WWYDW: Unrestricted Free Agent Defencemen

2-Petry-4

The Edmonton Oilers have a subpar defence, and have for some time. Among the avenues available to them to improve upon that defence is free agency. In this week’s edition of What Would You Do Wednesday, we ask which free agents the Oilers should make a point of targeting.

The List

Using NHL Numbers’ free agent search function, I’ve put together a list of just under 40 free agents who played at least 20 games on an NHL blue line last year. Age is as of October 1, 2015, and along with the basic stats is from NHL.com. Enhanced statistics are courtesy of war-on-ice.com. In all cases, where a player spent time with multiple teams time on ice and enhanced statistics are from the team where he spent the most time.

Without further ado, the list, sorted by average ice time:

Player Age GP PTS TOI/GP QCTOI FFRel ZS%
Paul Martin 34 74 20 22:47 17.7 0.1 53.0
Andrej Sekera 29 73 23 22:46 17.6 2.4 48.8
Francois Beauchemin 35 64 23 22:44 17.5 -1.8 49.2
Marek Zidlicky 38 84 34 21:55 17.3 2.1 54.4
Christian Ehrhoff 33 49 14 21:45 17.5 -4.8 51.9
Cody Franson 28 78 36 21:23 17.7 3.0 41.7
Zbynek Michalek 32 53 8 21:05 17.7 2.5 42.8
Jeff Petry 27 78 22 20:57 17.4 -0.2 42.9
Jan Hejda 37 81 13 20:39 17.5 1.5 44.3
Robyn Regehr 36 67 13 20:19 17.5 -5.9 47.6
Johnny Oduya 34 76 10 20:17 17.6 -2.4 51.8
Eric Brewer 37 44 11 20:11 17.5 -4.8 40.6
Lubomir Visnovsky 39 53 20 19:31 17.2 0.8 53.2
Mike Green 29 72 45 19:06 16.9 1.7 59.2
Adam McQuaid 28 63 7 18:26 17.2 -1.6 49.7
Andre Benoit 31 59 9 18:08 17.2 -2.0 41.5
David Schlemko 28 44 4 18:06 17.1 -0.9 52.7
Sergei Gonchar 41 48 14 17:59 17.2 -4.0 49.0
Andrej Meszaros 29 60 14 17:54 17.1 0.8 47.5
Chris Butler 28 33 9 17:11 17.3 -2.2 51.8
Matt Irwin 27 53 19 17:01 17.0 0.2 53.0
Michal Rozsival 37 65 13 17:00 17.1 -0.2 55.6
Matt Bartkowski 27 47 4 16:56 17.1 -1.7 49.6
Barret Jackman 34 80 15 16:48 17.0 1.9 42.6
Tim Gleason 32 72 9 16:39 17.3 -3.2 55.0
Carlo Colaiacovo 32 33 8 16:29 16.8 9.0 54.6
Brett Bellemore 27 49 10 16:22 16.5 -3.6 44.8
Scott Hannan 36 58 7 16:18 17.1 -4.9 51.6
Matt Hunwick 30 55 11 15:48 16.9 4.3 59.9
Peter Harrold 32 43 5 15:14 17.1 -4.2 42.3
Adam Pardy 31 55 9 15:01 16.7 -2.4 56.5
Mike Weaver 38 31 4 14:09 16.9 -4.7 42.9
Jordan Leopold 35 43 4 13:19 16.9 -5.5 50.9
Anton Volchenkov 33 46 7 13:10 17.0 -1.5 50.9
Nate Prosser 29 63 7 12:47 17.0 -1.4 38.8
Jamie McBain 27 26 9 12:41 16.5 -2.0 69.4
Jack Hillen 29 38 5 12:22 16.7 -5.5 59.5
Raphael Diaz 29 56 4 12:01 16.6 4.4 48.4
  • QCTOI: Quality of competition based on opposition time on ice
  • FFRel: Fenwick rating relative to team performance
  • ZS%: Ratio of shifts starting in the offensive zone vs. the defensive zone 

Needs & Wants

In my estimation, the Oilers could use two top-pairing defencemen and failing that would secure a top-two defender and a top-four option. The half-dozen players I’d prioritize are as follow:

