Last week, I examined the top five unrestricted free agents still on the market according to our goals-versus-threshold (GVT) statistic. While we focused on the five best players at all positions, this week I focus specifically on the position of defense. Marc-Andre Bergeron remains the NHLís best unrestricted free agent defenseman according to GVT, but who are the next five best defensemen on the market according to GVT?
1. Brendan Bell (GVT 4.6)
Last season, Brendan Bell dressed in 53 games for the Ottawa Senators and tallied a respectable 21 points. His points-per-game of 0.39, spread out over an 82-game season, would have resulted in a 32 point season for the journeyman defender.
Bellís forte is his power play quarterbacking ability and puck-moving skills. Last season he only played 17:00 minutes per game for Ottawa, 3:00 minutes of this time per game was on the power play. Taking into account his low penalty killing minute totals (less than 10:00 all season long), you can see just how one-dimensional Bell is. Never mind the fact that Bell was eighth out of all the Senators defensemen on the team in blocked shots (36) and eighth out of all the teamís defensemen in hits (29).
So when wondering why the highest rated defenseman, according to GVT, is still available, remember that the 26 year old defenseman lacks a solid defensive game in his own zone, which diminishes the value he has as an offensive defenseman.
Expect Bell to sign a one-year deal at around $750,00 to $1 million per season.
2. Dennis Seidenberg (GVT 4.4)
After having trouble getting Seidenberg signed right after being eliminated from the playoffs, the Hurricanes are rumored to be back among the suitors for the defensemanís services. The smooth-skating Seidenberg had a quiet 30 points last season in 70 games played.
Seidenberg is actually a far more balanced defenseman than Brendan Bell. He skates well, has good size and logged minutes in all different situations last season. In fact, Seidenberg played just over 22 minutes per-game, of which 2:45 minutes per-game was power play and 2:36 minutes per-game was on the penalty kill. Combine that versatility with his 146 hits (fourth on the Hurricanes) and 160 blocked shots (first on the Hurricanes) and the argument can be made that Seidenberg is the best remaining defenseman on the unrestricted free agent market.
Expect the soon-to-be 28 year old Seidenberg to sign a three-year deal around $6.0 to S6.5 million per season.
3. Ken Klee (GVT 4.3)
If a team is looking for offense from its back-end, then Ken Klee is not the man for them. The defensive defenseman actually has a negative offensive GVT (-.03) but makes up for his lack of offense with a respectable defensive GVT of 4.6.
Last season the 38 year old played just over 15 minutes per-game and logged some time on the penalty kill. Additionally, he finished fifth on the Coyotes in hits with 102 and fourth on the team in blocked shots with 105. So, Klee is not without value, it is just that his value is limited to a defensive role at the end of the roster.
At this point in his career, Klee is nothing more than a third pairing defenseman. Do not expect the former Washington Capital to sign for anything more than a one year contract worth $850,000.
4. Alexei Semenov (GVT 2.1)
Considering Semenov ranked 398th in the entire NHL in GVT last season, you can now put into perspective the low level of remaining unrestricted free agents in the middle of July. Before making a case for Semenov carrying any real value, you should probably read my colleague Gabe Desjardinsí take on his play from 2008-09.
After reading Gabeís take, which I agree with, it is hard to make a case for Semenov carrying much over replacement-player value. Nonetheless, letís give this a shot.
Semenov is a big defender, standing at 6í6, 245 pounds. Now, that carries less perceived value than it did prior to the lockout, but his size is probably one of the reasons he will land another job in the NHL. Unfortunately for Semenov, he carries very little offensive valueóto go along with his aforementioned defensive struggles. Never mind the fact that he isnít overly aggressive (53 hits in 47 games last season) and only 30 blocked shots, and my efforts to argue Semenovís worth as a possible top-six NHL defender have quickly fallen short.
Considering he made $650,000 last season, do not expect Semenov to make any more than that on the open market this summer.
5. Ossi Vaananen (GVT 2.1)
After being acquired by the Canucks from Philadelphia last season, Ossi Vaananen saw very little action on the deep Canucks blue line. That said, his game is comprised of some valuable qualities.
First off, Vaananen is as tough as they comeóand is known as one of the harder hitters in the NHL. Sure he lacks foot speed, but he knows his limitations and that works to his advantage.
The stats indeed backup the Finnish defensemanís hitting prowess. Vaananen recorded 89 hits last season. Those 89 hits slotted him as the sixth highest hitter on the Canucks, however, when taking into account that Vaananen only played in 49 games, you realize just how physical he is. If he had played in 82 games last season, Vaananen would have led the Vancouver Canucks in hits.
Along with his ability to play a physical game, Vaananen also is willing to sacrifice his body to block shots. Last season, he finished with 75 blocked shots. Again, that slotted him in as sixth on the Canucks team; however, if he had played all 82 games, he would have finished tied for second on the team with defenseman Willie Mitchell.
Clearly, Vaananenís value is weighted to his defensive skills, as he only tallied 11 points last season and registered an offensive GVT of 0.4.
The former Avalanche defenseman made $1 million in 2008-09 and will be hard pressed to make anymore than that this summer. In fact, I expect him to sign for less than that amount, for a contract more likely in the $750,000 to $850,000 range. Even so, it is clear, at least to me, that he carries a lot more value than the player ranked above him on this list.
Richard is Editor for the hockey website Illegal Curve.