With the NHL free agency in full swing, now that the season is over, trade talks and rumors are all the buzz. Unrestricted free agents possibly leaving their current teams for a new and exciting destination, or maybe re-signing a new contract. Some players are more valuable and sought after than others depending on specific team needs as well as the player’s production last season. I’ve created a list of my top 10 unrestricted free agent defensemen and goalkeepers going into the month of July, and what they’re worth to potential buyers around the league.
1. Jason Demers – D – Dallas Stars
Demers is a good right-handed defenseman. He’s only 28-years-old and still has plenty more seasons in him. He had 23 points in 61 games last year for the Stars and is receiving interest from several teams including Edmonton. He will not last long on the market.
2. Brian Campbell – D – Florida Panthers
Campbell is one of the older players in free agency at 37-years-old, but still, holds a great amount of value for the right team. He had 31 points last season as well as a +31 +/- and could be a short-term fix for a team in need of a defenseman.
3. Kris Russel – D – Dallas Stars
Another Stars defenseman potentially leaving his current team, Russel was the #2 LD last season. The man is an excellent shot-blocker as well as a solid contributor in the points department for his team. He had 19 points last season playing for two different teams.
4. Dan Hamhuis – D – Vancouver Canucks
The 33-year-old is a very reliable two-way defender, and very marketable to a team that needs a defender to fill a missing spot on the roster. His cap hit in ’15-’16 was $4.5 million, which isn’t the most expensive on the market and is certainly within reason. Vancouver was said to be testing his value at the NHL draft to see if they had any potential buyers in need.
5. Jhonas Enroth – G – Los Angeles Kings
He won’t appear on some major stat sheets as a result of only playing 16 games last season, but Enroth is without a doubt a high-valued goalie in this league. It’s hard to get starts when you’re the backup to Jonathan Quick, but in his little playing time, the 28-year-old managed a 2.17 GAA which is one of the best in the leagues for the regular season. He is also a very reasonable $1.25 million towards the cap as of last season. He knows he deserves more ice time, and if the Kings aren’t willing to give it to him, another team certainly will.
6. James Reimer – G – San Jose Sharks
After playing most of the regular season with Toronto, Reimer was traded to San Jose in the second half of the season. He stands at 6’2” and is only 28-years of age, and boasted a 6-2 record with the Sharks in his 8 games played for them. Unfortunately for him, he was backing up one of the star goalies of the playoffs, Martin Jones. Reimer had an incredible 1.62 GAA in those 8 games, and is a very solid backup for the Sharks, but could easily be a starter for a number of teams next season.
7. Kyle Quincey – D – Detroit Red Wings
This 11-year veteran played 47 games last season for Detroit and racked up 11 points. Quincey stands at 6’2” and is a formidable defender to go up against. Having played over 400 NHL games makes him an interesting pickup. Detroit has decided not to re-sign him before July 1, allowing him to test the waters and hopefully fill his $4.5 million cap hit requirements for whatever team wants him.
8. Luke Schenn – D – Los Angeles Kings
The 26-year-old defender is a hard-working aggressive player with the right mindset for an NHL defenseman. He is big and strong and has the ability to grind it out in tough game situations. He was acquired by the Kings this season and played 72 games for them with 16 points, but his impact may not always show up on the stats sheet. LA is his third team, and if they are willing to pay his $3.6 million cap price he would be happy to stay there, but can also easily find a role in another team if he has to.
9. David Schlemko – D – New Jersey Devils
Schlemko was traded to the Devils for the ’15-’16 season and had the best season of his 8-year career. He had 19 points for his team and was an effective asset on the power play for New Jersey. Best of all, he signed a measly 1 year/ $625,000 contract with them, making him a complete steal. He is sure to get paid more wherever he lands next season as he has proven he can grow and adapt to the needs of the team.
10. Matt Bartkowski – D – Vancouver Canucks
Rounding out the top 10 UFAs on the defensive side is 28-year-old Matt Bartkowski. Developed his entire young career by Boston, Bartkowski was sent to Vancouver where he played 80 games this season and got 18 points, which is his best season yet. His $1.75 million cap hit is a steal for his work ethic and the great play he can provide. Vancouver should be looking to extend his contract for the foreseeable future.