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Screen Shots: Free agent blueline help at a premium

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Adam Proteau is away this week. A fresh Screen Shots will return July 3.

In the meantime, this article originally appeared in the May 13 edition of The Hockey News.

There have been far more NHL trade deadline moves that failed to add fuel to teams’ pursuit of a Stanley Cup than ones that had positive championship consequences. For example, last season, Thrashers GM Don Waddell misplaced his marbles just long enough to deal Braydon Coburn to Philadelphia for veteran Alexei Zhitnik, a trade that will live in infamy everywhere except the Zhitnik and Waddell households.

However, for every massive mega-flop – at least, from Atlanta’s perspective – like that one, there’s a swap that works out almost to perfection. Such is the case with San Jose’s acquisition of blueliner Brian Campbell from Buffalo.

Prior to Campbell’s arrival in California Feb. 26, the Sharks were a good, but not great team, and one of many franchises that could benefit from the addition of a young, offensive-minded defenseman.

Enter the 28-year-old Campbell, a soon-to-be unrestricted free agent who had priced himself out of Buffalo’s salary cap picture. Sharks GM Doug Wilson had to give up a first round draft pick (29th overall) and an above-average player (Steve Bernier) to get him, but right from the moment he got there, Campbell paid big-time dividends.

He finished the regular season with 16 assists, 19 points and a plus-9 rating in 20 games as a Shark. More importantly, San Jose went 16-2-2 the rest of the regular season with him in the lineup, locking up the No. 2 Western Conference playoff seed in the process.

Even though San Jose still couldn’t advance past the second round of the playoffs, nobody’s begrudging Wilson for bolstering his blueline and that goes whether or not Campbell walks away in the summer for a higher UFA payday elsewhere.

In part, that’s because bringing in a D-man who’ll truly make a difference has become tougher than convincing Philadelphia Flyers fans to shave their heads and accept Mahatma Gandhi’s principle of non-violence as the only way to live.

Indeed, the crop of defensemen who will be available to the highest bidder this summer isn’t the most banner in league history. But that’s not to imply there aren’t guys out there who’ll be able to help teams next season.

With that in mind, here, in alphabetical order, are five noteworthy names to look for come July 1:

Ron Hainsey, Columbus The 6-foot-3, 211-pound Hainsey was Montreal’s first pick (13th overall) in 2000, but it has only been in his past two seasons with the Blue Jackets that he has begun to come into his own.

This year, the Bolton, Conn., native finished with eight goals and 32 points in 78 games, a shade under the nine-goal, 34-point campaign he had in 2006-07. Given that he just turned 27, it’s safe to say he has a few more years of those types of stats – or better – ahead of him.

John-Michael Liles, Colorado Charitably listed at 5-foot-10, Liles saw his assist totals drop for the second straight season (from 35 in 2005-06 to 30 last season and just 26 this year). However, his above-average puck-moving abilities will keep him at least a semi-hot commodity to teams that lose out on the Campbell sweepstakes.

He’s the same age as Hainsey, so there’s reason to believe Liles has some room to develop. And that temptation to believe he will is going to cost some owner at least $4 million a year for four years.

Wade Redden, Ottawa They all but ran Redden out of Ottawa with torches and pitchforks, twice asking the career Senator to waive his no-trade clause before twice being rejected by the 31-year-old.

Redden almost certainly won’t return to Canada’s capital, but there won’t be any shortage of inquiries for his services. The Chicago Blackhawks in particular could be prime suitors and the relative anonymity that would come in removing himself from a fishbowl existence would give Redden a good chance to reinvigorate his career.

Michal Rozsival, NY Rangers After recording his third straight season of at least 30 points, Rozsival will be aiming to improve on his $2.1 million salary.

The Czech native was the Rangers’ top minute-muncher both in the regular season and playoffs, where he averaged 25:04 of ice time per game.

He also hasn’t yet celebrated his 30th birthday, so there’s a very good chance he’ll get an offer in the neighborhood of four to five years and $15-20 million.

Mark Streit, Montreal He didn’t play his first NHL game until he was 28 – but two years later, Streit has come on like gangbusters, following up his 26-assist, 36-point showing last season with a 49-assist, 62-point performance this year.

The Canadiens have committed more than $11 million next season to the defensive duo of Andrei Markov and Roman Hamrlik, so there may not be enough cash left over to satisfy Streit and his agent.

Adam Proteau is The Hockey News' online columnist and a regular contributor to His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his Ask Adam feature appears Tuesdays and Fridays, and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.

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