Every Wednesday during the season, NHL.com Correspondent Brian Metzer will provide you with an in-depth analysis of fantasy defensemen in our weekly segment: "On the 'D'-fence." From updated defensemen rankings to guys you should keep a close eye on and much more, Metzer will be your fantasy d-man expert all season long.
After going through one of the toughest seasons of his career, Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Paul Martin could have taken the easy way out over the summer. General manager Ray Shero was willing to trade his high-priced defenseman if he wished to move on and get a fresh start someplace else, but that just didn't sit well with Martin.
TOP 60 FANTASY DEFENSEMEN
These rankings are based on expectations of the season going forward. The plus or minus for each player is movement based on our most recent rankings -- NR means not ranked in previous rankings. They are based on a standard fantasy league with these offensive categories: G, A, plus/minus, PIMs, PPP, SOG.
- 1. Kris Letang, Penguins (same)
- 2. Shea Weber, Predators (+2)
- 3. Kevin Shattenkirk, Blues (-1)
- 4. Alex Pietrangelo, Blues (-1)
- 5. Zdeno Chara, Bruins (+1)
- 6. Dustin Byfuglien, Jets (+1)
- 7. Kimmo Timonen, Flyers (-2)
- 8. Ryan Suter, Wild (+2)
- 9. Niklas Kronwall, Red Wings (same)
- 10. P.K. Subban, Canadiens (+1)
- 11. Dion Phaneuf, Maple Leafs (-3)
- 12. Alexander Edler, Canucks (+2)
- 13. Keith Yandle, Coyotes (-1)
- 14. Mark Streit, Islanders (-1)
- 15. Duncan Keith, Blackhawks (+2)
- 16. Dan Boyle, Sharks (same)
- 17. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Coyotes (-2)
- 18. Sergei Gonchar, Senators (+3)
- 19. Andrei Markov, Canadiens (same)
- 20. Michael Del Zotto, Rangers (same)
- 21. Slava Voynov, Kings (+3)
- 22. Brian Campbell, Panthers (-4)
- 23. Drew Doughty, Kings (same)
- 24. Paul Martin, Penguins (+5)
- 25. Justin Schultz, Oilers (-3)
- 26. Marek Zidlicky, Devils (+1)
- 27. Christian Ehrhoff, Sabres (+1)
- 28. Sheldon Souray, Ducks (-3)
- 29. Brent Seabrook, Blackhawks (+2)
- 30. Dennis Wideman, Flames (same)
- 31. Lubomir Visnovsky, Islanders (-5)
- 32. Francois Beauchemin, Ducks (+5)
- 33. Alex Goligoski, Stars (-1)
- 34. Victor Hedman, Lightning (same)
- 35. Matt Carle, Lightning (-2)
- 36. John Carlson, Capitals (+2)
- 37. Brent Burns, Sharks (+6)
- 38. Jason Garrison, Canucks (-3)
- 39. Jack Johnson, Blue Jackets (same)
- 40. Justin Faulk, Hurricanes (-4)
- 41. Ryan McDonagh, Rangers (same)
- 42. Kevin Bieksa, Canucks (+2)
- 43. Mark Giordano, Flames (-1)
- 44. Dan Hamhuis, Canucks (-4)
- 45. Joni Pitkanen, Hurricanes (NR)
- 46. Cody Franson, Maple Leafs (same)
- 47. Jake Muzzin, Kings (+3)
- 48. Erik Johnson, Avalanche (+4)
- 49. Nick Leddy, Blackhawks (+5)
- 50. Dougie Hamilton, Bruins (-5)
- 51. Cam Fowler, Ducks (-4)
- 52. Sami Salo, Lightning (NR)
- 53. Roman Josi, Predators (NR)
- 54. Jake Gardiner, Maple Leafs (NR)
- 55. Matt Niskanen, Penguins (same)
- 56. Fedor Tyutin, Blue Jackets (same)
- 57. Jared Spurgeon, Wild (same)
- 58. Ryan Whitney, Oilers (+1)
- 59. Matt Irwin, Sharks (NR)
- 60. Patrick Wiercioch, Senators (NR)
Players that dropped out of previous rankings: Andy Greene, Tyler Myers, Dan Girardi, Stephane Robidas, Thomas Kundratek, Travis Hamonic
Injured: Erik Karlsson, Tobias Enstrom, Mike Green, James Wisniewski, Dmitry Kulikov, Marc Staal, Joe Corvo, Raphael Diaz, Kyle Quincey, Ryan Wilson
The once-maligned blueliner knew he had it in him to be better -- to be the player that earned a five-year, $25 million contract during the 2010 free agency period.
