It’s no surprise that the Canucks are in the market for a puck-moving defenseman. They need a young, fast mobile defenseman who is comfortable in his own zone and can move the puck up ice with ease and accuracy.
This is a well-sought commodity in the league right now, so getting the right guy may be difficult. Everyone has eyes on Jay Bouwmeester, who is going to command a king’s ransom for his talents in the off-season. Mike Gillis seems to edging close to being the Billy Bean of the NHL GM world, so I doubt very much tat he will serious target Jay-Bo this summer. He’s just too expensive, and Gillis looks to build a more balanced team, salary-wise.
It also seems to be a given that Mattias Ohlund will be heading out of Vancouver this summer, as Gillis aims to get this team younger and faster. That is opening the door for one or two roster spots to clear up on the blue line.
So I spent some time over the past few days reviewing the list of pending UFA’s come July 1st and compiled a list of defensemen I think might be prime targets for Gillis to sign in an effort to get younger, faster and more agile with the puck.
Here is my top 10 list of potential defensemen UFA targets:
- Dennis Siedenberg (CAR). 2008-09 Salary $1.2m – He’s quick, adept with the puck, and is quickly gaining some excellent playoff experience as the Hurricanes are now in the Conference Finals.
- Jordan Leopold (CGY). 2008-09 Salary $1.5m – Not quite as quick as Siedenberg, but is excellent with moving the puck up ice.
- Marc-Andre Bergeron (MIN). 2008-09 Salary $1.7m – Has been working for the past few seasons under defensive uber-guru Jacques Lemaire, so he’s well taught. I see him being an excellent power-play quarterback.
- Christian Backman (STL). 2008-09 Salary $3.5m – Lacks all the characteristics needed for a puck-moving defenseman, but had a high salary relative to others on this list.
- Martin Skoula (MIN). 2008-09 Salary $1.9m – Same pedigree as Bergeron in Minnesota. Big, solid blueliner who moves the puck well. Could work on his speed.
- Mike Komisarek (MON). 2008-09 Salary $1.9m – Great two-way defenseman, but not quite as agile a puck mover as the top 5 on this list.
- Francois Beauchemin (ANA) 2008-09 Salary $1.65m – Awesome point shot. Another potential power-play quarterback. Downside is that he was hurt most of this past season. Is this a trend?
- Janne Niskala (TBY) 2008-09 Salary $0.6m – My sleeper pick-up. He put up great numbers in Europe. If the Canucks lose more than one defenseman this off-season, he would be a great inexpensive option as a second pick-up.
- Ville Koistinen (NAS) 2008-09 Salary $0.7m – Another sleeper pick. Great agility and puck movement, but he’s undersized.
- Johnny Oduya (ND) 2008-09 Salary $0.6m – Great skater and appears to be a good character team player. Need to work a little more on his movement out of the defensive zone.
With my picks here, I went for young, fast, mobile and affordable defenseman. I know that there are better pure defenseman available, but they don’t appear to fit the mold for which Gillis is looking.
I certainly don’t profess to have any first-hand knowledge of how to be an NHL GM, but I’m getting a better understanding of how Mike Gillis operates. Lets see if any of these ten players end up in Canuck Blue come September.