Three From The Field: Prospective Free Agent Defencemen

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No whales. Photo courtesy Penguin Publications

Over the past half decade, I’ve gotten the feeling that being a fan of this hockey club is like being a member of some sort of support group.  We get together for pot luck suppers only to talk about the good times that were, to revel in our future riches, and eventually…without fail, lose our minds at something that we can’t control.


We’re entering a critical time of ‘the rebuild’.  2012-13 is the final year on the entry level contracts of Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi and Jordan Eberle.  To be quite candid with you, I’d like to show these guys that winning is OK, and getting into the playoffs for one of these years where they’re not pulling down trillions of dollars would be nice.  That whole “commitment to win” argument is one I’d like to trot out at this time, but I think you see where I’m going here.

For me, it boils down to one of two things:  defence, or goaltending.  You can get all angry at goaltending if you’d like (Khabibulin’s save percentage is over 4/10 a point better this year over last), but the bottom line is that the defence has to get better if this team wants to compete for something other than the basement in 2012-13.  This team will get markedly better if two actual NHL defencemen are signed to play with the team for the next couple of years.

So what are the criteria for signing defencemen?  Just throw a bunch of money at some guy?

There are a few self-imposed criteria I have for signing a defenceman.  This is kind of like a self-imposed cap, except self-imposed caps are stupid.

  • No whales.  If you think that throwing ten million dollars at a guy to come play for the Oilers doesn’t look desperate, you’re wrong.  Look at Heatley, and look at Hossa if you need some refreshing.  The Oilers were able to sign Sheldon Souray in 2007, and while he was able to perform for the team at varying degrees of capacity, he mouthed off and was promptly sat.  Now he’s contributing on Dallas, which silently says a lot.  So how about a cap of $3M per player?  This would make these players 3-4 on the pay scale, and would be nice if they fit into the 3-4 slots.  This may not be true for each player we review, it’s just a guideline.  Oh, don’t think I didn’t remember that this team typically has to overpay their free agents, or “hometown markup” as I like to call it.
  • A two year minimum contract.  Signing Jim Vandermeer was a nice stopgap last year, but it did nothing in the grand scheme of things.  If you’re going to get a contract, let’s keep you around long enough to make an impact.  Hopefully, you’re impact enough to not be scratched on occasion.  If you’re making $3M, you ought not to be.
  • Age at contract is not more than 33.  Typically, players who are 35 years of age tend to drop off statistically compared to when they were 25 or 30.  This isn’t a news flash by any means, but signing a guy at 33 for two years is a lot different than signing a guy at 36 for two years.

So now that we’ve restricted 70% of the league, let’s see who I think would be a good value buy for the next couple of seasons…

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