March 17, 2012: Sunrise, FL, USA; Florida Panthers defenseman Jason Garrison (52) warms up before a game against the Buffalo Sabres at the BankAtlantic Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Examining The UFA Defensemen


This years’ crop of UFA d-men is not a very deep one, but there are a lot of possibilities with those that are available. Of course there’s the obvious cream of the crop one Ryan Suter. The 27 year old first time free agent carried a super deal of a cap hit of $3.5 million a year on his last contract. He will demand much more than that of his next contract. He is the crown jewel of the market, but unfortunately the word is he wants nothing to do with the Flyers. Or the whole east coast. If that is true and he indeed is ruling out all of the popular and dominate hockey clubs in the east then that says something about his ability to rise to the occasion under the bright lights. A player can be unbelievable in Florida and just not have what it takes to play the game in Calgary; see Jay Bouwmeester. If that is the case with Suter as well then not signing him may not be so terrible.

After Suter the quality of the defensemen on the open market drops significantly though. Dennis Wideman is out there. He’s a physical, reasonably offensive d-man. He’s put up a decent amount of points year to year and added 46 to his career total last season. He’s got a great shot so he’s useful on the powerplay, but he can’t quarterback a powerplay.

An interesting name out there is Hal Gil. He is by no means a franchise defensemen that we can bank on for years to come, but he is mean and brings a snarl to the ice. He is the type of defensemen that all successful teams have. He’s also older and will come relatively cheap as he had a $2.25 million cap hit on his last contract. He could be a piece to the puzzle, but not a long term solution.

Jason Garrison is an option I really like. He’s 27 years old and has posted career high numbers in points the last 2 years putting up 18 2 seasons ago and 33 last season. What was really a great sign for him offensively was that he potted 16 goals. That topped his previous career high of 5. He looks to be developing into a fine offensive defensemen. Not like Mike Green though Jason’s got real defensive instinct. He plays the position well the offense is a bonus.

The idea of replacing Pronger is insane. You just can’t replace who he is and how he plays the game. The purpose of signing and/or trading for a franchise type defensemen is to bolster the blueline. Make it as close as you can to what it was with Pronger in the line-up. Don’t expect anybody like Chris Pronger to suit up for the Flyers next season because there is not another like Chris Pronger. The other reason it is crucial to sign and/or trade for a franchise type defensemen is because Timonen  is more than likely done at the end of this season. If not then he’s got no more then 2 seasons left in him. It’s time to plan for the future of the blueline now.

-John LaMarra

Twitter – @popesnipes77

E-Mail – [email protected]

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