It has been said many times on this website (and others) that Dallas would benefit greatly from a right-handed defenseman, especially one with previous power-play experience.
As it so occurs, all of Dallas’s active defensemen are left-handed: Alex Goligoski, Trevor Daley, Brenden Dillon, Patrik Nemeth, Jordie Benn, Kevin Connauton, and yep, even Sergei Gonchar and Aaron Rome. Even the majority of the prospects are left-handed: Jyrki Jokipakka, Cameron Gaunce, Jamie Oleksiak, Ludvig Bystrom, Esa Lindell. and Hubert Labrie.
With the exorbitant dearth of right handed defensive talent, especially at the NHL level, it would not be outrageous to think that Dallas may seek to add a right-hander to their defense corps. Almost every team in the league has at least (1) right-hander on their squad (the only (2) teams that don’t have one at the NHL level are Dallas and Detroit).
So, in an effort to prove to myself that these players exist and Dallas has the ability to go out and get one (or two) of these guys, I did a little research.
First, I took the number of active defensemen in the league as of this year (245 defensemen) and I separated them into (2) groups: right-handed and left-handed. In the ‘hold your face in shock’ moment of the day, only 38% of the defensemen in the league are right-handed. So, just like that, we are now down to (93) defensemen left on the list.
Second, out of those 93, I looked up everyone’s contract status, primarily looking for one of three things: are they under contract still, are they an unrestricted free agent or are they a restricted free agent? I found that about (50) players were under contract, (22) were UFA’s and (21) were RFA’s.
I decided at this point to completely eliminate anyone left on the list that was considered a restricted free agent. Even though this list of (21) names includes guys like: Tyson Barrie, Justin Schultz, P.K. Subban, and Ryan Ellis, I am not convinced Dallas would make a play for any of these players. Dallas would have to tender an offer to one of these players and the player would have to accept it. Upon accepting the offer sheet, the players old team has the choice to match the contract or accept draft pick compensation from Dallas (in the case of P.K. Subban, this would no doubt be somewhere in the neighborhood of (4) 1st round picks over the next (4) years).
Jim Nill doesn’t strike me as a guy who would attempt this sort of thing, especially when he has made it clear over and over again how much he values draft picks. The process is also contingent on the player accepting the contract and the player’s old team not accepting the contract, leading me to believe Dallas would have to offer an amount well above market value for this player. This whole process of other teams going after RFA’s isn’t set up to make the best business sense, and you can bet your victory green pajama bottoms Jim Nill is aware of this.
So, poof, we are down to (72) right-handed defensemen who are either under contract or unrestricted in their free agency.
I started with the group of (22) UFA’s and looked up several things about their years last year: even strength goals, assists, points, power-play goals, assists, points, power-play time on ice per game, total time on ice per game and number of games played. I eliminated anyone with very little power-play time last year and created this list.
- Stephane Robidas: (DAL/ANA) Age: 37, 5'-11", 190 lbs, Even Strength (4-5-9), Power-play (1-0-1), PP-TOI/Game (0:50), TOI/Game (20:15), Games played (38)
- Andrej Meszaros: (PHI/BOS) Age: 28, 6'-2", 223 lbs, Even Strength (6-14-20), Power-play (1-1-2), PP-TOI/Game (1:05), TOI/Game (18:10), Games played (52)
- Tom Gilbert: (FLA) Age: 31, 6'-2", 206 lbs, Even Strength (1-21-22), Power-play (2-4-6), PP-TOI/Game (2:13), TOI/Game (21:10), Games played (73)
- Marek Zidlicky: (NJD) Age: 37, 5'-11", 190 lbs, Even Strength (4-18-22), Power-play (8-10-18), PP-TOI/Game (2:51), TOI/Game (21:38), Games played (81)
- Raphael Diaz: (MON/VAN/NYR) Age: 28, 5'-11", 197 lbs, Even Strength (2-8-10), Power-play (0-4-4), PP-TOI/Game (2:10), TOI/Game (16:40), Games played (63)
- Matt Niskanen: (PIT) Age: 27, 6'-0", 205 lbs, Even Strength (7-24-31), Power-play (3-12-15), PP-TOI/Game (2:59), TOI/Game (21:17), Games played (81)
- Dan Boyle: (SJS) Age: 37, 5'-11", 190 lbs, Even Strength (6-12-18), Power-play (6-12-18), PP-TOI/Game (3:38), TOI/Game (21:16), Games played (75)
- Sami Salo: (TBL) Age: 39, 6'-3", 212 lbs, Even Strength (4-7-11), Power-play (0-6-6), PP-TOI/Game (1:58), TOI/Game (18:11), Games played (71)
Out of this last group, I think we can all safely assume that Stephane Robidas and Matt Niskanen are not going to be apart of this team. This leaves (6) names on the UFA market who are right-handed defensemen with powerplay experience: Andrej Meszaros (PHI, BOS), Tom Gilbert (FLA), Marek Zidlicky (NJD), Raphael Diaz (NYR) and Dan Boyle (SJS) and Sami Salo (TBL).
