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Flames Free Agent Targets: The Defencemen

With defenders Adam Pardy, Anton Babchuk, and (hopefully) Steve Staios all set to become UFAs on Friday if they can't come to terms on a new contract with the Flames, Calgary's lack of defensive depth could potentially become a problem area for the team for the first time in years. 

One undeniable positive about the Robyn Regehr trade is that it has allowed the Flames to open up cap space, heading into July 1st with what is perhaps the most flexibility they've had since the salary cap's inception. 

That being said, the Flames will no doubt be looking to replace Regehr with a defender who is capable of keeping his head above water against moderate to tough competition, preferably someone a little younger and more agile, and players like that tend to come at a cost, as just today Joni Pitkanen was re-signed to a three year, $4.5M/year contract by the Carolina Hurricanes

After the jump, we'll take a look at a few UFA defencemen who could capably fill the void for the Flames at a reasonable cost (all information from CapGeek and Behind the Net). 



James Wisniewski (Montreal--$3,250,000

2010 - James Wisniewski 75 10 41 51 -14 38 7 0 2 158


The 27-year old defender enjoyed a successful 51-point season split between the New York Islanders and Montreal Canadiens, aided by a significant amount of powerplay time and relatively soft circumstances at EV. Wisniewski ranked sixth in terms of Quality of Competition amongst regular Montreal defenders, had a 51.1% ZS ratio, and didn't even manage a positive Corsi rate at -0.29/60. Surprisingly, he had a slightly below average PDO of 98.1, but Wisniewski is the type of player whom I'd expect a regression from if his circumstances suddenly became tougher (i.e. Ian White or Anton Babchuk).

Wisniewski averaged 17:30 of ice time per game at ES in 2010-11, which means he can eat some minutes, but those minutes have to be managed carefully in order for him to succeed. I'm not sure he's the best fit for the Flames' top four, and you can't be paying a bottom-pairing defenceman $3.25M or more per year, if the organization has learnt anything from its mistakes. 


Andy Greene (New Jersey--$737,500)

2010 - Andy Greene 82 4 19 23 -23 22 1 0 1 91


The first thing that jumps out about Andy Greene is his very agreeable salary; the 28-year old collected under $1M last season with the New Jersey Devils, and although his point total matches his ghastly +/-, he managed to finish in the black where Corsi is concerned, with a rate of +2.66/60. Greene played an average of 18:45 at EV and scored 17 of his 23 points when the Devils were at evens and had the third highest rate of Goals/60 of all regular New Jersey defenders. Like Wisniewski, Greene didn't exactly have it rough either with a Zone Start ratio of 54.1% and the fifth toughest QoC of all regular NJ rearguards, but at least he kept his head above water on a mediocre Devils team and proved to be a versatile defenceman capable of playing at even strength, on the powerplay, and on the penalty kill. 


Steve Montador (Buffalo--$1,550,000)

2010 - Steve Montador 73 5 21 26 16 83 0 0 0 118


The 31-year old former Flame could potentially find himself a victim of the Sabres' defensive depth this summer, especially with Regehr in the fold, and while not exactly the Fountain of Youth the Flames may be looking for, he has proven himself to be a fairly capable defenceman since leaving Calgary in the Kristian Huselius deal. Montador faced the third toughest QoC of all Sabres defenders behind Tyler Myers and Andrej Sekera, although much like the other two aforementioned players, his ZS ratio was well above 50%, in fact it was the highest of all regular Sabres defenders at 56.8%. Montador wasn't exactly killing it possession-wise this past season either, with a Corsi rate of -0.84/60, but he lead all defencemen in Goals For On/60 and the Sabres scored more goals than they allowed when Montador was on the ice. 

Like Greene, Montador is capable of player close to 20 minutes/game at EV without hurting his team and can be relied upon when his team is down a man. At 31, he's probably not as mobile or quick-footed as you would like to see from a top-four defenceman, but he's certainly not the worst of a fairly thin UFA class and could be obtained without the Flames having to send any more assets Buffalo's way.