Puck Daddy - NHL

Many National Hockey League general managers are of the belief that you should build a team from the goal out and, to use a football motto, defense wins championships.

As we've seen many times before, it doesn't take six superstar blue-liners to hoist the Stanley Cup. A mix of some offensive flair with defensive-minded bodies along with a touch of brave souls willing to give up the body to block shots is a blueprint that wins championships.

This year's free agent defenseman class features players that fall into each of those categories, with most looking for a significant raise in salary.

Here's a look at who we see as the Top 10 UFA defensemen, pending buyouts and re-signings. No Niedermayer, because he's coming back as a Duck.

1. Jay Bouwmeester(notes)

Current Team: Calgary Flames (for now)
Current Cap Hit: $4.875 million

The Good: Durable, smooth skating defenseman brings an offensive flair to the table. Still just 25-years old and already one of the top offensive blue liners in the league. Could his desire to play in a more passionate hockey environment see him improve even more?

The Bad: Flames General Manager Darryl Sutter has about $12 million in cap space to sign Bouwmeester and fill out the remaining roster. Would J-Bo be willing to take less now that he has a chance to play in a hockey mad city like Calgary?

The Ugly: Good luck Calgary (or whoever he lands with) media trying to pry an interesting quote out of him.

2. Mattias Ohlund(notes)

Current Team: Vancouver Canucks
Current Cap Hit: $3.5 million

The Good: Veteran puck-moving defenseman would be a bonus for any team. He can still provide offense and showed a bit more toughness breaking 100 minutes in penalties in 2008-09.

The Bad: His average time-on-ice has decreased every season since 2003-04 from 25 minutes to 21 this past season.

The Ugly: Coming off a year where he had his lowest goal and point totals after playing a full season.

3. Mike Komisarek(notes)

Current Team: Montreal Canadiens
Current Cap Hit: $1.7 million

The Good: Bruising blue-liner and excellent shot blocker. With the star power in the Eastern Conference, teams need a shut down defenseman and Komisarek can be that guy if you're willing to open the wallet.

The Bad: If you're a GM, do you pay a defenseman with 12 career goals $5-million a year for just defense? That's Ron Hainsey(notes) money!

The Ugly: Might want to look at a Western Conference team to stay away from Milan Lucic(notes).

4. Francois Beauchemin(notes)

Current Team: Anaheim Ducks
Current Cap Hit: $1.65 million

The Good: Sold minute-muncher that played well after returning from a serious ACL injury this past season.

The Bad: Scott Niedermayer's(notes) return could spell the end for his former defensive partner in Anaheim.

The Ugly: Beauchemin blossomed as soon as he landed in Anaheim. Was his coming out a product of the Ducks system? We'll see soon enough.

5. Marc-Andre Bergeron(notes)

Current Team: Minnesota Wild
Current Cap Hit: $1.16 million

The Good: His big shot can be an aid to any power play. Was the Wild's second leading scorer with defense and added seven goals with the man advantage.

The Bad: His small frame (5-10, 197 lbs.) causes problems when trying to slow down larger forwards.

The Ugly: Is there a reason he's on his fourth team in seven seasons?

6. Rob Scuderi(notes)

Current Team: Pittsburgh Penguins
Current Cap Hit: $713,000

The Good: Made himself plenty of money with his performance in the Stanley Cup Finals. One of the more underrated players in the league.

The Bad: Could Scuderi be another in the long line of "contract year wonders"?

The Ugly: If you're a Penguins fan hoping Scuds get re-signed, there'll be a pit in your stomach if some GM out there throws a Jeff Finger(notes)-type contract out at him, thereby putting the Leafs defenseman further ahead of Wyshynski on The Hockey News' Top 100 People of Power and Influence list.

7. Jordan Leopold(notes)

Current Team: Florida Panthers
Current Cap Hit: $1.5 million

The Good: If Florida can sign him, Leopold played with Keith Ballard(notes) at the University of Minnesota. Instant chemistry on the blue line, which is always key.

The Bad: Battled injuries before playing a full season in 2008-09. If healthy, can be a solid presence on any defense corps.

The Ugly: Part of the Hobey Baker curse. Offensive machine in college; not so much in the NHL.

8. Hal Gill(notes)

Current Team: Pittsburgh Penguins
Current Cap Hit: $2.075 million

The Good: Good shot blocker and crease clearer. Teams love big defensemen and Gill brings that size, even if he doesn't play like it.

The Bad: He may be 6-7, 250 lbs., but he isn't as physical a presence as you think and might possibly skate like a duck.

The Ugly: If he wins another Stanley Cup, there's a good chance he breaks out the porn-stache while celebrating.

9. Paul Mara(notes)

Current Team: New York Rangers
Current Cap Hit: $1.95 million

The Good: Character guy that would likely be staying in the Big Apple if Wade Redden's(notes) salary was able to be moved.

The Bad: Offensive numbers are way down since he left Phoenix, but he's had his only two "plus" seasons with the Rangers.

The Ugly: If free agency fails, he always has a backup career as Zach Galifianakis' body double in "The Hangover" sequel.

10. Sergei Zubov(notes)

Current Team: Dallas Stars
Current Cap Hit: $5.35 million

The Good: Despite being 38-years old, Zubov, if healthy, is an asset. In 16 seasons, he's only scored less than seven goals five times.

The Bad: With a new GM, change is coming to the Stars and that could mean the end of Zubov's days in Dallas.

The Ugly: He's coming off a season where he had two hip surgeries and he'll have to take a significant paycut if he wants to stay in the NHL next season.

All cap figures from NHLNumbers.com.

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