn?

  • StHenriOilBomb

    It seems to me that Ballard could be a nice addition. having been put through waivers, can we expect a buyoyut? He’s never been the same since the back problems, but I wonder what he would demand. Reason would suggest it couldn’t be more than 60-70% of his current salary.

    I haven’t seen much of Hunwick’s play, but these all seem like characteristics the Oilers need.