As pleased as many Devils fans seem to be about the signings of Henrik Tallinder and Anton Volchenkov, the loss of Paul Martin has left the Devils with a terrible lack of offensive defensemen outside of Andy Greene. With the strong possibility that they sign Ilya Kovalchuk, the Devils not only lack the cap space to make any further free agent signings, but will have to clear space from their roster in the form of trades - most likely of Dainius Zubrus and Bryce Salvador, and perhaps more. It is virtually a given that the Devils will have to go with four forwards on the PP, with players like Arnott, Kovalchuk, and Rolston likely to play the point, but outside of Greene, which of the defensemen might be able to man the other point?
With that need in mind, I wanted to see what defensemen were out there who wouldn't break the bank, at least cap-wise. I used the CapGeek Bargain Hunter and sorted the results by PP ice time per game. Minimum requirements were as such - at least 30 GP last season, 1.50 min of PP ice time per game, salary less than 2.0 million, and age 25 and over. I figured that those players who are less than 25 playing 30+ games and getting significant PP ice time were very good young prospects, and that teams would be unwilling to trade them, particularly not for a salary dump. I also excluded the players who have been recently signed or re-signed in free agency this offseason.
The results were dismaying - perhaps my conditions were too stringent. There are not a lot of options out there, but they are listed below. I included their even strength ice time per game as an indicator of whether they were trusted by their coaches defensively enough to play at even strength.
|Name||Cap Hit (M)||Team||GP||G||A||PP time/gm||ES time/gm|
|Marc-Andre Bergeron||(ex-0.750)||FA (ex-MTL)||60||13||21||2.97||11.9|
|Chris Campoli||0.633||RFA - OTT||67||4||14||2.03||15.21|
|Ian White||0.85||RFA - CGY||83||13||25||2.25||19.08|
|Alexandre Picard||(ex-0.800)||FA (ex-CAR)||54||5||11||1.57||15.17|
|Paul Mara||(ex-1.675)||FA (ex-MTL)||42||0||8||1.64||14.88|
Out of these results, we can rule out Campoli and White - they are RFAs and they will get pay raises this summer, in addition to being valued highly by their organizations. Calgary has cap issues of their own and would be unlikely to trade Giordano and White anyway. Picard and Mara, though they meet the PP ice time criteria, hardly seem to be productive enough to really be considered offensive defensemen. It seems that the reality is that offensive defensemen get paid - a lot - and it's hard to find a good value. In fact, one of the best values in the league, who would have been in this table were he not already on the Devils, is Andy Greene, who will be due for a big payday next summer.
M.A. Bergeron is an interesting case. On the one hand, he has been very effective on the PP and cheap, too. On the other hand, there's a reason he's cheap - he's a defenseman who's not so good at defense, hence his PP specialist status and lack of even-strength ice time. Still, given the number of defensive defensemen the Devils have, along with a corps of great two-way forwards, might it be worth it to take a chance on him?
If you think the conditions of my search were too restrictive, please suggest better criteria. If there is another player whom I have missed, please let me know. I know that players like Kaberle, Souray, and Corvo have been discussed in the past, but frankly all of those guys are too expensive if the Devils do indeed sign Kovalchuk and aren't really appropriate for this discussion - we need to go cheap here.