The Oilers would love a puck-moving right shot defender. The problem is there are very few of them in the National Hockey League. Tyson Barrie’s name has been brought up more times than your common-law girlfriend’s parents have asked, ‘when are you two getting married?’
Now Rasmus Ristolainen’s name is the new target. I understand why Oilers fans would want both players, and why pundits use them as possible acquisitions, but why would Colorado and Buffalo trade away such a rare asset? The Sabres would be mad to trade Ristolainen when you consider the rest of the right side.
Quality right shooting D-men are rare in today’s NHL. Here is a breakdown for each team. I did not include any potential rookies, and maybe there is a Charlie McAvoy ready to emerge next season, but I didn’t want to project potential rookies for this process.
17 Teams with Three RD
Washington: John Carlson, Matt Niskanen and Madison Bowey. Bowey played 51 games, and isn’t dressed in the playoffs. He is still very young and trying to become a regular. The Capitals essentially have two established right shot defenders, and if Carlsson walks in free agency they’d have a massive hole to fill.
Winnipeg: I’d argue they have the best crop of RD in Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers and Jacob Trouba. Trouba is an RFA this summer and I’m very curious what type of contract he will want. He has only played more than 65 games once in his five-year NHL career. He had more than 29 points only once. He had a tough negotiation two years ago, and I’m not sure he has much better negotiating power today.
Vancouver: They have four RD who played more than 42 games in Chris Tanev, Troy Stecher, Alex Biega and Erik Gubranson. None had more than two goals or ten points. Tanev is the best of the four, and his name has been out there in trade talks, but he’s more defensive than offensive. His career best is 20 points in a season.
Toronto: Roman Polak, Connor Carrick and Nikita Zaitsev. Zaitsev had 36 points as a rookie in 2017, but produced only 13 in 60 games this past season. At $4.5 million I don’t see anyone looking to acquire him. Polak is a UFA and near the end of his career.
Tampa Bay: Anton Stralman (80 games), Dan Girardi (77), Jake Dotchin (48) and Andrej Sustr (44) rotated on the Bolts blueline. But Dotchin and Sustr haven’t played a game in the playoffs. Dotchin is 24 and will play more in the future, but he’s only played 83 NHL games. Sustr is a pending UFA.
St.Louis: The Blues have Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko, two excellent D-men. Robert Bortuzzo is a huge third pair defender, and they have young Jordan Schmaltz.
San Jose: Brent Burns, Justin Braun and Dylan DeMelo. A solid group.
Pittsburgh: Kris Letang, Justin Schultz and Chad Ruhwedel. Letang and Schultz are excellent puck movers, while Rudwedel is 28 years old with 111 NHL games.
Ottawa: Erik Karlsson, Cody Ceci and Chris Wideman. Many expect Karlsson to be moved, and if the Senators are smart they will want an RD in return.
New Jersey: Sami Vatanen, Damon Severson and Ben Lovejoy. They also have Steven Santini, who has split time in the AHL and NHL the past few seasons.
Nashville: PK Subban, Ryan Ellis and Yannick Weber. Weber is third pairing guy who plays 11 minutes a night.
Florida: Aaron Ekblad, Mark Pysyk and Alexander Petrovic. Petrovic and Pysyk won’t bring much offence, but are solid NHL defenders.
Dallas: John Klingberg, Stephen Johns and Greg Pateryn. Pateryn had a solid campaign, but he is limited offensively and is a pending UFA. They have Julius Honka as well, he played 42 games last year. Klingberg is a legit top pairing RD.
Chicago: Brent Seabrook, Connor Murphy and Jan Rutta. Seabrook’s contract ($6.875 mill for seven more seasons) is a major concern for the Hawks. He is a second pair guy now, and trending towards a third pair in the near future.
Calgary: Dougie Hamilton, Travis Hamonic and Micheal Stone. Hamilton is really good, while Hamonic struggled his first season with the Flames, but these three should be good enough to have a competent right side.
Carolina: Brett Pesce, Justin Faulk and Trevor van Riemsdyk. Faulk has struggled defensively the past few seasons, and right now both he and TVR are third pairing defenders at 5×5. They have many, good young, LD, but only RD who is close is Roland McKeown.
Boston: Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Kevan Miller and Adam McQuaid all played, although McQuaid only played 38 games. McAvoy is excellent already, while the other three are more defence oriented.
Eleven Teams with two RD:
Vegas: Deryk Engelland and Colin Miller. Engelland played incredibly well for Vegas considering he played in their top four. He played 20 minutes a night, and produced 23 even strength points, a career-high, at 35 years of age. He is on the list of Golden Knights who had career years, but I suspect George McPhee will be looking to bolster his right defence this summer.
