The unrestricted free agent market for defensemen isn’t overflowing with top pairing talent. In fact it is lacking entirely in anyone who projects to be in the top pairing of any team in the second round of next years playoffs. That doesn’t mean you can’t fill the holes in your rosters bottom four.

Rob Scuderi:

This two time Stanley Cup champion is a smart hockey player who very rarely makes mistakes. He doesn’t have the physicality of Shea Weber, but he’s still going to get the job done. When he was part of the Penguins most recent cup run he was their top playoff defenseman in ice time. When the Kings won their cup his job was a bit more modest in a system that is very, very deep in quality defense. Take out your lineup card and write him into your second pairing.

Andrew Ference:

Absolutely no quit, no mercy, no drama in Ference’s game. It doesn’t matter if he’s pinning an opposing forward who has 30+lbs on him to the boards, throwing an open ice hit that turns a game or dropping the gloves and breaking someones orbital bone Feremce is a living buzzsaw when he’s got his A or even B game. He was a part of the Bruins championship in 2011 and is well regarded for his environmental and other community programs.

Michal Rozsival:

Another Stanley Cup champion, if you have young defenders who may need a mentor or you have questions about other guys on your roster, this might just be your guy. In his career Rozsival has played in a number of different systems around the league. The Pre-Crosby Penguins, under Tom Renney and John Tortorella for the Rangers,  Joel Quenville for the Chicago BlackHawks, and Dave Tippett as a member of the Coyotes.  Having outplayed Leddy down the stretch for Chicago he spent more and more time on the ice as the BlackHawks picked up their second championship in four years.

Grant Clitsome:

Of this years UFA’s this is the one most likely to be a diamond in the rough. Clitsome went from Columbus to Winnipeg and took over the #2 spot in scoring despite significantly less minutes than some of his teammates. He also had the teams second highest on ice save percentage. He’s only played 149 NHL games so there is still room for improvement before he reaches what will be expected of him for most of his career, but the former Clarkson Golden Knight might just be the best defensive signing a savvy team makes this summer.

Marek Zidlicky:

No one had a good season for the Devils last season, the spring before he was the top minute eater for the Devils defense as they went to the mat with the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup finals. He’s probably not going to produce he points he used to, but he’s still capable of putting in 19-22 productive minutes a night. He’s still a very solid passer both in his own zone and forward of the blueline.

This is the first part in a summer series looking at sane ways to increase NHL scoring, without doing something sacrilegious like increase net size, taking away goalie sticks or something equally absurd. If you are looking for other posts in this series click on the category marker next to the date at the top of the post. 

When the trapezoid was put into the NHL, the idea was to limit the amount of puck handling goalies could do. The hope was that this would stimulate offense or more accurately stifle smothering defenses. It was specifically made to keep ultra mobile goalies who handle the puck well from getting pucks that were dumped in, and feeding the puck back out to the neutral zone to his teammates before the opposing team could generate offensive pressure. There are two reasons this is a horrible idea.

Reason number one:

One of the most important things adding the trapezoid has done is reduce counter punch offense. Teams with mobile, puck handling goalies can no longer get the puck out as fast as often. It also means that forwards attacking the zone to retrieve lost pucks no longer get caught with four or five players behind them. So while the trapezoid allows a higher number of entries into the zone because it shackles the goaltender to the net, it does in fact slow the game down. Any goaltender who can skate well can reach the puck in a corner faster than even speedsters like Hagein or Seguin can get there. There is no reason to create dead playing time for a reason that is invalid.

Reason number two:

What is often ignored in the arguments over the trapezoid and or where and at what point goalies become fair game for hits is their competence. Some goalies are good at handling the puck, some are not. And even the best goalies such as Martin Brodeur or Mike Smith make mistakes. Further more, even the best skating goalies are wearing four or five times as much protection as the average skater. This makes them not just slower, but less agile. By keeping the goalies in the crease, the real sin is the reduction of the chaos factor. Goalie sticks are less than ideal for passing, and well, goalie skates are optimized for lateral control, not straight line speed. By eliminating the opportunity for goalies to play the puck, you eliminating not just the potential for them to squash an opponents rush, but for them to screw up by the numbers and allow a goal against. As we saw before the trapezoid was put in place, goalies that are bad at skating, or bad at skating will come out to play the puck. That is an opportunity for offense.

If the league wants to create more scoring it has to remember the law of unintended consequences.