  • Cody Franson. I don’t think people really appreciate how good he was in Toronto. The Leafs didn’t want to pay him market value (source) but the Oilers should have no such hesitation. He’s 6’5” and 213 pounds, a useful weapon on the power play, capable of playing tough minutes at evens and still in the prime of his career. He’d be the right-shooting offensive defenceman Justin Schultz was supposed to be and bring a lot more value in the defensive zone too. With Nashville loaded on D, he’s likely to hit the market. In the Oilers’ shoes, I’d be open to offering him up to $6.0 million/year and term.
  • Andrej Sekera. Dean Lombardi paid big in assets to land him at the trade deadline, and for good reason. He’s an excellent two-way defenceman in the prime of his career, can play tough minutes and managed 44 points last season. He’s been overlooked playing for bad teams; no longer. Anything under $5.0 million is good and in Edmonton’s position I’d probably even go over that figure.
  • Paul Martin. Age is the only problem here; whoever signs him will likely go beyond what they’re totally comfortable with in terms of years. But he plays the toughest minutes available for a very good team, is a two-way threat and can play the left or right side without missing a beat. He’s a legitimate top-pairing defenceman in the here-and-now. Money isn’t a big object, but ideally the term would be held to no more than four seasons.
  • Christian Ehrhoff. He’s coming off a down year in which injury was a factor, but he’s still an awfully interesting option. He’s a good puck-moving defenceman with decent size (though he isn’t overly physical) and he’s shown in the past he can log tough minutes at evens and lots of them as well as add significant value to the power play. Term and money here are tough; on a four-year deal money isn’t a huge issue but at five years the price has to be right.
  • Jeff Petry. Two-way right-shooting defencemen still in their prime years are generally hard to find on the open market, which is why it was so silly of the Oilers to think “it was important” that they “challenge him on a one-year deal” last summer. I’d guess he tops $4.0 million in free agency and may even reach $5.0 million per season.
  • Zbynek Michalek. He’s a rock-solid defensive defenceman who has been eating a steady diet of tough minutes for years. Undrafted, he learned his defensive game in Houston under Todd McLellan and eventually emerged as a workhorse for the Coyotes. He’d be a pretty fantastic safety net for a player like Darnell Nurse or Oscar Klefbom. He’d be a very reasonable hire at $4.0 million annually.

That’s who I like. Who do you like, and at what price?

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • llong33

    It never ceases to amaze me how joyful the off season is for all you, here on Oilersnation. Another high draft pick and fantasies about signing all the best FA’s. Fools.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    Shero in NJ has stated he wants a lineup more geared to offense. Would jultz (straight up or plus a pick like #33) for Adam Larsson be of interest to him?

    • Jaxon

      Gonna take a lot more than than that, Larsson came into his own last season and is considered one of the best d they have. N.J is also not looking for picks they are looking for forwards who can score. Maybe you trade Yak and bring the German kid in on right wing. If the Oilers want a young potential stud d man it will cost. Just like if some GM really wanted Eberle, it will cost plenty. Same difference, getting rid of under performing players like Schultz won’t get you much. You can argue that Yak isn’t worth much either, unlike Shultz , he was not given every opportunity to play lots of minutes on the top line.

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    Franson is totally underrated. He also likes to throw the hits as he lead all d-men last year with 282 of them.

    He was 19th this year in hits but he was also on the Maple Laughs and then played a secondary role on Nashville. He would likely be our go to guy.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    The quality of UFA we are going to get will be in direct portions to how we shed expensive contracts on or 3-4 line and 3 pairing of defense.

    Niktin at $4.5M
    Ference at $3.6M (i think)
    Purcell at $4.0M
    Gordon at $3.0M
    Hendrick at $1.8M

    $16.9M in contracts need to be addressed or you will have to get a goalie and two top four dman over two years not one.

  • Kevwan

    For my defensive picks (UFA) not to old, I prefer 30 and under so we can keep them for a few years.

    Franson, due to Rh shot, age, size and under rated.

    Sekera. Good numbers, solid dman and in his prime.

    Green, solid dman not too old yet.

    Oduya, lots of experience on a great team

    My top rfa,

    Seabrook

    *Dougie Hamilton, but I doubt we would get him unless we have up major, I wouldn’t be willing to give. With all the good ufa’s around.

  • oilerdago

    Good potential in the list of ufas but signing franson to a big long-term deal would be a mistake – 6 mil 6 yrs is way too much commitment. 2 top 5 veterans that can clear the zone, play physical, and mentor Klefbom Marincin and Nurse would be ideal imho. There’s no true D center piece in that crop.

  • oilerdago

    I know this is very late but stay far away from Franson. Nashville benched him for a long stretch after the trade w/Toronto and regretted trading for him because his play was seriously lacking.

    At best he’d be an upgrade on Schultz, but is in no way capable of playing 1st or 2nd pairing matchups.

    JW, know you’re looking at a lot of the stats, and for the most part, I respect your opinion, but having seen Franson play (I live in Nashville), he is not anywhere near the answer to the Oilers blue line issues.