The question remains…do any of these men, if added to Dallas, make the defense and the powerplay better? Dan Boyle of San Jose and Marek Zidlicky are the names that jumps out to me, but the younger options of Raphael Diaz, Tom Gilbert and Andrej Meszaros have their appealing qualities also. Does Dallas want to offer another (2) year contract on an older defensive player and risk another Gonchar situation playing out? Does Dallas sign one of these younger guys to a longer term and risk them not living up to expectations?
Still tough questions remaining as we finish off the UFA list.
The other list I created was the under contract list. It looks like this:
- Tyler Myers: (BUF) Age: 24, 6'-8", 219 lbs, Even Strength (6-7-13), Power-play (3-6-9), PP-TOI/Game (2:29), TOI/Game (21:53), Games played (62)
- Dennis Wideman: (CAL) Age: 31, 6'-0", 200 lbs, Even Strength (2-14-16), Power-play (2-2-4), PP-TOI/Game (3:07), TOI/Game (22:41), Games played (46)
- Slava Voynov: (LAK) Age: 24, 5'-11", 199 lbs, Even Strength (3-18-21), Power-play (1-12-13), PP-TOI/Game (2:49), TOI/Game (22:17), Games played (82)
- Jared Spurgeon: (MIN) Age: 24, 5'-9", 185 lbs, Even Strength (3-16-19), Power-play (2-5-7), PP-TOI/Game (2:07), TOI/Game (22:38), Games played (67)
- Michael Stone: (PHX) Age: 23, 6'-3", 210 lbs, Even Strength (6-8-14), Power-play (2-4-6), PP-TOI/Game (1:16), TOI/Game (18:12), Games played (70)
- Kris Letang: (PIT) Age: 27, 6'-0", 200 lbs, Even Strength (5-5-10), Power-play (6-6-12), PP-TOI/Game (3:42), TOI/Game (24:14), Games played (37)
- Kevin Shattenkirk: (STL) Age: 25, 6'-0", 207 lbs, Even Strength (3-15-18), Power-play (7-19-26), PP-TOI/Game (3:20), TOI/Game (20:34), Games played (81)
- Mike Green: (WAS) Age: 28, 6'-1", 207 lbs, Even Strength (6-17-23), Power-play (3-12-15), PP-TOI/Game (2:45), TOI/Game (22:43), Games played (70)
- Dustin Byfuglien: (WIN) Age: 29, 6'-5", 265 lbs, Even Strength (12-18-30), Power-play (8-18-26), PP-TOI/Game (3:27), TOI/Game (23:05), Games played (78)
Dallas has a stocked prospect pool, so Jim Nill certainly has options aplenty if he decides to pull the trigger on one of these gentlemen. Does Dallas believe making another blockbuster trade this off season will pay off, even half as well, as last seasons blockbuster trade did? Does acquiring one of these guys solve the number 1 defensemen issue that has plagued Dallas for so long?
Again…looks like more questions at the end of this list too.
Who do you think Dallas should go after and do you believe Jim Nill should target a right-hander more so than a left-hander?