It seems that Anton Volchenkov, the Ottawa Senators' blue-line shot-blocking machine, is the object of many teams desire as they look to bolster their defensive corps as the pending free agent period approaches. Possibly near the top of this list are the Washington Capitals, as fans and bloggers have been clamoring for a true defensive-defenseman after seeing the repeated post-season ineffectiveness of Mike Green and Jeff Schultz - including us, who threw out an invitation back in January of this year.
Tarik El-Bashir of Capitals Insider reported Thursday that "two sources have told me that the team does not, in fact, plan to pursue [Volchenkov]" if he were not resigned by the Senators. Tarik also opined that his pending increase in wage would be out of the Caps' price range and that adding him "doesn't really work given the Caps' salary cap situation." A situation, the extent of which is not fully known at this moment as the fates of several members on the Capitals' roster have not been decided yet - including d-men Jeff Schultz, Shaone Morrisonn, and Milan Jurcina.
Being aware of who re-signs with the Caps is important, but so is knowing if John Carlson and Karl Alzner will start the season with Washington or in Chocolatetown. Both have earned their keep at the NHL level, so I'm assuming Carlson and Alzner will join a re-signed Schultz and the existing defensive corps of John Erskine, Mike Green, Tom Poti, and Tyler Sloan - leaving room for signing (or re-signing at a discounted rate) a UFA from the pool. But with Volchenkov "out", who's left? Here are 3 blueliners that should be at the top of GMGM's list.
Dan Hamhuis Age: 27 NHL Tenure: 6 years 2009-10 Salary: $2.5 M
- Originally drafted with the 12th overall pick in the 2001 Entry Draft.
- His solid size (6'1", 205 lbs) and strength allows him to play physically when needed (148 hits last season).
- True stay-at-home defenseman, with above average offensive abilities coupled with strong puck handling.
- Very durable: In 2009-10 he set a career low in total number of games played - at 78 of 82.
Zbynek Michalek Age: 27 NHL Tenure: 6 years Salary: $1.5 M
- Very consistent and durable, playing in 96% of his games since entering the NHL.
- Excellent shot blocking and penalty killing abilities (leading all Coyotes with 3:16 SH TOI/G).
- Strong puck handling skills, able to move the puck from the defensive zone.
- Has offensive capability (averaging ~23 points a season), but knows the value of staying in position.
Willie Mitchell Age: 33 NHL Tenure: 10 years Salary: $3.5 M
- Concussion concerns may have lowered his value after missing 34 games last season following a head shot from Evgeni Malkin, but McPhee was quick to jump on a d-man possibly out for the season with sports hernia (Jurcina) and one who recently returned from having his calf skated open (Corvo).
- Big, shutdown defenseman with strong shot-blocking talent (lead all Canucks with 1.65 BS/G)
- Can log big minutes (22:36), very effective on the penalty kill (leading the Canucks with 4:04 SH TOI/G).
- Although not the best puck-moving defenseman, he has a strong slap shot from the point (7-28-35 in 130 games the last two seasons).