NYI: Ryan Pulock and Johnny Boychuk. They also have Scott Mayfield, but he only has 83 games over four years and when they acquired lefty Brandon Davidson he played on the right side ahead of Mayfield many nights.
Montreal: Shea Weber and Jeff Petry. Two solid defenders.
Minnesota: Jared Spurgeon and Matt Dumba. Ryan Murphy was in their third pairing at the end of the season, and the 12th pick in 2011 has struggled to find any consistency. He’s played 172 NHL over the past five seasons.
LA: Drew Doughty and Christian Folin. Dought is elite. Folin is 27 years of age with 183 NHL games played, but he is a pending UFA. The Kings would like another proven RD for sure.
Edmonton: Adam Larsson and Matt Benning. Benning only has two years experience, and right now is a steady third pairing defender. Larsson is very good defensively, but limited offensively.
Columbus: Seth Jones and David Savard. Jones had an excellent year and was a top-ten defender in the NHL this year. Savard is a solid defender.
Colorado: Tyson Barrie and Erik Johnson. No other right-shot D-men played one game for the Avs last season. If they trade Barrie, and don’t get a RD in return, then Johnson is their only RD. I understand why Joe Sakic has not dealt Barrie.
Buffalo: Rasmus Ristolainen and Zack Bogosian. Bogosian only played 18 games last year and they also had Casey Nelson (37), Matt Tennyson (15), Taylor Fedun (7) and Zach Redmond (3) play the right side. The Sabres would be foolish to deal Ristolainen. Yes, he has struggled at times, but I’d argue that is as much about the team’s system and talent level. He is very good offensively having three consecutive seasons of 41, 45 and 41 points.
He is one of only 12 D-men in the NHL who have produced 40+ points in each of the past three seasons along with Dustin Byfuglien, Viktor Hedman, Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson, Roman Josi, Drew Doughty, PK Subban, Ryan Suter, John Klingberg, Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug.
Arizona: Jason Demers and Luke Schenn. Schenn is a pending UFA. They would love to acquire another RD, but with Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Alex Goligoski, Jakob Chychrun and Kevin Connauton on the left side, they can be patient.
Anaheim: Josh Manson and Brandon Montour. Two good, young puck movers who scored 37 and 32 points last season, and Manson can play tough minutes.
Three Teams with One RD:
Detroit: With Mike Green a pending UFA, Nick Jensen is their only other RD who played in the NHL last year, and he’s only played 130 NHL games.
NYR: Kevin Shattenkirk. Their other RD last year were Anthony DeAngelo (32 games) Steven Kampfer (22), Neal Pionk (28) and Ryan Sproul (16). DeAngelo is only 22 and should keep progressing, but the Rangers will be looking for a RD this summer. They also have three first round picks in the 2018 draft (9th, 26th and Tampa’s pick).
Philly: Radko Gudas. He is a third pairing guy. They have Ivan Provorov, Shane Gostisbehere to provide the offence on the left side, and they have young lefties in Robert Hagg, Travis Sanheim and veteran Andrew MacDonald, but they desperately need a top-four right D.
TRADING FOR A RD…
We have seen some trades in recent years involving top-four right shot defenders.
1. At the 2017 draft, Calgary acquired Travis Hamonic and a conditional fourth round pick in 2019 from the New York Islanders for a first and second round pick in 2018 and a conditional second round pick in 2019. Hamonic struggled his first year with the Flames, and the picks will be #12 and #43 in next months draft.
2. Ray Shero dealt Adam Larsson for Taylor Hall on June 29th, 2016, and then dealt centre Adam Henrique to acquire Vatanen this past season. You can make a strong case he won both trades.
3. The same day as the Hall/Larsson deal, Nashville traded Shea Weber to Montreal for PK Subban. Preds received a younger Subban, with a higher cap hit. The deal has helped the Preds, no question. The only time it could hurt is if Weber retires early and the Preds have a cap recapture penalty.
4. Six months earlier in January of 2016, the Predators, who had excellent depth on their blueline, traded Seth Jones straight up for Ryan Johansen. It helped Nashville make it to the Cup Finals in 2017, as they desperately needed a centre, but over the next ten years, I have no doubt Jones will be a more valuable player than Johansen, and Jones is also $2.6 million cheaper for the next four years. Big win long-term for the Blue Jackets.
5. At the 2015 Draft the Calgary Flames acquired Dougie Hamilton from Boston for a 2015 first rounder (Zachary Senyshyn), and two 2015 second rounders (Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson and Jeremy Lauzon. A massive win for the Flames. The Bruins have managed to recover from this horrible trade, and have been quite competitive, while the Flames have missed the playoffs two of the three years with Hamilton. They won this trade easily, but haven’t made enough other good moves to make it pay off.
