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Top 5 NHL Defenseman Remaining on the UFA Market

Most are experienced veterans on the downturn of their careers, but in the right spot and in the right situation, they might still be worth a cheap gamble.
Zdeno Chara

The slim pickings continue.

Day 1 of free agency was absolute bonkers, with over 160 players signing deals after the gates opened up at 12:00 PM ET. But as a result, the remaining crop of UFAs was... meager, to say the least. 

But when that happens, there's typically some value to still be found. And that's exactly the name of the game for the remaining free agents looking for new homes. Most are experienced veterans on the downturn of their careers, but in the right spot and in the right situation, they might still be worth a cheap gamble.

Let's take a look at five of the top UFA defensemen still on the market:

Zdeno Chara, 44
At some point, Chara is going to have to call it quits, right? At 44, Chara still is useful as an NHL defenseman and his agent has said he's keeping in shape in case he does decide to return for another season. There's no shortage of teams that could use a big blueliner with a good shot on the left side, and while his ice time will obviously be restricted with his age, he could be a really inexpensive option to add to a contender. Plus, given his career, it would be disappointing if his final NHL season was played without the support of fans.

Sami Vatanen, 30
For most of his NHL career, Vatanen was a 20-minute a night defender capable of being effective in many different situations. But injuries, among other things, have really taken Vatanen down another level over the past two years. But maybe that'll actually help him find a job, in a weird way. He's still a good puck-moving right-shot defender who, on a third-pairing, could provide significant value at a low price. Plus, he's only 30, so on short-term deals, he could surprise.

Erik Gustafsson, 29 
Gustafsson's struggles were on full display in the Stanley Cup final, giving up the puck that led to multiple goalies in Game 3 before getting pulled from the lineup for Game 4 and 5. Gustafsson might actually benefit from playing forward and moving back to the point on the power play, but he's still a defenseman at this point. The offense isn't the concern here: it's his incredible ability to give the puck up at the absolute worst times. In bursts, he can provide value, but someone, somehow, needs to tone him down a bit.

Jason Demers, 33
Despite a poor final season in Arizona, Demers has made a career out of being a solid complimentary defender and could still be, albeit in a lesser role. Demers has been known as a decent possession player that can play higher in a lineup if the need arises, although as a third-pairing defender, you could definitely do worse. 

Jordie Benn, 33
While Benn's career has been full of hits and misses, last year was certainly more on the "miss" side of things. The Jets acquired Benn from Vancouver for an attempt at a long playoff run, but he never did much of anything and didn't even play all the remaining regular season games after arriving in Manitoba. His impact was minor when he was thrown into playoff action, seeing action in just two of the four games. Benn still has some shutdown value and while he'll likely not be an everyday player, you could do worse in terms of inexpensive veterans.

Other notables: Erik Gudbranson, Ben Hutton, Christian Djoos

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