  • Johnnydapunk

    Maybe Belov is an option, he did mention he would come back with out DE behind the bench. Could we offer him an invite to camp without committing to a contract?

    Would a healthy nikikin under better coaching be a completely different player? Could we place him on waivers to AHL and if he clears he can be a call up? Wouldn’t a team have to take over his salary if they claim him?

    Maybe both are possible.

  • O.C.

    FA talk is all good fun.

    Cap Reality changes FA Dreams.

    PC will get much better net value in the trade market, especially with trades that help teams hit the lower cap. A kinder, friendlier cull.

    FA market is to add that missing piece, not to build a team. Get a D man not 3 of them.

    Sign and Trade Schultz or trade NN. Keep Ference as third pairing and PK.

  • BobbyCanuck

    I think that Purcell, Fasht and Niki may very well have break-out seasons.

    For the simple reason atheletes perform a lot better when they are looking for a new contract. Midseason trade?

    Hockeybuzz.com says we have $18.3M in cap space, if that is the case, we should be able to get atleast a top D, and goalie

  • Zarny

    @BobbyCanuck

    The Oilers don’t have $18.3M in cap space.

    Connor McDavid’s cap hit will be ~ $3.8M all in. Signing Schultz, Pitlick and Marincin will chew up another $5.6M or so.

    Which leaves the Oilers with ~ $8.9M to go to market with.

    Sign a G for $4.5M and all the Oilers have left is $4.4M to sign a D.

    And that is if the Oilers leave themselves $0 for call ups, injury replacements etc. which would be beyond dumb.

  • TKB2677

    I am of the opinion that Nikitin will get bought out. Chiarelli didn’t sign him so it is easy for him to buy him out as part of cleaning out the mistakes of the past manager. One of Marincin or Schultz will be moved as part of a deal to get a Dman. If he is kept, honestly doubt Schultz gets a raise as Chiarelli has zero ties to him plus his play doesn’t warrant it. Marincin seems to have more of a steady, calm game but provides zero offense. The Oilers right now severely lack offense from the back end plus Schultz is a right shot so maybe that makes him more likely to be kept. If somehow you could convince Ference to retire, that would be a dream. I am not sure if because he signed before he was 35, that would mean him retiring wouldn’t count against the cap.

  • Barry McOckiner

    Franson and McQuaid should be the two free agengt targets. Franson is good enough to be a big minutes eater(not for 6mil) and McQuaid would be the big muscle bottom pairing guy that will help protect our young guns. Then trade for another top four d-man with all the assets PC has to offer.

  • Concur

    I have a list of 5 free agents that would be good additions to the Oilers. IMO only one can be signed as a FA unless we are able to offload Nikitin and/or Shultz for picks and/or prospects or even a goaltender.

    My list of 5

    RD

    Franson is an excellent option if the price is right, 4.5 or lower and he would be worth it.

    Michalek for rugged minutes and taking the pressure off the younger players.

    Petry if he would consider it, but must also be 4.5 or lower.

    LD

    Sekera is also a top option for taking the heavy load and he could even be paired with Fayne.

    Meszaros is the lowest option on my list and if he obtained then there MUST be another top option procurred.

    In my way of thinking Nikitin and/or Shultz should be out. I do not think that Ference is going ot leave this year, maybe next. because of being tight to the cap buying out Nikitin would be hard, if the Oilers can drop him in a package or even for picks or prospects. Shultz on the other hand should be traded for better D option and I know that other prospects and pick will have to be heading out too.

    In reality the Oilers need 2 new big time defensemen but I can’t see how they can get 2 of the by free agency because of the need to rid themselves of Nikitin and Shultz and the cost of those free agent deals as well as a big time Goalie.

  • Oilcounty88

    What I find pretty scary about that list is everyone of those players, Petry included would become edmonton’s number one defenceman next year. Besides Martin who was Pittsburgs defacto number one because Letang was banged up this year not one of these players was the top defenceman on their team. I’d really like to see Beauchemin added. Love the way he plays and is so under appreciated for how good a defenceman he is on the ducks. That’s the kind of guy you want Nurse and Klefbom learning from, not Andrew Ference (dump it off the glass).

    The Oilers need to be careful not to dump to much salary on bringing in defenceman or they’ll put themselves up against the cap real quick.

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    Cody Franson. 6 x 5 million per, or 5 years at a higher salary per. We need ‘big and strong’ as well as ‘good’ defensemen.

    After him if possible I’d say the rest is gravy as long as we DON’T overpay an aging veteran and give ourselves a problem in the future with the signing, rather than a solution to our problem.