(Disclaimer: We all like playing Armchair GM. The majority of these aren't pulled from speculation or reports, but from expiring contracts that are somewhat affordable, for players on mediocre teams.)
Yesterday we looked at a heaping amount of talent (or at least some half-decent forwards) that could be beneficial to the Bruins this season. Today, we'll look at some defencemen that could be on the market if Peter Chiarelli and crew feel like the MorTrotSky bunch isn't enough depth.
I noticed two things right away when constructing this list. First, defensemen are pricier. You only need six on your team, but finding six good ones is a tough task. Secondly, a ton of teams lock up their Top 4 long term. Looking at UFAs and RFAs over the next two seasons, it was hard to tell which would be better options for the Bruins. Locking up the blue line for multiple years isn't rare in today's NHL, which makes it so surprising that outside of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, the vast majority of the Bruins' defense is due for a new contract in the next 1-2 seasons.
Top 6 Pending UFA Defencemen
It also was apparent right away that any defenseman worth picking up was a little bit older than the group of UFA forwards mentioned yesterday. Marc Staal is the youngest option, at 27 years of age. The Ranger's alternate captain is in his final year, and with the reigning Easter Conference Champs coming back to earth this season, Staal is either due a long extension, or a could be shipped out for younger assets. If he goes on the trade block, he'd likely be the most sought-after D-man in the league.
The shadow Staal would cast could allow for a seller like Carolina to ship out the likes of Andrej Sekera. Adam Gretz believes the Stars will be a bidder if he hits the market, but the under-rated defensive defenseman could be a good get for a Bruins team that has a busload of defensive prospects. (Get it? 'Cause they're constantly getting bused to and from Providence? I'm here all week). And at $2.75M, Sekera would be a Top 4 option at low cost for the remainder of this season.
Peter Chiarelli's relationship with Ottawa always should raise an eyebrow in terms of possible trades. Which is why
Paul Maclean's the Senators could be sending a decent return PC's way. Their main option would be Marc Methot, who is in the final year of his 4-year/$12M contract that was originally given by the Blue Jackets, before he was traded for Nick Foligno in 2012. Methot has been a solid defenseman for Ottawa the last couple seasons despite the team's struggles. Last year when the team finished with a -29 goal differential, Methot had a +1 rating, and had the third-best CF% among the Sens' defensive group.
The priciest pieces Peter could pursue would be Calgary's Mark Giordano and Vancouver's Dan Hamhuis. Hamhuis is the Canucks best lock-down defenseman along with Kevin Bieksa. But with a couple good drafts, their solid young D core could make him a good deadline option. Giordano is as close as you can get to untouchable on the Flames, I just selfishly want him on the team more than say, Dennis Seidenberg. Either would require a serious return, as both teams are currently in the playoffs and would be buyers come the deadline. But they sit ahead of a couple hungry Californian teams that'll be pushing down the stretch, and Chiarelli has a relationship with Vancouver's new GM Jim Benning.
The most realistic option when looks at Chia's past moves (the Meszaros/Redden/Corvo/Zanon of this list) would be the underpaid Anton Volchenkov. The 32-year-old Russian is on a Nashville team that has the least goals allowed in the league. Yet even still, they play in hockey's toughest division--the Central--and them falling out of the third place slot is always a possibility. If the team can't make the playoffs, they may dump the D-man they gave a 1-year deal to back in the offseason for some upside next fall.
Top 6 Pending RFA Defencemen
I wouldn't have guessed from the eye test, but it was a good year for Jersey defensemen in 2013-14. In addition to the aforementioned Volchenkov, both Adam Larsson and Eric Gelinas are dirt cheap options coming up on their RFA contract. Their numbers are down now that Volchenkov is out of town, but both still seem promising. The Devils may opt to pay both long term, but if they favor one over another, either blue liner could be trade bait for even more young & talented assets.
Although trying to fight Chara may not be a wise idea, you can't fault Brendan Smith for having the guts to not back down from a giant laughing in his face. Reilly Smith's older brother is an offensively talented defenseman, who is a little bigger and stronger than Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski, and David Warsofsky. Detroit is also loaded with back-end talent, with both Ryan Sproul and Danny DeKeyser getting "Lidstrom 2.0" thrown around as their potential. If Brendan needs to be moved in favor more promising talent, Boston would be a welcome landing spot. Only thing is, good luck trying to get Detroit to make that trade to a contending team in their division.
If Peter's recent travels were any indication, Tampa could have a piece the Bruins could want. Mark Barberio could be back-end help if the Bruins need some depth outside of MorTrotSky. Barberio had a good rookie campaign last year, with 10 points and a 52.9 CF% in 49 games. But the Bolts are simply stacked on the blue line, so barring any long-term injury, Barberio looks to be the 7th defenseman for the majority of the season. A half decent return could get him up the East coast.
Chris Tanev out of Vancouver could be a back-up plan over Hamhuis if PC can make a deal with Benning. Tanev had a solid year defensively on a shaky Canucks team in 2013-14, and looks even better this year. He's on a Matt-Bartkowski-esque 1-year/$2M "show me" deal that'll help the team decide if he's worth keeping going forward. If Vancouver is out of the running come the deadline, or they simply don't need him down the stretch, they could sell him to a team in need of depth. This could be the "Corey Potter" deal of 2015.
Once again, you can't talk about potential Chiarelli trades without mentioning his ol' stomping grounds. Patrick Wiercioch currently has the only CF% above .500 on the Senators, and was 2nd on the team last year. He's had a couple solid seasons in a row, and will hit RFA status after next season. As a long term rental, he could cost a little more, but is currently dealing with a muscle strain injury that could nag him for awhile before he gets back to 100%. With so many of the Bruins defensemen coming up as soon as next year (5 of their current 10 on the NHL roster hit RFA or UFA status next offseason), Wiercioch could be a good acquisition for the remainder of this season, and next year as well.