Coming into the off-season there were a number of various issues concerning the New Jersey Devils: What to do for the second line center, upgrading the defense and/or retaining Paul Martin. The recent acquisition of Jason Arnott scratches the first one off the list. Which leaves the Devils with one concern: The defense. If Martin stays, the Devils will have taken the most effective defenseman on the free agent market. If Martin walks, the Devils will have their work cut out for them. They will have three options: go after a free agent defenseman, promote some prospects from the minors, or trade for a defenseman. While the former has been discussed quite alot, and there aren't many prospects that are NHL ready (outside of Corrente/Eckford), I will take a look at some of the defensemen that the Devils might find themselves trading for during this off-season. Per Capgeek, the Devils have 16 players signed with $14.04 million in cap space, meaning that trading for an expensive contract might not be the best idea (i.e. Campbell), especially if Paul Martin is retained. I'll look at a few defensemen on the trading block after the jump.
#15 / Defenseman / Toronto Maple Leafs
Mar 02, 1978
|2009 - Tomas Kaberle||82||7||42||49||-16||24||3||0||1||0||158||4.4|
Contract Status: Signed through 2010-11
Cap hit: $4.25 million, 2010-11 Salary: $4.25 million
The Devils have had interest in the smooth skating defenseman from before the trade deadline, but Kaberle had the option of vetoing the trade because of his no-trade clause. Because of a clause in his contract, there is a window in his No-trade clause where he can be moved. With the arrival of Phaneuf, Kaberle might be on the way out. Kaberle's best known for his puck moving abilities as well as his accuracy. He lead his team with 42 assists and was 2nd on the Leafs with 49 points. His 25 powerplay points (3 goals, 22 assists) lead the Leafs, and those would definitely be a welcome addition for a Devils team with a weak PP unit. He'd be the first big name puck mover the Devils have had since Brian Rafalski. The biggest concern with Kaberle might be his defensive abilities. From Pension Plan Puppets' Season Review:
Tomas Kaberle in his own end of the ice is terrifying. When he's on the ice opponents score more per minute than anyone else on the team save for Garnet Exelby and Jeff Finger. This is why he only goes on the ice when the Leafs have a faceoff in the offensive zone.
This might change, as for most of the season, Kaberle played in front of a rookie goaltender and one of the worst goaltenders on the face of the earth. Obviously there will be a difference when playing in front of a 10 time all star and future hall of famer. Another concern might be the fact that he piled up most of his offense in the first half of the season (Namely before the Phaneuf trade). Salary wise, Kaberle's $4.25 cap hit gives the Devils a cheaper option on the blueline offensively than Martin, but inferior defensively . However, he's a UFA at the end of 2010-11 and will most likely receive a raise, so he won't be a long term fix, but a year-long rental. As for the cost, I'm sure Burke will look for one who can get him the best deal possible, and a team might overpay for Kaberle's services.
#8 / Defenseman / Minnesota Wild
Mar 09, 1985
|2009 - Brent Burns||47||3||17||20||-15||32||2||0||0||0||104||2.9|
Contract Status: Signed Through 2011-2012
Cap Hit: $3.55 million/season, 2010-11 Salary: $3.8 million
A few years back, Brent Burns was considered to be one of the top young blueliners in the league. However, injuries (namely concussions) have set him back recently. Recently, Wild GM has stated to Mike Russo that Burns could be on the market in the process of acquiring a center. While the Devils aren't deep at center, Burns would be an interesting piece if added. If healthy, Burns adds a big, mobile defenseman to the team, which is something the Devils don't have. In his last full season (2007-08), Burns had 15 goals and 43 points, with 8 of those goals on the Powerplay. Even in his injury shortened 2009-2010, most of his goals came on the powerplay. In late April, Bubblewild48 from Hockey Wilderness took a look at each of the Wild's defensemen for the 2009-2010 season. Some of his thoughts on Burns:
Burns was pretty horrible before his concussion shelved him for 29 games, but as bad as he was then, that's how good he was when he came back! He was a brand new man, it was like Fletch had pulled off another great trade! Burnsie finished the season on fire (Burns, fire, haha) despite being a disgusting -11 in the last 10 games, but he showed great hands and finesse, like we know he can, and again, his -11 isn't very telling of how better he looked defensively compared to the beginning of the season.
