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9 Defencemen Who Could Be Blue-Chip Additions

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
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Teams in the market for top-four defensemen might need an early start to stay ahead of the game July 1.

There should be several impact blue-liners up for grabs, but some of the bigger names like Sergei Gonchar, Paul Martin and Dan Hamhuis might not be available by July 1 because their current teams value them too much. Scott Niedermayer took himself off the market by retiring Tuesday. Rob Blake did the same last week.

Here are nine of the top defensemen who could be unrestricted free agents by noon ET on July 1:

Sergei Gonchar -- He has been the Penguins' best defenseman and power-play quarterback since signing a five-year contract in 2005, and Gonchar would stay in Pittsburgh with another multi-year deal, but as of now that hasn't been arranged. He made $5 million per season over the last five seasons when he put up 259 points in 322 regular-season games plus another 44 points in 60 playoff games. Contract talks are reportedly ongoing, but also not going very far.

Dan Hamhuis -- The Flyers gave up Ryan Parent and a late-round draft pick for his rights, which tells you how coveted he is on the open market. But, the Flyers couldn't sign him, so they gave his rights to Pittsburgh in exchange for a 2011 third-round pick. Negotiations with the Penguins are reportedly ongoing. Hamhuis is a reliable top-two or top-four defenseman that can eat a lot of minutes, join the rush and create some offense. He played six good years in Nashville and missed a grand total of nine games. If the Penguins can sign him and Gonchar, their top five would include those two plus Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski. 

Paul Martin -- He may be the most valuable defenseman that could hit free agency on July 1 because of his skill set and his age (29). Devils GM Lou Lamoriello remains interested in signing Martin to a long-term contract, and for good reason. He's quiet and unassuming, and since he plays in New Jersey, in front of Martin Brodeur, his true value has never really been discussed at length. He's the real deal.

Anton Volchenkov -- The best of the stay-at-home defensemen that will be available at noon ET on July 1. Volchenkov is likely going to get top dollar from some team, but it won't be the Ottawa Senators. According to reports out of Ottawa, his time in the capital city is done. Volchenkov reportedly turned down $20 million over five years after the Olympics. He could get more on July 1.

Zbynek Michalek
-- He's of similar build as Volchenkov and they are separated by only 10 months in age, but Michalek will likely be a slightly cheaper option. He earned $1.5 million last year and is due a raise on top of that. It would be interesting to see if Ottawa makes a play at Michalek as a replacement for Volchenkov. Phoenix wants him back, too, but has a budget to worry about.

Pavel Kubina -- He should be a coveted commodity if he hits the open market at noon on July 1. Kubina is a proven top-four defenseman with a powerful shot and a Stanley Cup ring ('04 with Tampa Bay). He had 38 points and an even rating with the Thrashers last season. Atlanta should want him back.

Willie Mitchell -- Post-concussion syndrome ruined Mitchell's 2009-10 season. He played his last game on Jan. 16. That being said, as long as he can pass all the physical and neurological tests in order to play again without any repercussions, he is a major name on the market. Mitchell is a top-four (top-two?) defender and a dressing-room leader.

Henrik Tallinder -- He paired with rookie and Calder Trophy candidate Tyler Myers this season and it worked for both guys. Sabres GM Darcy Regier is considering re-signing Tallinder for that reason alone. But the price has to fit into the Sabres' budget and Tallinder was making $3.25 million last season. He probably won't get that same amount from the Sabres.

Joe Corvo -- He gave the Capitals some good minutes after being acquired at the deadline from Carolina, but Washington will part ways with Corvo because Karl Alzner appears ready to take over a full-time job in the NHL and John Carlson looks like he's top-two material. Corvo is a puck rushing defenseman with 218 points in 486 NHL games. He's 32 years old.

Nine more: Toni Lydman, Aaron Ward, Andreas Lilja, Brett Lebda, Derek Morris, Jordan Leopold, Mark Eaton, Kurtis Foster, Kim Johnsson.

Author: Dan Rosen | Columnist
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