6. It was a big trade at the time, but three years later neither team has assets making a major NHL impact just yet. Los Angeles traded Martin Jones, Colin Miller and the 13th pick (Jakub Zboril) to Boston for Milan Lucic. Lucic played one season in LA before signing as a free agent with the Oilers. Four days after acquiring Jones, Boston traded him to San Jose for Sean Kuraly and a first rounder in 2016 (Trent Frederic, 29th). Miller played 103 games for the Bruins before they left him exposed in the expansion draft, and Vegas gladly claimed him, while Zboril has played one year in the AHL. Boston still won the trade because they have Kuraly, who played 75 games with Boston this year (6-8-14), Frederic and Zboril still in their system. The Kings have nothing to show for moving Jones, Miller and a first rounder. Ouch.
7. In February of 2015 Winnipeg traded Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian and Jason Kasdorf to Winnipeg for Tyler Myers, Joel Armia, Drew Stafford, Brendan Lemieux and the 26th pick in 2015 (Jack Roslovic). Myers was the best D-man in the trade, and while Kane had three 20+ goals seasons in Buffalo he is now San Jose property. Jets won this deal as they have three pieces still helping them with Myers being the major impact.
Other deals involving RD
1. On March 2nd, 2015 the Oilers traded Jeff Petry to Montreal for a second round (Jonas Siegenthaler) and fifth round pick (Caleb Jones) in 2015. The Oilers traded that second pick to the Rangers for Cam Talbot. So they have Talbot and Jones to show for it. This deal ended up working out for both teams.
2. On February 27th, 2016 the Oilers traded Justin Schultz to Pittsburgh for a third round pick (Filip Berglund). Schultz has won two Cups with the Penguins, and was a big part of their 2017 cup run. Win for the Penguins.
3. On May 26th, 2016 Florida traded Erik Gudbranson to Vancouver for Jared McCann and a 2nd round pick, and they swamped fifth and fourth round picks. Gudbranson is an NHL player, so I’d say Vancouver won the deal, but the Panthers did send the second round pick in a package for Mark Pysyk three months later.
4. On June 25th, 2016 Florida traded Dmitri Kulikov and the 33rd pick (from Vancouver) Rasmus Asplund to Buffalo for Mark Pysyk and the 38th (Adam Mascherin) and the 89th pick (Linus Nassen). Florida still has Pysyk while Kulikov was signed as a UFA in Winnipeg. Panthers win the trade.
5. On February 27th, 2017 at the trade deadline the St.Louis Blues traded Kevin Shattenkirk and Phoenix Copley to Washington for Zach Sanford, Brad Malone, a 2017 first round pick (Morgan Frost) and a conditional second rounder in 2019. Shattenkirk didn’t re-sign in Washington, while the Blues used the first round pick as part of a package to acquire Brayden Schenn from Philadelphia at the 2017 draft. The Blues made a great deal.
6. On June 23rd, 2017 the Blackhawks traded Nick Hjalmarsson to Arizona for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin. Both teams missed the playoffs. Hjalmarsson is a better D-man, but he is getting a bit long in the tooth.
7. On September 17th, 2017 the Panthers traded Jason Demers to Arizona for Jamie McGinn. It was a salary dump by the Panthers. The previous regime, who traded Kulikov and Gubranson, signed Demers as a UFA, but after one season the Panthers changed their mind and dumped him. Coyotes won this trade.
To get a proven, quality right shot D-man, you have to give up a lot, and Peter Chiarelli will need to ask himself if he is willing to give up a big piece to acquire a quality right-shot defender.
I don’t see the Sabres looking to move Ristolainen. I’ve heard some suggest because they will be drafting Rasmus Dahlin they should consider it. Why? Dahlin is a left shot D. Why not have both of them anchor their blueline for years to come? I know Ristolainen’s underlying stats aren’t great, but I don’t think they tell the entire story. He can improve his defensive play, but he has proven he can be an elite point-producing defender. He has the fifth most PP points of any defender in the NHL the past three years. He is 50th in EV points among defenders over the past three years, so he clearly can improve there.
But keep in mind the Sabres have scored the fewest EV goals in the NHL the past three years. Would he have more EV scoring if they had better forwards and a better overall system? I’d argue yes. He needs to improve his play, no question, but if the Sabres are considering trading him then you should listen to a reasonable offer. The Oilers aren’t going to trade Oscar Klefbom and the 10th overall pick for Ristolainen, at least I’d hope not, but a Ristolainen for Klefbom as the main pieces with smaller parts might work.