From what was brought up, Burns would definitely be a good addition if he could overcome those injuries.
Salary wise, Burns has a relatively cheap contract, and possibly affordable if the Devils do manage to re-sign Martin. As for his trade value, Burns might be cheap because he's been coming off two injury plagued seasons, but considering that the Wild are looking for a center might end up being the deciding factor if the Devils do pursue him.
#44 / Defenseman / Edmonton Oilers
Jul 13, 1976
|2009 - Sheldon Souray||37||4||9||13||-19||65||0||0||0||0||113||3.5|
Contract Status: Signed through 2011-2012
Cap Hit: $5.4 Million/year, 2010-11 Salary: $4.5 Million
Sheldon Souray's 2009-2010 was a horrible one, much like most of his time in Edmonton. He missed most of the season due to a concussion, as well as a broken hand. At the end of the season, he asked for a trade out of Edmonton. Souray was a player who was peddled at the deadline, and was pursued by our hated rivals. However, an infection hospitalized Souray in the last hours of the deadline, and prevented any trade. When healthy, Souray is a highly efficient offensive defenseman, capable of scoring over 20 goals. He's well known for his abilities on the powerplay, namely because he scores a majority of his goals on the Power Play with his massive shot. He also provides a mean, physical presence as well. Like Burns, injuries are a concern for Souray, missing a majority of two of the last three seasons due to them. And if he does get healthy, he will due for a rebound and have a better season than he had this season. The salary for the next two seasons are reasonable, as Souray receives $4.5 million for the remaining two years. The cap hit is pretty high, so if a trade was to happen, Edmonton would have to take some salary back. Interestingly, Souray seemed pretty happy when the Devils were mentioned to be one of the teams in the running for his services.
#5 / Defenseman / Philadelphia Flyers
Feb 27, 1985
|2009 - Braydon Coburn||81||5||14||19||-6||54||1||0||0||0||122||4.1|
Contract Status: Restricted Free agent, No Contract
Cap hit: TBD, 2010-11 Salary: TBD
Recently, the Flyers traded for the rights of soon-to-be UFA defenseman Dan Hamhuis in an attempt to shore up their defense. With Hamhuis, the Flyers will have a really deep top-5 defense, especially with guys like Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen logging massive minutes. Problem: The limited cap space that the Flyers have. Signing Coburn and Hamhuis will likely leave the Flyers with very little cap space, because of other RFAs which include
Matthew McConaughey Dan Carcillo are due for raises. Coburn's a well rounded defenseman, and if Martin was to leave, he could potentially be a good replacement. Coburn had to suffer as he was behind Pronger, Timonen and Matt Carle on the dept charts, and wasn't used nearly as much as he was in previous years. I'm only including him here because he is on the market and would be a big addition if the Devils could acquire him, but I doubt that he will be traded inside the division, let alone to a big rival like the Devils.
#4 / Defenseman / Colorado Avalanche
Nov 25, 1980
|2009 - John-Michael Liles||59||6||25||31||-2||30||3||0||2||0||96||6.3|
Contract Status: Signed through 2011-2012
Cap hit: $4.2 Million/year, 2010-11 salary: $4.425 million
It's been noted that the Avs have been shopping the veteran defenseman recently, mainly due to the excess of defensemen on their team. Liles' name has been thrown around, especially before and during the trade deadline. T Considering that Souray and Kaberle will likely receive more attention on the market, Liles might be a cheaper option if the Devils were to trade for him. Like Kaberle, he's a solid offensive defenseman, but i'd say Liles is much more sound defensively. Despite what alot of people would call a sub par season, Mile High Hockey were happy witha his performance, enough to warrant a grade of "A-". The one concern is Liles' No trade Clause: per capgeek, Liles' NTC says that he can name up to 18 teams that he will not accept a trade to, which could potentially be a massive roadblock in acquiring him. Salary wise, Liles' salary might be comparable to Kaberle's contract, except he has the extra year on his contract.
If you think that I left off a defenseman on the trading block that might be of interest to the Devils, please list them in the comments. I'll be comparing these defensemen (and some of the reasonable ones mentioned in the comments) to Paul Martin.