Yesterday, my colleague Colin wrote about some potential unrestricted free agent forwards. As per usual, it isn’t a great class, but perhaps they can find a decent contributing depth forward. For today, I was going to look at defensemen and goalies, but then Ottawa decided to re-sign Mike Condon and ruin my beautiful work.
So this post is significantly shorter than it originally was, as it is only focusing on defensemen. Don’t be expecting the world from these players, but they aren’t all bad options.
Out of all the UFA defensemen, I like Franson the most because he’s still just turning 30, had a previous cap hit of $3.325M, shoots right-handed, and is underrated because he played for the Buffalo Sabres.
Using these handy HERO charts, Franson looks pretty good over the past two seasons. Here I compared him to a typical 2nd pairing defenseman, and each category (ice time, goals, primary assists, shot generation and shot suppression) is rated out of 10, with 5 being the mean.
He ranks below average in ice time, but that’s not up to him. Furthermore, his shot suppression is elite, which is something that Ottawa desperately needs. He only averages 32 points per season, but they don’t need offense from him.
He will probably ask for at least $3.5M per year, and in my mind he is easily worth that. Whether the budget can take that sort of money is a different question though.
In an ideal world, Pierre Dorion would move Cody Ceci and replace him with Franson, and that would be an immediate upgrade. However, I can’t see Ceci being moved, which means Franson most likely won’t be signing in Ottawa.
Brendan Smith (Smith signed yesterday for 4/$17M. Never mind then)
Smith is another good fit, as he has a similar profile to Franson (although he shoots left). He’s two years younger at 28, and made only $1.725M last year. He should be due for a pay raise though, as he was traded for a 2nd and a 3rd round pick, meaning him and his agent know that he carries some value.
I found it interesting that Smith and Franson have the exact same rankings on the HERO charts from 2015-17, except Smith’s shot suppression ranks as a 9 instead of an 8. Furthermore, Smith has the 6th best relative corsi amongst defensemen over the past two seasons. So even if Franson is too expensive, I would be quite excited to get Smith instead.
I just hope he isn’t re-signed by the Rangers soon.
Kulikov’s name has been linked to the Senators already thanks to a connection with Boucher:
Pending UFA Dmitry Kulikov played for Guy Boucher in Drummondville... Wouldn't be surprised if the Sens reached out this week to chat...— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) June 26, 2017
While his name has always had some pedigree because he was picked 14th overall in 2009, he has never lived up to the hype.
In his eight NHL seasons, he has been a positive relative possession player in two of them (and even those were only +0.4% and +0.6%). He’s certainly not as good as some people think he is. Plus he is turning 27, so you can’t bank on any improvements in his game.
Ottawa wouldn’t be getting what they think they are getting, plus his cap hit last year was $4.33M, meaning they’d most likely be overpaying for him.
Perhaps Dorion feels the need to replace Marc Methot with another veteran left-handed defenseman. Oduya might be the target in that case. I’m not sure I’d prefer the soon-to-be 36-year-old, but I felt I should acknowledge that I can envision this happening.
Oduya made $3.75M last year, although at his age, he may not be able to get as much in free agency. If his price drops to around $3M or even less, Dorion might swoop in. I think his situation is at least worth monitoring.
Michael Del Zotto
Del Zotto is an interesting name because he seemed like a promising player in New York, then he almost faded out of the league, but he re-established at least some value in Philadelphia.
He made $3.875M last year which is a bit much for him, but he’s not a bad option as an offensive option. He shoots left-handed though, which means there isn’t as much room for him on the roster.
The only way Del Zotto would make sense is if his cap hit comes down and they see him as an upgrade on Chris Wideman. Obviously in that case somebody would have to play on their opposite side.
Stone is a name that comes up a lot, and I’m sure Mark would love to have his brother on the team. I’m obliged to include him on this list, but I really don’t want the Senators to sign him. He has some pedigree because he was traded for a 3rd and a 5th round pick this season, but his underlying numbers are not pretty.
Take a look at his HERO chart compared to an average third pairing player.
His point totals are fine, but Ottawa can’t afford another possession black hole like this.
He made $4M on his last deal, and anywhere near that would be a big overpay.
While it’s extremely unlikely that Campbell signs with Ottawa, I felt I had to include him in this list because he’s still a solid player and someone was going to mention him. He’s 38 years old, yet somehow has some miles left in the tank.
Furthermore, he made a miniscule $1.5M last year, and might be worth that money if Ottawa is able to get him.
Goalies: (Ottawa ended up going with Condon after I initially wrote this. The other options I listed were Darcy Kuemper, Chad Johnson, Brian Elliott, Anders Nilsson, and Keith Kinkaid)
I feel like it’s inevitable that Condon re-signs in Ottawa. I’m hoping they are able to get a one or two-year deal done, because giving backup goalies term is not a good idea. While Condon was a saviour for much of the season just because he was at least an NHL goalie that could stand in the net, I don’t think he’s a particularly amazing backup.
His career .908 SV% is underwhelming, even if you account for the fact that his most loyal supporters say that he wore down due to his starter workload in each of the past two seasons. Dorion did a great job to get him for only a 5th round pick, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world if the Senators had to go with a different option.
Now let’s hear from the readers. Are any of these defensemen on your wish-list on July 1st?
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