The RFA defensemen are the cream of this years free agent crop. There are at least three number one or potential number one defensemen in this crop. and another half dozen who can play in the two or three spot.

Alex Pietrangelo, the best player due a contract this year. He is the three zone soldier who is the bulwark the St Louis Blues defense is built on.  Pietrangelo produces solidly in the regular and post season and plays big minutes in all situations.

Cody Franson,  way back when he was traded from Nashville to Toronto (two years ago) I said he was the best piece of talent in the deal. This year in the Maple Leafs return to the playoffs he put up 6 points in seven games against the Boston Bruins, while playing almost 23 minutes a night.

Jared  Cowen selected nineth in the 2009 draft, this towering blueliner spent most of the past season on the injured reserve returning in time to play all ten of the Senators games, and 18:33 of TOI/G. While he’s played fewere gaes than either Franson or Pietrangelo, it is really tough to look at what he has done, and the situations he’s been used in and not contemplate adding him to the team.

Zach Bogosion if he had spent his career anywhere other than the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise, he’d probably be a household name by now. If you nee a guy who can jump into your middle pairing and who still has the potential to move up from there in the future this is the guy.

Ryan McDonagh the Rangers defense is built around guys who can lay the body into an opponent, block shots, and skate long and hard. Huge minutes have come McDonagh’s way in the regular season, and the second season.

Karl Alzner the Washington Capitals rely heavily upon Alzner, two years ago through fourteen playoff games he led the team in time on ice, this year in seven games he played over three minutes a night of shorthanded time on ice.

Jake Muzzin in perhaps the deepest NHL quality talent pool Muzzin has fought his way into a strong position as part of its top six. Muzzin is a it more defensive minded thatn most of the men on this list but he’s also demonstrated a capacity to play mistake free hockey against quality opponents, he was second on the Kings this season with an on ice save percentage of .934.

 

NHL free agency brings all sorts of bizarre reasoning, usually from general managers, always from the media, and frequently from fans. In this Daniel Alfredsson who was unti he walked away from the Senators the National Hockey League’s longest serving captain. As what is so far the official reason for his departure Alfredsson said the Detroit Red Wings have a better shot at winning the Stanley Cup than the team that drafted him and paid him quite well over the years. According to repors Alfredsson was aware before he walked that Bobby Ryan was (likely) going to the Senators.

Going off of last years playoff statistics, The Ottawa Senators were better at producing goals. The Senators owned a better penalty kill. The Senators also had a better powerplay. As for personnel changes, the Detroit Red Wings have said good bye to center Valtteri Filppula who landed in Tampa Bay. In his place they signed Stephen Weiss who is smaller and older with only seven games of playoff experience in comparison to Filppula’s 105. To this Alfredsson added himself.

The Red Wings and Ottawa Senators will be in the same division this year. Within that new division the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins are clearly better teams. Also in the eastern conference the Pittsburgh Penguins can be expected to turn in a better regular season record, as can the Washington Capitals, the Columbus Blue Jackets were just two points worse than the Wings last year, and have made a significant upgrade at forward. The New York Rangers are a deeper team than the Red Wings, and the Philadelphia Flyers for all their woes and oddities can’t possibly have worse goaltending and defense than last season. As the Red Wings stumbled into the playoffs one point ahead of ninth place in the two team west, it is a bit of a stretch to imagine them as a powerhouse.

With four teams unarguably better than Red Wings stand today in the East it his hard to imagine them getting home ice advantage. With the Senators getting an upgrade in the form of Bobby Ryan, and likely fewer injuries than they saw last season, they too are arguably as strong as the Red Wings. Just looking at last years teams, their statistics and how much the rosters have changed and accounting for major injuries, a case can be made for six or seven teams being better than either the Red Wings or Senators just in the east.

During the Iginla conference call Peter Chiarelli mentioned the Boston Bruins were in contact with Alfredsson’s camp. Of the three teams, and the other teams who signed right wings in the last few days; Montreal, Philadelphia, Columbus, and more, it is hard to argue that the Red Wings give Alfredsson the best chance to win the Cup. He said he’s out of time and that his choice to move on was “selfish” decision. It doesn’t appear to have been a bright move.