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Raw Table: Free agent defensemen targets for the Tampa Bay Lightning

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The Raw Charge staff gets together to discuss the blue line.

Fresh takes served up right here!
RxlandS

It’s no secret that the Tampa Bay Lightning need an upgrade on the blue line. General Manager Steve Yzerman attempted to acquire Kevin Shattenkirk in January, but that fell apart when the team could not agree on a contract extension with Shattenkirk. There’s a lot of speculation continuing about trades that could net the team the defenseman they covet. But that requires giving up potentially very valuable assets. So what if Yzerman turns to the unrestricted free agent market? We’re going to discuss such a possibility here.

(With special guest, frequent fanposter BoltsGuy04.)

The big names at the top of the class are Kevin Shattenkirk and Carl Alzner.

Justin: We're agreed that the Lightning should stay as far away as possible from Shattenkirk and Alzner, right?

BoltsGuy04: No chance to either. Alzner can play on the top-pair and is a lefty, and the Lightning already have an elite top-pair lefty in Hedman. Alzner will seek a contract of over five years and over $5 million, as well.

Matt: Yes. They'd both be out of our price range anyway.

GeoFitz: Plus we already tried with Shattenkirk and it didn’t work.

Tom: How much are you thinking Shattenkirk gets? Alzner stinks but Shattenkirk is a legitimate top pairing defender on 29 NHL teams.

BoltsGuy04: Shattenkirk previously nixed a *reported* seven-year, $6.5 million per year contract that the Lightning offered him had he been acquired in a trade from the Blues. He is clearly out of the price range—no two ways about it.

Matt: At least $6 million. Rough playoffs but still a very good defenseman. More than likely somewhere in the 7s.

Justin: 7 years at $6-$6.5 million?

Tom: I'd go as high as $7m for Shattenkirk. The bad playoffs have people forgetting how good he is.

Matt: I wouldn't be opposed to Shattenkirk, but we just can't afford him.

Justin: Which, of course, guarantees that Yzerman will pull off some wizardry and sign both of them.

Cody Franson is a name that we've brought up as a free agent defenseman target in our discussions. Why do we like or dislike this move?

Achariya: Cody Franson is a slow, big defenseman who doesn't put up showy numbers, but apparently is excellent at shot suppression. He might let pucks get into the d-zone, but he'll throw his body over it when it does.

Justin: He seems to fit the mold of players that Yzerman/Cooper are gravitating to on defense. (Insert gritty or rugged here.)

Matthew: Franson, in my eyes, is still a solid defensemen who just needs to find the right fit. He did quite well in Toronto and then kind of fell off once he went to Nashville (surprisingly). He spent the last two years in Buffalo and put up 36 points in that time span. He could add a little more offensive smack on D and wouldn't be a total liability back there. He also wouldn't hurt us too much cost wise. He could easily find a renaissance season like Schultz did with Pittsburgh if he gets on the right team. With Hedman and Stralman in Tampa Franson could just play his game and not have to worry about much. Cheap and could be more effective than what face value says.

Cons? Could be damaged goods and a total bust.

BoltsGuy04: Franson is coming off of a two-year deal that paid him $3.325 million per year. He can play as the 2nd-pair righty and will be willing to accept a short-term deal. I would be comfortable with Yzerman paying him for an AAV of $3-3.3 million for two years.

GeoFitz: I have to agree a lot with what Matt said here. A deal around 3 years and $4 million per year would be a reasonable investment. It also helps take his contract a year past when Anton Stralman and Braydon Coburn become unrestricted free agents.

Achariya: I agree with your con, Matt.

Justin: I think he would be an improvement over Sustr/Garrison. I think a three or four year deal would be reasonable.

Achariya: I have concerns about the number of games he plays in a season. His Buffalo report card from Die By the Blade seems to indicate his TOI isn't a top-pair defender, and sometimes due to injury, not even a second-pair.

Matt: I would like Franson at 3 years and about $3-$4M (he made 3M with Buffalo)

GeoFitz: But with his Buffalo deal, he was definitely coming off of some low times in his career. I think he’s bounced back enough that he’ll seek a little more than that.

Saima: Stop agreeing with everyone. Somebody has to have a dissenting opinion around here... Alright, the last thing the Lightning need is another 3rd pairing defenseman. As long as Garrison/Sustr are on the roster, all that adding Franson will do is further delay Koekkoek/Dotchin. Looking at the cap situation, is it really wise to invest 3-4 million in the hope of a renaissance? This team needs a proven second-pairing guy to come into the lineup. Franson doesn't fit the bill.

Matt: That's a valid counter point. Though given the state of the defense I don't see how Garrison stays on the team. Yzerman has to move someone on defense to allow Koekkoek or Dotchin a spot. And who knows, maybe Koekkoek is finally given his real chance and does what we need. Which is 2nd pairing defense with offensive punch

Justin: I'm not sure there is anyone on the free agent market that fits the role of "proven second pairing". At least not at the price the Lightning can pay.

GeoFitz: I think that makes a good jumping point off into our next question.

