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Top free agent defensemen: Myers on the market

Gardiner, Stralman also among those available

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

With the NHL free agent signing period about to begin, there are several teams in need of a defenseman who can play top-four minutes or provide leadership in a third-pair role. takes a closer look at the top unrestricted free agent defensemen available when the market opens:


Tyler Myers, Winnipeg Jets

Myers (6-foot-8, 229 pounds) has the build and skating ability to be a dominant shutdown defenseman. But he also has an underrated offensive side. The 29-year-old's nine goals led Jets defensemen during the regular season, and his 14 shots on goal led them during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

Myers, who is a right-hand shot, has been durable enough to average at least 20 minutes of ice time per game in his 10 NHL seasons and he's played at least 80 games four times, including each of the past two seasons.

Possible landing spots: Philadelphia Flyers, Winnipeg Jets, Vancouver Canucks


Jake Gardiner, Toronto Maple Leafs

Gardiner missed 20 games this season because of a back injury and didn't have the same jump in his skating when he returned for the playoffs.

Gardiner's future with the Maple Leafs is tenuous because of the NHL salary cap space potentially needed to sign forwards Mitchell Marner, Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson, who each can become a restricted free agent July 1.

The back issue could make teams wary, but Gardiner, who turns 29 on July 4, is a smooth skater who can drive offense in a second-pair role and contribute on the power play.

Possible landing spots: Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Canucks


Anton Stralman, Tampa Bay Lightning

A lower-body injury kept Stralman out of 14 of the Lightning's final 17 regular-season games and all four playoff games. His 17 points (two goals, 15 assists) in 47 games were his fewest in five seasons with Tampa Bay, but Stralman, who turns 33 on Aug. 1, could still be in demand because of his veteran experience and right-hand shot.

Possible landing spots: New York Rangers, Maple Leafs, Canucks


Niklas Kronwall, Detroit Red Wings

The 38-year-old remains productive. His 27 points (three goals, 24 assists) led Detroit defensemen this season, and he averaged nearly 20 minutes of ice time per game (19:57).

Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman said he's hoping Kronwall returns for a 16th NHL season and will give him all the time he needs to determine if he wants to continue his career. It's likely if Kronwall does keep playing, it will be in Detroit.

Possible landing spots: Red Wings, Lightning, Edmonton Oilers


Ben Hutton, Vancouver Canucks

The 26-year-old was third among Canucks defensemen with 20 points (five goals, 15 assists) and second in average ice time at 22:11 per game. But he had a minus-23 rating and his 45.62 shot attempt percentage was 156th among the 174 defensemen to play at least 50 games this season. He could have been a restricted free agent but was not given a qualifying offer, meaning he'll be UFA on July 1, but the option exists for him to return at a salary lower than the qualifying offer would have been. 

Possible landing spots: Buffalo Sabres, Dallas Stars, Canucks


Dion Phaneuf, Los Angeles Kings

The 34-year-old had the final two seasons of his contract bought out June 15. He had six points (one goal, five assists) in 67 games and averaged 15:00 of ice time per game, numbers that were the lowest of his 14-season NHL career. He's not the offensive threat he was earlier in his career but could still provide veteran leadership in a lower-pair role. 

Possible landing spots: Washington Capitals, Colorado Avalanche, Canucks


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