NHL Picks: Best Blueliners in Free Agency 2014

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 7:07 PM UTC

Wednesday, Jun. 25, 2014 7:07 PM UTC

If you’re looking for blueliners, this is not a good offseason for you and your team. The crop is thin and some marginal talent is likely to get overpaid. Nonetheless, here’s a look at the top defensemen who will hit free agency on July 1st.

<p><b>Matt Niskanen</b><br /> <span style="font-size:1em">Niskanen is in line for a big payday after leading the league with a +34 rating (among defensemen). He also had a career-high 42 points. In truth, he’s a pretty good stay-at-home defenseman who’s owed a raise on the $2.3 M he earned last season. The question is how big of a contract can he get in <a href="/picks/nhl/nhl-picks-best-forward-available-2014-free-agency/40352/" target="_blank" title="Free Agency Best Forward picks from the experts">a free agent market</a> that’s lacking quality?</span><span style="font-size:1em"> </span></p> <p>I wouldn’t be surprised to see Niskanen end up getting $5M per year (or higher), but he’s really worth only about $4 M. Desperate teams with cap space – like the Florida Panthers – are likely to overpay.</p> <p><b style="font-size:1em">Possible Match: </b><span style="font-size:1em">Florida Panthers</span></p> <p><br /> <b style="font-size:1em">Dan Boyle</b><br /> <span style="font-size:1em"><img alt="Image preview" class="imgSelectedPicture article-image" id="ctl00_head_ArticleAdministrator_picturePreview_imgSelectedPicture" src="https://www.sportsbookreview.com/picks-pictures/dan_boyle-pic.jpg" />Boyle has been an excellent puck-moving defenseman in his career, but he’s nearing the end. He’s still effective at 37-years-old, but his minutes will have to be monitored. He’s previously topped 50 points in his career six times, but had just 36 in 75 games <a href="/picks/nhl/nhl-betting-trends-throughout-2013-14-season/40349/" target="_blank" title="NHL Betting Trends Throughout the 2013-14 Season">during the 2013-14 season</a>.</span></p> <p><span style="font-size:1em">He’s still a top-four defenseman who can play power play minutes, provide quality puck-moving and leadership. A Cup contender that’s missing a final piece of the puzzle on the blue line might make sense. Don’t be surprised if he ends up back in Tampa Bay. </span></p> <p><b style="font-size:1em">Possible Match: </b><span style="font-size:1em">Tampa Bay Lightning</span></p> <p><br /> <b style="font-size:1em">Anton Stralman</b><br /> <span style="font-size:1em">Stralman has proven to be a good all-around defenseman. He’s not flashy, he doesn’t stand out for any one reason, but any <a href="/picks/nhl/nhl-picks-2015-stanley-cup-future-odds/40204/" target="_blank" title="The 2015 Stanley Cup Future Odds report">team that wins a Stanley Cup</a> usually has a guy like him in their top-four.</span></p> <p><span style="font-size:1em">The problem is that at 190 pounds, he’s not huge, which means he’s not great at clearing the front of the net. He also doesn’t – or hasn’t – played a ton of minutes, averaging 19:24 this season. He rejected $3 M per year from the Rangers and he’s likely to get about $5 M, or more. At $3 M, I’d be happy to have him. At $5 M, it’s too much.</span></p> <p><span style="font-size:1em">Nonetheless, look for someone like Detroit or Colorado to spring for him. They both could use a quality, dependable blue liner. </span></p> <p><b style="font-size:1em">Possible Match: </b><span style="font-size:1em">Colorado Avalanche</span></p> <p><br /> <b style="font-size:1em">Brooks Oprik</b><br /> <span style="font-size:1em"><a href="https://www.sportsbookreview.com/forum/hockey-betting/2723372-scott-thornton-should-suspended-life.html#post20491806" target="_blank" title="Remember what he did back in 2009 to that guy's neck?">Orpik is a big, physical defenseman</a> who can muscle up with the biggest of NHL power forwards. He’ll add grit, toughness and a steadying presence to any defensive corps.</span></p> <p><span style="font-size:1em">Where he lacks is at the offensive end as Orpik is strictly a defensive defenseman. He’ll be 34-years-old this season, which means he shouldn’t command a long-term deal. In any case, look for someone like the Toronto Maple Leafs to be interested. They are desperate for help. </span></p> <p><b style="font-size:1em">Possible Match: </b><span style="font-size:1em">Toronto Maple Leafs</span></p> <p><br /> <b style="font-size:1em">Tom Gilbert</b><br /> <span style="font-size:1em">Gilbert is another non-flashy, somewhat no-name defenseman who will fit into someone’s top-four. He has some offensive capabilities as evidenced by his 28 points, and he’s a quality player in his own end, too. He’s worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $2-$2.5 M, and if a team signs him for that, they should be fairly content. If teams start loading him up with $3.5 or $4 M (like he was paid last season), they’ll probably be a little disappointed. He’s an under-the-radar type of guy that will help someone out at the right price. </span></p> <p><b style="font-size:1em">Possible Match: </b><span style="font-size:1em">Detroit Red Wings as one of <a href="/picks/nhl/" target="_blank" title="For more hockey handicapping tips and reports, click here!">your NHL picks</a>. </span></p>
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