Ahem...in any event, as the Ducks just showed the league, it really doesn't hurt to have a huge mobile defensive core that can shut down top lines and seemingly score at will if need be. The Canucks defense last year was, arguably, its best in recent memory as Mitchell's defensive responsibility coupled with the emergence of Bieska's game made losing Jovo-cop far easier to swallow. Salo picked up his offensive game a bit more (despite another season of random injuries) and Ohlund is still the blueline rock that forced Quinn to block the Leafs from plucking him away back in 1997 (ugh, can you imagine?). However, the jury is still out on Krajicek’s development, Fitzpatrick may or may not return while it seems doubtful that Sopel will return (thank you Dave!) so some upgrades/warm bodies will need to be made.
Let's take a gander at the crème de la crème of the UFA defensemen this year...again, using likely salary demands as the gauge. In a glove tap to my own heritage and fictional neighbors The Sopranos leaving TVland this week, I will litter my analysis with mob slang (and for those of you who did see the finale, it was damned good, don't give me any crap). Let's go:
Kimmo Timonen - He would look molto bello lined up next to Ohlund
Brad Stuart - Strunzo, I'm not sold on him at all and certainly not at $5 million a season. Sheldon Souray - Montreal will/should hang on to him; if not, he'll get bank in another city
Brian Rafalski - Here I go dreaming again; besides, who better to defend in front of Lui then a guy who's been doing it in front of Marty?
Roman Hamrlik - Pretend he's on a line with Salo; great on the PP, potentially combustible at all other times.
Scott Hannan - Pretend he's on a line with Mitchell; great on the PK/even strength, miserable on the PP. Oy, the agita.
Andrei Markov - Madonn, a PP quarterback? I forget, do we need one of them?
Danny Markov Tom Preissing Craig Rivet Mathieu Schneider - A fun thought that'll never actual occur in this shared plain of reality we call Earth Darryl Sydor - Stewie, what's that you smell? Aaron Miller Andy Sutton - Biblical size jamook right here Cory Sarich
This next group should be the more affordable of the bunch, between the $1,000,000 - $2,000,000 range per year:
Greg De Vries Brent Sopel Sean O'Donnell Jaroslav Modry Bryan Berard
Teppo Numminen - If you ignore his age, could be a great fit and vital for a PP that doesn't exist
Brad Lukowich - Not a bad choice if Sopes/Fitzy leave
Tom Poti - More of an offensive upside then Lukowich, but shutting guys down could be a problem
Patrice Brisebois Ossi Vaananen Daniel Tjarnqvist
Martin Skoula - Could be a Bieska in hiding, could be a Chouinard in hiding too
Vitaly Vishnevski - F'ing mortadella Glen Wesley Nolan Pratt Bryan Muir
And as for the KIA-brand defensemen of the group this year there’s:
Alain Nasreddine, Alex Brooks, Anders Eriksson, Bobby Allen, Brad Ference, Brad Norton,
Chris Chelios (che bruta although I know a certain someone who secretly loves him down deep inside), Dan McGillis, David Koci, David Printz, David Tanabe, Derrick Walser, Eric Cairns, Greg Zanon, Ian Moran, Jamie Heward, Jamie Rivers, Jan Hejda, Janne Niinimaa (facia bruta), Jason Strudwick, Jason York, Jim Fahey, Jiri Fischer (sia bene), Joe DiPenta, Joel Bouchard, Joel Kwiatkowski, Jon Klemm, Josef Melichar, Ken Klee, Kent Huskins, Luke Richardson, Lwarence Nycholat, Martin Grenier, Micki Dupont, Mike Weaver, Nathan Dempsey, Ric Jackman, Rob Scuderi, Sean Hill, Shane Hnidy, Sheldon Brookbank, Thomas Pock, Tomas Mojzis and Yannick Tremblay (Va fa napole).
Will break bank/move contracts for: Timonen, Rafalski, Hannan
Hold your breath and pray: Numminen, Markov
Go nuts, but don't expect much: Lukowich, Poti
Plan a project: Skoula
Look fondly at Manitoba: Edler, Rahimi, McIver, Ryan, Fortunus, Wood, Coulombe, Rullier, Koltsov (Omsk Avangard), Bourdon (QMJHL), Fredheim (NCAA)
Just get a warm body: Fitzpatrick, Ference, Jackman, Klee, Hill and Akuma if he
's free and stops wandering around trying to kill Ryu. Because, honestly, if you're going to have a ninja on skates helping to defend and add some punch to the man advantage, it should at least be the angriest ninja out there.