Five UFA defensemen who may interest Capitals

Five UFA defensemen who may interest Capitals
June 30, 2014, 5:00 pm
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(USA Today Sports)

Brian MacLellan has left his mark on the Capitals’ coaching staff with the hirings of Barry Trotz, Lane Lambert and Todd Reirden.

Now it’s time for the first-year general manager to leave his mark on the Capitals’ roster.

Beginning at noon on Tuesday, MacLellan will have the chance to dive head-first into the NHL free-agent pool. He has already promised not to give any “ridiculous” contracts, but when it comes to overspending on July 1, ridiculous is often in the eye of the one holding the checkbook.

With the NHL salary cap set at $69 million, the Caps have roughly $12.7 million in cap space with 20 players [12 forwards, seven defensemen and one goaltender] under contract for next season. Assuming all 20 of those players return next season, the Caps have room for at least three more NHL contracts and have targeted their greatest needs as a top-four defenseman and a backup goaltender.

[MORE: Reirden making a pitch for Orpik, Niskanen]

With the free-agent frenzy just hours away, here’s a list of defensemen that may interest the Caps and what they may cost [click here for the complete list]:

Christian Ehrhoff

Age: 31

Ht/Wt: 6-2, 196

Shoots: Left

2013-14 Stats: Led Sabres defensemen in points [6-27-33] and ice time [23:54]. Finished with career-worst minus-27.

Scouting report: Ehrhoff has excellent speed and has a hard, accurate first pass. He can play a gritty game but can also be outmuscled in his own end.

Money matters: The Sabres bought out the final seven years of Ehrhoff’s 10-year, $40 million contract and will pay him $12 million over the next 14 years. He’ll likely be seeking in the $4 million per year range and could probably get a four- or five-year deal.

Matt Niskanen

Age: 27

Ht/Wt: 6-0, 209

Shoots: Right

2013-14 Stats: Posted career-highs with 10-36-46 in 81 games with Pittsburgh, adding 2-7-9 in 13 playoff games.

Scouting report: Excellent two-way defensemen who flourished when given an increased role in Pittsburgh. Can quarterback second-unit power play and defends well. Has advocate in new Caps assistant coach Todd Reirden.

Money matters: Seeking seven-year contract worth more than $35 million and could get it in a fairly weak free agent market.

Brooks Orpik

Age: 33

Ht/Wt: 6-2, 219

Shoots: Left

2013-14 Stats: Led Penguins defensemen in shorthanded ice time [212:03] and ranked second on the club with 221 hits.

Scouting report: Capable of logging more than 20 hard minutes a night against some of the NHL’s top players. Excellent shot blocker and locker room presence. Some concerns about the hard mileage on his body over 10 NHL seasons.

Money matters: Believed to be looking for a three-year deal worth between $3.5 million and $4 million a season.  

Anton Stralman

Age: 27

Ht/Wt: 5-11, 190

Shoots: Right

2013-14 Stats: Posted 1-12-13 with a plus-9 in 81 games in the regular season while averaging 19:24 in ice time. In 25 playoff games he had fiver assists, a plus-4 and averaged 21:03.

Scouting report: Stralman turned some heads in the playoffs, where he played a strong two-way game. He lacks the aggressiveness to be considered a shut-down defenseman, but he can move the puck quickly and cleanly out of his end.

Money matters: Stralman made $1.8 million in his final year with the Ranges and could fetch $4 million a season on the open market considering his age. Like Niskanen he may shoot for the moon.

Anton Volchenkov

Age: 32

Ht/Wt: 6-1, 220

Shoots: Left

2013-14 Stats: In 56 games for the Devils Volchenkov recorded eight assists and was a plus-3 with 20 penalty minutes while averaging just under 17 minutes a night.

Scouting report: There may be no better shot blocker in the NHL, but it always seems to come at a price with injuries. A hard-hitting blue liner, Volchenkov is still feared by NHL forwards but his reckless style of play is beginning to take a toll.

Money matters: The Devils bought out the final two years of Volchenkov’s contract, giving him $5.6 million over four years. He’d probably settle for a two-year deal in the $5 million or $6 million range.