"They signed me for a reason," Martin said last summer. "I want to be a good player in Pittsburgh. I want to show everyone there what I can do. Sometimes a fresh start somewhere else can be a good thing for a player. But I want to be with the Penguins."
Martin has not only proven to be worth every penny of his contract, but he has gone over and above expectations this season. He has joined Brooks Orpik on the Penguins' top defensive pairing, is logging over 25 minutes TOI each night and shown an offensive acumen not seen in his game since '05-06, when he posted 37 points in 80 games.
After notching the game-tying goal against Washington on Tuesday night, Martin is averaging .66 points per game and finds himself tied for fifth in the league in the defensive scoring race. His emergence this season has allowed the Penguins to overcome the loss of our No. 1 ranked defenseman, Kris Letang, who has missed four games this due to injury.
Martin plays in all situations, logging 3:16 TOI with the Penguins' second-ranked power-play unit, he's spending over three minutes per game killing penalties, which makes him a candidate to pick up those elusive shorthanded points, and finds himself on the ice most often with the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Chris Kunitz.
Don't worry about his production waning when Letang returns later this week, as all but two of his points have come with Letang in the lineup. If there is one statistical area that will suffer slightly with when both are in the lineup, it is TOI. Martin will see his time slip from over 28 minutes per night back toward his average of 25, which isn't going to affect your averages that much.
Martin has logged just four points over the Penguins' recent 10-game winning streak, but he is helping fantasy teams in plenty of other ways. Over that stretch he has registered a plus-9 rating, taken 15 shots on goal and that TOI number doesn't hurt either.
Martin is still inexplicably owned in just 60 percent of Yahoo! fantasy leagues, so you have a 40-percent chance of finding him on your waiver wire. He should be owned in more leagues and soon will be, so don't miss your chance to grab him.
Joni Pitkanen, Hurricanes -- The 29-year-old recently returned from injury and has assists in back-to-back games. He now has eight points, a plus-7 rating, 27 shots on goal -- eight of which came in his last four games -- and two power-play points in just 17 games this season. He has had injury issues over the past few years, but could be a great add, especially down the stretch in this shortened season.
Jake Gardiner, Maple Leafs -- The "Free Jake Gardiner" campaign finally got its desired result, and the Leafs have recalled the young rearguard. Gardiner, who scored 30 points (7G-23A) in 75 games as a rookie last season, might not be able to stop the Leafs' current five-game losing streak on his own, but he will definitely assist their offense. The youngster picked up 31 points (10G-21A) in 43 American Hockey League games while playing with the Toronto Marlies. He is owned in just nine percent of Yahoo! fantasy leagues, which means he should be soon inking a deal with your team.
Matt Irwin, Sharks -- Fellow NHL.com fantasy insider Pete Jensen recently mentioned Irwin, but he has got to get a shout here as well. The 25-year-old has picked up six points over his previous six games, three of which came on the power play. He also has 29 shots on goal over his last nine games. This level of production may not continue, but he is definitely worth adding while he is riding this hot streak.
Andy Greene, Devils -- Greene was a fantasy darling back at the beginning of February, but has since seen his production fall off significantly. Gone are the days of eight points in five games and we are left with a defenseman who has picked up just two assists over his last 19 games. If you haven't cut bait on Greene, now is the time.
Travis Hamonic, Islanders -- Hamonic is still a very young man and may eventually blossom into a player with more fantasy impact; unfortunately, that isn't going to happen this season. He has just one point in his last 13 games and just eight on the season. He does have some value if your league counts hits -- he has logged 39 -- but beyond that there are better options for the stretch drive.
Tyler Myers, Sabres -- We have mentioned him before, but now it is time to say goodbye for a while. Myers, who has notched just one assist in his last 10 games and just two in his last 15, has been a major disappointment. He's notched just five points on the season and his minus-6 isn't helping either. He has all the tools, but he's not using them. Move on to other options.
KEEP AN EYE ON …
Chris Phillips, Senators -- Sure he's a greybeard, but he could help your team down the stretch. Phillips has picked up five points (1G-4A) over his last seven games, registered a plus-7 in March and has 51 shots on the season. He shouldn't be your main horse, but he can certainly run with the herd.