2012 NHL free agent defensemen

Last week I took a look at the crop of 1012 NHL free agent forwards and today I will take a look at the group of free agent defensemen.  As I did with forwards, I will use my HARO+ (offensive), HARD+ (defensive) and HART+ (total/overall) rating system which takes into account on-ice performance, quality of teammates, and quality of opposition.  Generally speaking, a rating over 1.00 is an above average rating and a rating below 1.00 is a below average rating.  By that I mean, if a player had a HARO+ rating of 1.10 it would mean if he played with and against perfectly average players his team would score 10% more goals than the average team.  In this example the player would drive goal scoring to a level 10% above average.  A HARO+ rating of 0.90 would mean the player would drive (or hinder) goal scoring to a level 10% below average.  As usual, my preference is to use 3 year 5v5 zone start adjusted ratings and that is what I will do here.  Let’s first look at the group of defensemen under age 30.

HARO+, or offensive rating, is along horizontal axis and the vertical axis is HARD+, or defensive rating.  Players to the right are good offensive players and players towards the top are good defensive players.  The size of the circle is indicative of the players 5v5 zone start adjusted ice time over the past 3 teams relative to the other players in this table.  Matt Carle is the top offensive player available and is a solid defensive player as well and is quite likely the best defenseman available, though everyone believes he will re-sign in Philadelphia and may already have a deal agreed upon but can’t sign it until July 1st due to salary cap issues.  Ryan Suter doesn’t have the offense of Carle but is a better defensive player and can also play big minutes.  After those two top end big minute defensemen you get a group of lesser minute guys who seem to be quite capable defensively.  These include Lepisto, Garrison, Woywitka, Colaiacovo, O’Brien, and Gilroy.  If Garrison can repeat his offensive season of 2011-12 then he is probably the top defenseman after Suter and Carle and Colaiacovo would be right there as well.  Guys to avoid include Bruno Gervais,  Milan Jurcina, Aaron Johnson, Dylan Reese, and Dennis Wideman.  If you are looking for a guy who can play secondary offensive minutes maybe Shaone Morrisonn is your guy, but don’t expect him to contribute defensively.

Now, let’s take a look at the age 30-34 crowd.

There aren’t really any elite level offensive defensemen in this group but there are a few solid defensive and second tier defensemen.  The guy hidden at the far top right is Kent Huskins who always seems to have good offensive and excellent defensive ratings but never gets the recognition I feel he deserves.  He might be the best ‘unknown’ defenseman in the NHL.  Michal Roszival is a pretty solid 2-way defenseman as well and Sarich, Jackman, White and Zanon are solid defensive contributors.  Brad Stuart would be a decent addition as a 4-5-6 guy but I would probably avoid Hannan, Allen, Foster and Mottau.

Now for the older 35+ crowd.

There are some pretty decent veteran players here.  I have included Lidstrom for reference but as you know he has retired.  Kuba is a solid offensive defenseman but has a lot of holes in his game defensively.  Spacek is probably nearing the end of his career but may still be a useful depth defenseman at the right price.  Kubina isn’t as good defensively but probably has a little more left in the tank.  Bryce Salvador, Willie Mitchell (both still playing in the Stanley Cup finals) and Adrian Aucoin are quality defensive defensemen who can still play a solid shut down role on any team.  Staios, Eaton, Commodore, Gill are definitely in the can no longer contribute category and probably should retire while everyone else might be able to contribute as depth defensemen on a team looking to add some veteran experience.

In the interest of comparing the age groups above, here is the somewhat cluttered chart showing all defensemen colored according to age group.

When all factors are considered, the top unrestricted free agent defensemen are Matt Carle, Ryan Suter, Michal Rozsival, Carlo Colaiacovo and Barrett Jackman while older players such as Willie Mitchell, Adrian Aucoin, Cory Sarich and Bryce Salvador can contribute in defensive roles while Filip Kuba is a solid offensive defenseman but a defensive liability.

This article has 10 Comments

  1. “If you are looking for a guy who can play secondary offensive minutes maybe Shaone Morrisonn is your guy, but don’t expect him to contribute defensively.”

    Or offensively. Shaone Morrisonn has a career high of 14 points post lockout. How can he possibly rank ahead Wideman AND Suter (or anyone else) in HARO????

    1. Yeah, that made no sense. I shouldn’t have written that. Guess that is what you get when you quickly write a post first thing Monday morning.

      In any event, for whatever reason Morrisonn’s teammates have generally done better offensively when Morrisonn is on the ice than when not (particularly in 2009-10) which is how I calculate my ratings. . His HARO+ is thus probably a rating anomaly. But, I do think you can contribute offensively without contributing big point totals through winning puck battles, screening the goalie, etc.

      1. “But, I do think you can contribute offensively without contributing big point totals through winning puck battles, screening the goalie, etc.”

        Right, but does ShaMo do that to the extent where he is more valuable than both Wideman AND Suter? I’d bet (strongly) against.

        1. No, very unlikely, hence why I call him an anomaly (or if you prefer, probably got very lucky in his 2009-10 season which is driving his rating so high).

          1. “probably got very lucky in his 2009-10 season which is driving his rating so high”

            Most freq 5v5 linemates in 2009-10: Ovechkin (50G/109 pts), Backstrom (33G/101P), Mike Knuble (29G), Mike Green (19G/76P).

            Not lucky: a passenger on a very fast ship….

  2. These defensive numbers seem funky. Jeff Woywika could barely skate and was scratched from the Rangers lineup after getting burned by bottom six forwards.

    1. It is a small sample size but here is how Lundqvist and Eminger, his main defense partner, did with and without Woywitka in terms of goals against per 20 minutes of ice time.

      Lundqvist: with: 0.464 without: 0.664
      Eminger: with: 0.524 without: 0.885

      Clearly much better with Woywitka than without. You can go back to his previous seasons in Dallas and see similar results. Her are some numbers from 2010-11.

      Trevor Daley with: 0.519 without: 1.090
      Kari Lehtonen with: 0.580 without: 0.742
      Loui Eriksson with: 0.463 without: 0.737
      Mike Ribiero with: 0.549 without: 1.000
      Brenden Morrow with: 0.582 without: 1.052
      Brad Richards with: 0.701 without: 0.687
      Jamie Benn with: 0.544 without: 0.859
      Steve Ott with: 0.926 without: 0.691
      Tom Wandell with: 0.497 without: 0.565
      James Neal with: 0.500 without: 0.686

      Only Steve Ott and Brad Richards (ever so slightly) had a worse goals against rate with Woywitka on the ice than without Woywitka on the ice. He doesn’t play real tough minutes, but his results are very good. I suspect he got scratched not because he was a defensive liability but because the Rangers needed more offense and figured a guy like Anton Stralman could provide that.

  3. Can you explain to me how Matt Carle is the top ranked offensive defenseman despite the fact that Suter has more goals, assists, points, more shots on goal, and a higher +/-?

    1. It isn’t based solely on points and the ratings are in 5v5 situations only, not PP or PK. Over last 3 seasons Suter has 8g, 60pts at even strength and Carle has 6g, 85pts. That is a factor, but it also factors in team performance when they are on the ice vs when they are not.

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