NHL Free Agents: Puck Daddy’s top 15 unrestricted defensemen

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Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green (52) is sent airborne by Los Angeles Kings left wing Kyle Clifford (13) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015, in Washington. The Capitals won 4-0. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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After detailing the top free agent forwards, here are the top 15 defensemen that could hit the free agent market this July 1. 

1. Mike Green, Washington Capitals

(2014-15 Cap Hit: $6.083 million)

He was a penalty machine in Game 7 against the Rangers in Washington’s second-round loss to New York. But this shouldn’t hamper the 29-year-old from getting paid this summer.

He’s a right-handed defenseman who can move the puck, and those are few and far between.

Said Green via CSN Washington:

“I want to play a significant role, whatever that is,” he said. “I take pride in whatever my role is on the team. I feel like I can play top-two [pairing] for sure."

But where can he fit? He says he wants a decent-sized role, but that may not come on a contending team – will he end up in, say, Alberta? It’s a good bet he won’t come back to the Caps.

2. Andrej Sekera, Los Angeles Kings

(2014-15 Cap Hit: $2.75 million)

The Kings are “still trying to figure out space” for Sekera supposedly. Can they create enough under the salary cap limit to keep the 29-year-old blueliner? In 16 games with the Kings last season he had four points. The year before with the Hurricanes he notched 44 points in 74 games. Last season, Sekera had a plus-83 SAT differential, even playing most of the season with the talent-challenged Canes before a deadline deal to LA.

Los Angeles sounds like it will do everything it can to keep Sekera, who is a nice place-holder with Slava Voynov’s lingering uncertainty.

3. Cody Franson, Nashville Predators

(2014-15 Cap Hit: $3.3 million)

He’s a 27-year-old. He’s a right-handed shot. He’s 6-foot-5. And he’s mobile. And he’s going to make a lot of money based off these four facts.

The Sicamous, British Columbia native was having a nice season with Toronto with 32 points in 55 games, and then came a trade to Nashville. Where he entered coach Peter Laviolette’s chateau bowwow. He had four points in 23 games post trade.

Does he make sense for the Red Wings? There’s always this feeling that Franson should give you more than you get based off his size and incredible wrist shot. Guys who have that ‘unfulfilled potential’ label tend to get paid.

4. Johnny Oduya, Chicago Blackhawks

(2014-15 Cap Hit: $3.375 million)

If you sign Johnny Oduya, not only do you get a championship-level defenseman, you also get a man with championship-level abs. Is he a great offensive defenseman? No. But he still plays upwards of 20 minutes per-night. He’s mobile and a good defender. Because of Chicago’s salary cap crunch, a return to the Hawks is unlikely. The Oilers want a veteran D, but The Hockey Writers gives us many reasons why this is a bad idea for Edmonton. It’s probably hard to accurately figure out Oduya based off his playing with the star-studded Hawks D.

5. Paul Martin, Pittsburgh Penguins

(2014-15 Cap Hit: $5 million)

Martin will not get $5 million. Then again, if Brooks Orpik could get $5.5 million in free agency last year … nah he probably won’t.  He’s a solid puck-mover and a savvy, veteran. But at age 34, how much does he have left? If you’re the Penguins, do you pay him because he “he competently takes care of his own end and is always able to support Letang as he jumpstarts the offense” as Pensburgh notes. Tough call.

6. Adam McQuaid, Boston Bruins

(2014-15 Cap Hit: $1.567 million)

McQuaid would like to remain a Bruin and the Bruins would like to hang on to McQuaid, but given the UFA market it’s possible he could increase his cap hit three-fold if someone else thinks he can handle a top-4 role in a way he didn’t in the previous two years in Boston.

7. Francois Beauchemin, Anaheim Ducks

(2014-15 Cap Hit: $3.5 million)

With 23 points in 64 games, his value to the Ducks couldn’t be higher. They’d like to keep him, and he really, really wants to come back. But if he does his the open market, the 35-year-old defenseman can expect offers north of $4 million and interest from contenders.

8. Christian Ehrhoff, Pittsburgh Penguins

(2014-15 Cap Hit: $4 million)

He came to the Penguins to win and pump up his stats. He leaves Pittsburgh with 14 points in an injury-shortened 49 games. He’s selling his house, so it appears he’s done in the Steel City. Will one of his suitors from a year ago, like the Detroit Red Wings, reappear?

PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 24: Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Barret Jackman #5 of the St. Louis Blues have words during the game at Consol Energy Center on March 24, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 24: Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Barret Jackman #5 of the St. Louis Blues have words during the game at Consol Energy Center on March 24, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

9. Barret Jackman, St. Louis Blues

(2014-15 Cap Hit: $3.167 million)

An inconsistent player, but one that does an admirable job suppressing shots. He won’t be back with the Blues, but he’s a veteran that could be a strong option for someone else’s bottom two.

10. Zbynek Michalek, St. Louis Blues

(2014-15 Cap Hit: $4 million)

The shot-blocking veteran turns 35 this season, and isn’t expected back with the Blues. He’s a depth defenseman at best right now, and it’s hard to imagine he hits $4 million in this climate.  

11. Michal Rozsival, Chicago Blackhawks

(2014-15 Cap Hit: $2.2 million)

Was any player proven more valuable in his absence than Rozy was with the Blackhawks? The injured defenseman lifted the Cup, and now faces the same uncertainty as half the roster. It’s likely he won’t be back, meaning someone will have a nice veteran addition to their bottom pairing next season.

12. Marek Zidlicky, Detroit Red Wings

(2014-15 Cap Hit: $3 million)

He’s 38 and had 34 points in 84 games between the Devils and Red Wings last season. You know what you’re going to get: a puck-mover that can make a play one minute and turn the puck over in his own zone the next. That said, for a 1-year option, not a bad one if a contender needs that skills set.

13. Tim Gleason, Washington Capitals

(2014-15 Cap Hit: $1.2 million)

The 32-year-old is a sixth defenseman at best. If someone wants to hand him a 2-year deal, he’ll sign. Otherwise, a return to the Capitals isn’t completely out of the question.

14. Andrej Meszaros, Buffalo Sabres

(2014-15 Cap Hit: $4.125 million)

He made $4.125 against the cap last season as a 29-year-old defenseman; raise your hand if you thought this guy was way north of 29. Not the best possession player, even before falling into the Buffalo black hole; can he reclaim his offensive game somewhere else? 

15. Lubomir Visnovsky, New York Islanders

(2014-15 Cap Hit: $4.75 million)

He’s 38 and coming off a concussion. Can be a good veteran puck moving option, but the thought is that he could be back with the New York.

- Josh Cooper and Greg Wyshynski

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