If price or term is a concern with the available top 4 defensemen that are younger, what about renting an old guy for a year or two?

GeoFitz: Former Bolt Mark Streit could be available. Also Andrei Markov, Brian Campbell, and Ron Hainsey will be on the market.

BoltsGuy04: In order of who I’d be interested in: Hainsey, Campbell, Markov, Streit. Hainsey showed well in the playoffs, but in reality, the aforementioned aging defensemen are either bottom-pair guys or would play as the seventh defenseman (Streit). I’d be fine with Yzerman coming to terms on a one-year deal with Hainsey or Campbell so long as one of or both of Coburn and Garrison are moved, but there is next to 0 chance that Coburn is moved. Verdict: I doubt any of the 4 get a contract offer from Yzerman.

Achariya: I'd rather bring guys up from the Syracuse Crunch than rent an older person who can't skate with the forwards.

Matt: My personal opinion: Hell to the no. I've never been an advocate for aging Defensemen who are (at this point) 3rd pairing guys and AT BEST 2nd pairings, but on the lower end of that.

Saima: I think you should probably trade out "old guy" for "veteran.”. Only because the idea of ANOTHER old defender makes me want to throw things.

Justin: Maybe Johnny Oduya?

Achariya: Oh, do ya want him?

Matt: Streit was a scratch for a Penguins defense that was by all accounts rather blah(Matt Murray is a monster in net). So I don’t think he’s really an option.

GeoFitz: What about Markov? He put up a lot of points and he could be useful on the power play. It'd be a similar to when we signed Sami Salo a bit back.

Matt: Markov has nice offensive punch, but the man has so much mileage on him I fear him breaking.

Achariya: Markov would be a good addition. He's Chara-like in his wisdom on ice and his longevity. Also, Habs fans want him back and anything that makes them sad is good in my book.

Justin: Markov is probably the best of the bunch, but it better be a one-year deal. But why trade out one aging defender (Garrison) for another? If that's the fix just stick with what we have.

GeoFitz: I don't think that you can compare Markov to Garrison though. Garrison never had the offensive highs that Markov put up. Garrison has also had two years now where he's gone down offensively. Markov just keeps putting up points. He had 36 points in 62 games for the Habs this season.

Matt: To counter that. Markov is given lots of PP time cause he's the only real offensive threat on the backend in Montreal

GeoFitz: Shea Weber might have something to say about that. Also P.K. Subban before him.

Justin: He's also 38 years old and I think getting 65-70 games out of him next year would be a blessing.

GeoFitz: That's the biggest con and worry for signing Markov or really any other of the 35+ defensemen. If he was signed, it'd definitely be a one year deal.

Let's move back to the opposite end of the spectrum and discuss a few younger defensemen. Brendan Smith, Michael Del Zotto and Michael Stone are all young UFAs.

Justin: I remember Calgary getting a ton of flack for trading for Stone, but I really don't know much about him (East Coast bias).

Matt: Stone had a big year last season and it propped him up the pecking order. His big year came out of nowhere too.

Tom: Stone was hurt so he missed chunks of training camp plus he had newborn twins at home. That has to drain anyone mentally.

BoltsGuy04: Stone is coming off an injury, and his numbers last year were significantly lower than the prior year. The only way I see Yzerman signing him is for one or two years at an AAV of $3.5 million max.

Achariya: I believe @thunter should weigh in about Smith -- he was singing his praises earlier.

Tom: *stops eating lunch to paste link* Here are my thoughts.

Justin: Smith is intriguing because he seems to be getting a lot of positive news recently, he could be a quietly good signing in the off-season.

BoltsGuy04: Smith played really well in the playoffs for New York. I think some team will overpay for him and regret it immediately. He isn’t really a top-4 lefty, in my opinion. He can show well in some spots, but I would not be willing to sign him for what he will likely ask for in term (3+ years).

Matt: Smith's change of perspective (cause in Detroit he wasn't looked at that positively) is interesting. Is he the player he was in Detroit or the one in New York?

Tom: He was a top-10 shot suppressor in the league in Detroit. Top-4 in CF% 5v5 relative to his teammates. And that’s over three seasons.

GeoFitz: Smith is growing on me. And being a shot suppressor is something the Lightning could really use on the back end. But he still has to be able to make the break out passes. Yzerman has been clear that that is also important.

Justin: Do we know if Del Zotto is good at hockey or not? It seemed he was when he first came into the league.

GeoFitz: Del Zotto did hit it big with the Rangers in his first season and has cooled off since then. But he still averages about 20 minutes a game and has averaged about a quarter point per game in the past three seasons with the Flyers.

Matt: I see him as a 2nd/3rd pairing guy with offensive upside.

Tom: Del Zotto is the opposite of Brendan Smith. Good puck mover, bad at limiting chances against.

Justin: Is he an older version of Slater Koekkoek? Which doesn't seem to be what the Lightning are looking for.

Matt: We don't even really know what we have in Koekkoek just yet. Tampa needs another D for the middle pairing and Del Zotto just doesn't fit it in my eyes.

Justin: I just want every excuse to run this photo as much as I can.