Jun 30, 2011

Speculation: Free Agent Preview - The Defenseman

So the Christian Ehrhoff risk didn't work out. It happens, but now it's time to move on. Continuing our free agency preview, here are 16 defenseman the Islanders may take a chance on come July 1.

Top 4 Offensive Defenseman

Christian Ehrhoff - 14 G 36 A 50 P +19 - Could (Still) Be A Target
What, you think I'd leave him out? In all seriousness, Garth has said the door is shut and I believe him. But if Ehrhoff comes crawling back asking for the Isles offer, you think they'd say no? I doubt it. Chances are at about 0%, and the Isles won't take initiative. But you never know what happens on July 1.

Tomas Kaberle - 4 G 43 A 47 P +4 - Could Be A Target
Kaberle is declining, and he wouldn't be my first choice. But he is a "name" and someone that can come in to help Travis Hamonic. However, he doesn't really fill a need so I think they go in another direction.

Roman Hamrlik - 5 G 29 A 34 P +6 - Isles Target
If the Isles want a short-term option, a reunion with Roman Hamrlik could be in the cards. Hammer liked playing here, and played with front office members Garth Snow and Eric Cairns. He's still physical and can play a top-4 role, but anything more than 2 years (and that's pushing it) is excessive.

Ian White - 4 G 22 A 26 P +3 - Isles Target
White is only 27 years old and coming off a very good year in San Jose. This is the guy the Isles should be going after on July 1. It's not really fair to call him "offensive" since he's more of a two-way guy. He's a good "new" NHL defenseman and will fit right in.

Top 4 Defensive Defensemen

Steve Montador - 5 G 21 A 26 P +16 - Isles Target
Had a great year with the Sabres last year. If he makes it to FA tomorrow, the Isles should be all over his cell phone. Could come in and fill exactly what the team is looking for.

Andy Greene - 4 G 19 A 23 P -23 - Isles Target
Greene had a terrible year with New Jersey last year, which will lower his stock. Could be a perfect candidate for the Isles to swoop in for on July 1. Their type of defenseman as well.

Jan Hejda - 5 G 15 A 20 P -6 - Isles Target
One of the most underrated in the game, and should be one of the Isles top choices come July 1. Plenty of teams will be calling this guy.

Ed Jovanovski - 5 G 9 A 14 P +4 - Isles Target
He's getting up there in age, but can still really help the team. My personal #1 choice for the Isles, but it will really come down to if he wants to play on the East Coast. At this stage in his career, he may not have a choice.

Scott Hannan - 1 G 10 A 11 P +4 - Isles Target
Hannan, still somewhat young at 32, could come in on a short 2-way deal to help out. Depends what he wants - still hasn't won a Cup, and still may have some looks from contenders.

Bottom Pairing Offensive Defensemen

Anton Babchuk - 11 G 24 A 35 P +14 - Could Be A Target
This is a guy the Isles could look at as someone with untapped potential. He won't work on anything more than a 1 year deal, and I'm not sure they want to have 4 potential D UFA next year, so they are better off going elsewhere.

Bryan McCabe - 7 G 21 A 28 P +2 - Isles Target (But Shouldn't Be)
McCabe wants to be here, so if the Isles want him back he will be. His only role will be the shooter on the PP to Mark Streit's QB. Really though, stay away. This would not be an improvement.

Bottom Pairing Defensive Defensemen

Jonathan Ericsson - 3 G 12 A 15 P +8 - Isles Target
Misplaced on a stacked Detroit defense, Ericsson hasn't really had the chance to show what he can do. In a Mark Streit type fashion, the Isles may give him that chance.

Jim Vandermeer - 2 G 12 A 14 P -15 - Could Be A Target
In the "if the market runs dry" category of the day, Vandermeer would come in as a stopgap, but really wouldn't be much better than the Isles already have.

Jeff Woywitka - 2 G 9 A 11 P +5 - Could Be A Target
Like Vandermeer (and some guys under him), Woywitka is a Plan B if the Isles can't improve on the top four. All these guys would be fine on a one-year deal, but anything more is pushing it.

Kent Huskins - 2 G 8 A 10 P +8 - Could Be A Target
You can pretty much exactly copy what is written for Woywitka and place it here.

Shane O'Brien - 2 G 7 A 9 P +1 - Isles Target
O'Brien is very interesting. Still young, he has time to further improve his game. A mean, tough, physical defenseman, he may be a guy the Isles turn to if the market is not going their way.

AT: My top 3 choices for D-men would be Scott Hannan, Roman Hamrlik and Jan Hejda. All are getting up there in age, but the Islanders only need a 2-3 year stopgap until some of our prospects such as Mayfield, Donovan and Pedan can make it up the ranks. Hannan fills a role as a Brendan Witt type player who can throw big hits, put up a lot of ice time and be the defensive D-man the Isles so desperately need for the top 4 right now. Hamrlik, while 37, is a former Islander who I'm sure would be willing to come back to a team he has ties with for 2-3 years to finish up his career. He still contributes offensively, has a monster shot and plays a very efficient D game. Jan Hejda, as Carey said, is very underrated and could be the big winner for the Isles. Playing on Columbus will do that to you. Either one of these three would be a perfect fit for the top 4. I can only hope and pray the Isles do not go for Bryan McCabe. He is exactly what the Islanders DON'T need defensively and his skills have been on the decline. Same with Kaberle. We have Streit returning and a continuously improving Andrew MacDonald. They are not necessary as stopgaps. 

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