As this feature closes, I note that there are a few under-30 defensemen who are listed as unrestricted free agents for this summer at NHL Numbers. Most of them have an issue, one way or another that doesn't warrant an in depth look. For example:
- Greg Zanon (29, $750,000) is a shot blocking machine...who is essentially a third pairing defensive defenseman who specializes at just that: blocking shots. Dirk Hoag's complementary in his analysis of Zanon, but he's not a top 4 defender and so I don't think the Devils shouldn't look at him.
- Ville Koistinen (26, $700,000) is said to be good at moving the puck according to his player page, but he wasn't even a regular in Nashville for either of the two season's he been with them. 11 points in 38 games isn't bad on it's own except when you consider he was scratched more often than not. Given that he went for arbitration and won $700,000 last summer, that he wasn't being dressed is a big red flag. Unless the Devils see some serious potential in Koistinen, I don't think he's worth a serious look.
- Andrew Alberts (27, $1.4 million) is listed as a #6 or a #7 defenseman on his player page. The Devils already have 3 valid players for that spot. Pass.
Alexei Semenov (28, $650,000) is a big, big man...who has made some big, big mistakes in his own zone. While Mr. Plank at From the Fin finds some parts of his game that he likes about the defender, he ultimately concludes that he's a bargain for the bottom pairing. I don't think the Devils really, absolutely need to get huge on the bottom pairings, so I don't think
- David Tanabe (28, $900,000) retired back in October due to health issues, as reported by Chip Alexander at the News & Observer.
And then I discovered someone who is worth a further look: Dennis Seidenberg.
While the wounds from the first round loss to Carolina may still be too fresh, I think that Seidenberg is definitely worth serious interest.
#4 / Defenseman / Carolina Hurricanes
Jul 18, 1981
2008-09 Salary: $1.4 million
|2008 - Dennis Seidenberg||70||5||25||30||-9||37||2||0||1||0||129||3.9|
Seidenberg is coming off a career season in points, shots, games played, and in average ice time with 22:19 per game. And he did all with more than just a little grit too. The defenseman is necessarily big, but he knew how to use his body last season. He had 146 hits, which was the second most among Canes defenders and fourth on team; and he stepped up to block 160 shots, which led the team. All this and with only 37 penalty minutes - a career high for him, but still very low. Oh, and as far as his even strength numbers at Behind the Net go, they are mostly OK: the shots against per 60 minutes fell from 27.2 to 26.0 when Seidenberg hit the ice; and the goals against per 60 remained unchanged at 2.36, which is pretty low to begin with. These are all positives, to say the least!
There's usually two lines of thought when it comes to this sort of thing, which just happens to happen to some players in the last year of their contract. The first is pessisism, the player ups his performance for next contract and then falls back into bad habits. The second is optimism, that the player has "broke out" and will continue to get better. Given his career so far, I am on the "optimism" side with respect to Seidenberg. He finally got to play a full season and he earned significant minutes with his play, which led to his career highs in goals and assists.
With respect to how the fans of his last team saw him, Bubba, Cory, and Scott of Canes Country all had praise for the defender. Scott stated that he's hitting the peak of his career; Bubba notes that despite some plus/minus shortcomings, he would be an upgrade over Frantisek Kaberle and Niclas Wallin; and Cory notes that he's a top 4 defenseman whilst lamenting that their cap situation. Ultimately, this leads me into the first issue I have with the idea of Seidenberg as a Devil. Like Oduya, Komisarek, et. al., Seidenberg can stand to get some crazy money soon. Cory brought up Ron Hainsey as an example of a young defender who put up some good numbers and walked away with $4.5 million per year with Atlanta. Cory and Bubba aren't expecting that much money, but think he will be worth about $3 million. As such, they're not expecting a return of Seidenberg to Carolina.
I can see the Devils spending $3 million for a top 4 defender, the question is whether A) will they spend that much if they are also going to give similar money to Johnny Oduya and B) who won't they sign as a result of the potential $6+ million spent on two defenders? Of course, I'm assuming the Devils will be able to keep Oduya. If his price stays around $3 million, then I don't have too much of a problem with him as a Devil. If it becomes $4 million or more, then I think that's too much unless Oduya's definitely not coming back and the Devils need to ensure Seidenberg's signature. I don't think he'll get that much, though.
The second issue I have with Seidenberg is his strength. This is called out on his player page as a weakness and I can attest to it being true from what I've seen of him this season. While he looked great going forward for Carolina against New Jersey, like the rest the Canes, he struggled when the Devils battled hard down low and along the boards. It's a bit odd that strength would be the problem for a guy who throws plenty of hits and gets in front of shots. Fortunately, it's an issue that I would think can be addressed wherever he goes. Pretty much every team has strength & conditioning coaches as well as a gym of sorts, after all.
The final issue I have with Seidenberg is something that he may not be able to address: health. While he got 70 games in this season plus the playoffs, he suffered a groin injury, an "undisclosed" injury, and a "lower body injury." In prior seasons, he had an ankle injury, injuries to both knees, a broken right wrist, and a concussion. These all occurred over a stretch of 4 seasons and only the ankle injury kept him out for more than 10 games. Still, it's more than a handful of minor injuries he suffered before he's even turned 28! While I don't think his health should destroy the possibility of becoming a New Jersey Devil, I do hope for his own sake that they are kept few and far between. It's something I'd express caution over, really.
Overall, I really like the possibility of Seidenberg as a Devil. He stayed healthy, he earned big minutes, and he put up a good number of points. He has offensive tools, he's finally figured out how to best use them (as he finally got play enough to do so), and he's not afraid to get involved in physical play. I feel he would be a definite upgrade from Mottau on the Devils' top 4 as a two-way defenseman. He's not perfect, but I'm not finding myself wondering whether he can play defense (Bergeron), how much the player has left in terms of effectivness (Aucoin), whether he fills a need despite filling in minutes (Ohlund), or how much ridiculous money the player is going to get (Bouwmeester, Komisarek). From what I see, he addresses the team's needs and improves the defense overall.
As long as he stays healthy and builds what he did last season in Carolina (read: shoot), I think he would make a great signing even at about $3 million/year.
Have your say in the comments below about Dennis Seidenberg or the other defensemen I mentioned at the top. If you feel like mentioning a center or a draft prospect you'd like a closer look at, please make those suggestions in the comments to this FanPost. Already we got Samuel Pahlsson and (ugh) Blair Betts, so join in making up some more.