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Top free agent defensemen: Cole on the market

Moore, Enstrom, de Haan among those available

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

Ian Cole is a two-time Stanley Cup champion, which should make him an attractive free agent defenseman during the signing period.

His leadership and hockey sense were lauded by his Pittsburgh Penguins teammates during Stanley Cup victories in 2016 and 2017, and after finishing this season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, likely will bring more of the same to whatever team signs him.


[RELATED: Top free agent forwards] takes a closer look at the top unrestricted free agent defensemen who could be available when the market opens:


Ian Cole, Columbus Blue Jackets

Cole, 29, is a dependable left-shot defenseman who helped the Pittsburgh Penguins win the Stanley Cup in 2016 and 2017. He's had least 20 points the past two seasons.

Selected by the St. Louis Blues with the No. 18 pick of the 2007 NHL Draft, Cole has 97 points (20 goals, 77 assists) in 405 games with the Blues, Penguins and Blue Jackets. He had three assists in six playoff games and has 17 points (one goal, 16 assists) in 62 career postseason games.

Cole's leadership and hockey sense was lauded by his teammates during Pittsburgh's runs to the Cup, and he likely will bring more of the same to whatever team signs him.

Possible landing spots: Buffalo Sabres, Arizona Coyotes, Vancouver Canucks

Video: MTL@CBJ: Cole wires long wrist shot past Lindgren


Jack Johnson, Columbus Blue Jackets

Johnson, 31, played a shutdown role with the Blue Jackets but has some offense in his game. He had 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in 77 games in 2017-18, but in 12 NHL seasons he's reached 30 points four times and 40 points twice, most recently when he had 40 (eight goals, 32 assists) in 2014-15.

Johnson was a healthy scratch for five of the final seven regular-season games and all of the Blue Jackets' six games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He asked to be traded ahead of the NHL Trade Deadline, but the Blue Jackets couldn't make it work. It's almost a certainty he won't be back with Columbus.

Selected by the Carolina Hurricanes with the No. 3 pick of the 2005 NHL Draft, Johnson has 278 points (66 goals, 212 assists) in 788 games with the Los Angeles Kings and Blue Jackets. He has 21 points (five goals, 16 assists) in 23 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Reports from this week said he is likely to sign with the Penguins.

Potential landing spots: Penguins, New York Islanders, Colorado Avalanche, Anaheim Ducks

Video: Jack Johnson is reportedly heading to Pittsburgh


Calvin de Haan, New York Islanders

De Haan, 27, played his final game of the season Dec. 16 because of a shoulder injury that required surgery. He had 12 points (one goal, 11 assists) in 33 games. De Haan has offensive skills, but he's developed into a dependable defensive player; he's plus-26 in the past two seasons for a team that missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs each time.

Selected by the Islanders with the No. 12 pick of the 2009 NHL Draft, de Haan has 81 points (12 goals, 69 assists) in 304 games. Injuries have been an issue; he's played more than 65 games twice in six seasons. His best season was 2016-17 when he had 25 points (five goals, 20 assists) and a plus-15 rating in 82 games. He has three assists in 16 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Possible landing spots: Islanders, Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens

Video: VAN@NYI: de Haan blasts one in from the point


Dan Hamhuis, Dallas Stars

Hamhuis, 35, had 24 points (three goals, 21 assists) in 80 games this season, the most points he'd had in a season since he had 24 in 2012-13. His best qualities are durability and hockey sense. His 1,031 games since the 2003-04 season are second to Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins (1,043); he's missed four games or fewer in 11 seasons; and averaged at least 21 minutes of ice time in 13 of his 14 seasons.

Selected by the Nashville Predators with the No. 12 pick of the 2001 NHL Draft, Hamhuis has 343 points (59 goals, 284 assists) in 1,031 games with the Predators, Vancouver Canucks and Stars. He has 21 points (three goals, 18 assists) in 62 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Possible landing spots: Stars, Sabres, New York Rangers


John Moore, New Jersey Devils

Moore, 27, had 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) in 81 games this season and averaged an NHL career-best 20:01 of ice time. He had one assist in five Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Selected by Columbus with the No. 21 pick of the 2009 NHL Draft, Moore has 99 points (32 goals, 67 assists) in 447 games with the Blue Jackets, New York Rangers, Arizona Coyotes and Devils.

Possible landing spots: Ottawa Senators, Vegas Golden Knights, Penguins


Toby Enstrom, Winnipeg Jets

Enstrom, 33, had six points (one goal, five assists) and was limited to 43 games because of injuries. He averaged 17:03 of ice time per game, down from 21:54 in 2016-17. He was scoreless with eight shots on goal in 11 games during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Selected by the Atlanta Thrashers in the eighth round (No. 239) in the 2003 NHL Draft, Enstrom has 308 points (54 goals, 254 assists) in 719 games with the Thrashers/Jets. After being a healthy scratch for Game 5 of the Western Conference Second Round, Enstrom reportedly told the Jets he would not return to the organization.

Possible landing spots: Arizona Coyotes, Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota Wild


Alexei Emelin, Nashville Predators

Emelin, 32, had nine points (one goal, eight assists) in 76 games this season, averaged 16:53 of ice time and led Predators defensemen with 181 hits. He was scoreless and averaged 11:19 in 10 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Selected by the Montreal Canadiens in the third round (No. 84) of the 2004 NHL Draft, Emelin has 81 points (15 goals, 66 assists) in 456 games, and five points (one goal, four assists) in 39 playoff games. He was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL Expansion Draft and then traded to the Predators on July 1 for a third-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.

Possible landing spots: Washington Capitals, Wild, Coyotes


Thomas Hickey, New York Islanders

Hickey, 29, had an NHL career high 25 points (five goals, 20 assists) in 69 games this season. He was plus-20, more than double his previous NHL best of plus-9 in 2012-13.

The Los Angeles Kings selected Hickey with the No. 4 pick of the 2007 NHL Draft, but he never played for them. The Islanders claimed him on waivers Jan. 5, 2013. He has 111 points (22 goals, 89 assists) in 409 NHL games, all with New York. Five of his goals were scored in overtime. Hickey has six points (one goal, five assists) in 20 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Possible landing spots: Red Wings, Islanders, Wild

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