Skip to main content

NHL Free Agency: Top 5 Remaining UFA Defensemen

Behind John Klingberg, the defensive UFA market isn't that hot right now. But that offers the opportunity for some bargain deals for the other top names available.
USATSI_18212342

The dog days of the NHL off-season are approaching and the free agent market is getting thinner by the second. 

And yet, there are still teams out there in need of reinforcements for their rosters -- particularly on the blueline. 

Who could they target? 

Let's look at the top five UFA defensemen who remain unsigned. 

John Klingberg 
2021-22 Stat Line: 74 GP, 6 goals, 41 assists, 47 points, 22:13 TOI

The gap between Klingberg and the next best defender still on the market makes the Grand Canyon look like a pothole. 

Klingberg is far and away the top UFA available at his position -- and arguably entered the summer that way, too. The 29-year-old is a borderline top-pair option, a right shot with elite offensive ability who drives play from the back-end with the best of them. 

You won't get much on the defensive side of things, though. 

Klingberg has struggled in his own end throughout most of his career, something which has continued to withhold him from breaking into the NHL's elite class of defensemen. But Klingberg is still a terrific blueliner with plenty to give, scoring at a 50-point pace or higher for his entire career while averaging over 22 minutes in nightly ice time. 

Players like that are extremely difficult to find on the open market -- especially those smack-dab in the middle of their prime. 

Klingberg is a hot commodity and is likely waiting for Nazem Kadri's free agency decision to settle the market's landscape before making his own. 

If your team can afford him, they should probably go get him. 

PK Subban 
2021-22 Stat Line: 77 GP, 5 goals, 17 assists, 22 points, 18:18 TOI

Remember what I said about that gap? 

Subban is obviously not the player he was back in the early-to-mid-2010s when he was winning Norris trophies and crafting entire highlight reels all by himself. But the 33-year-old isn't entirely washed either, if you can believe it, putting together a decent little season on a bad Devils team in 2021-22 that perhaps suggests he still hasn't something left in the tank. 

In a third-pair role, Subban showed the ability to drive play and tilt the ice in his team's favor despite the drop-off in his offensive totals, posting an impressive 52.34 percent expected-goal share at even-strength while helping the Devils generate 51.75 percent of the available scoring chances during his five-on-five usage. 

Subban could be a fun bargain for a team looking to add some veteran presence and puck movement to its blueline for something in the realm of league minimum. His 77 games played last season show that health may be less of an issue than it was in the past, and he'll at least be great for off-ice content. 

Why not? 

Robert Hagg
2021-22 Stat Line: 65 GP, 1 goal, 8 assists, 9 points, 16:01 TOI

OK, here's where we really start scraping the bottom of the barrel. 

It wasn't too long ago that Hagg was a key piece of the high-profile trade that sent Rasmus Ristolainen from Buffalo to Philadelphia. The then-26-year-old was still viewed at the time as an upcoming contributor with the ability to lock down a bonafide top-six spot on an NHL blueline. 

However, the 2021-22 season did little to help that perception. 

Hagg struggled on an improving-but-still-bad Sabres squad last season, logging just 16 minutes in ice time per night and failing to ever really carve out a defined role for himself before getting shipped to Florida at the deadline. Hagg's underlying numbers weren't too great either, headlined by his brutal 42.5 percent expected goal share at even-strength. But Hagg showed glimpses of potential during his time in Philly before last season, and may just need a fresh start and some stability to find it again. 

It's not like he's going to cost much, right? There are worse seventh D out there. 

Calvin de Haan
2021-22 Stat Line: 69 GP, 4 goals, 4 assists, 8 points, 18:57 TOI

Look, de Haan is far from the jack of all trades he was throughout his heyday. But for a budding young team looking to add veteran stability to their third pair, there are certainly worse options available. 

On a bad Blackhawks roster last season, de Haan struggled to produce much of anything at even-strength, getting caved in to the tune of a 45.48 percent expected goal share while generating a scant 45.21 percent of the available scoring chances, too. 

The Blackhawks were a disaster both on and off the ice last season, though, with almost no member of their beleaguered ranks walking away with career-best numbers. 

de Haan still logged nearly 19 minutes per night over roughly 70 games while moving the puck quite well. In a better environment with less responsibility on his shoulders, perhaps de Haan returns to being the versatile depth anchor he's always been. 

Ryan Murray 
2021-22 Stat Line: 37 GP, 0 goals, 4 assists, 4 points, 14:05 TOI

It's tough to argue for a guy to have been given more ice time when his team won the Stanley Cup, but Ryan Murray absolutely should've sat higher up the Avalanche's depth chart in 2021-22. 

The 28-year-old appeared in just 37 games for the eventual champs during the regular season and saw a healthy serving of defense-only minutes, beginning just 39.3 percent of his total shifts in the offensive zone. 

Despite this, Murray still managed to break even in expected goal share at 49 percent nearly and actually helped the Avs generate exactly 50 percent of the available scoring chances whenever he was on the ice. And given how Murray began that usage in his own end 60.7 percent of the time, those results aren't too shabby. 

Murray could effectively contribute to any team going bargain-hunting with a defined role and regular ice time. 

TOP HEADLINES

CA1_5399

World Junior Roundup: Sweden Crushes Austria, Slovakia Scores Important Win

Sweden had no issue handling Austria, while Slovakia got the extra point in a big contest against Latvia on a quieter day at the World Junior Championship.

Ivan Fedotov

Screen Shots: Vegas' Goalie Problem, Hockey Quebec and Flyers Prospects Stuck in Russia

Adam Proteau returns with Screen Shots to talk about where the Vegas Golden Knights go now to address their goalie situation, Hockey Quebec's investigation into racism accusations and the latest surrounding two Flyers prospects in Russia.

Colorado Avalanche
Play

NHL Hot Seat Radar: Colorado Avalanche

There's always pressure to repeat as champions in the NHL, but the Colorado Avalanche will have to do it with a shakeup in the crease.