Kevin Shattenkirk started the year as the season’s must have pending UFA defenseman. He ended the season as a complimentary if unremarkable blueliner. One of the best coaches in the NHL didn’t trust him enough to play a full twenty minutes in any of the seven games against the Pittsburgh Penguins. In fact Shattenkirk did not see the high side of twenty minutes after the second game of the playoffs.

Shattenkirk’s minute totals in the series tell us a lot about him: Game 7 18:18 Game 6 15:39 Game 5 19:44 Game 4 15:24 Game 3 16:58 Game 2: 17:35 Game 1 19:01. No one who knows hockey needs to be told that he played mostly third, and sometimes second pairing minutes in that series.

For player comparisons, the other two defensemen with more than six games played to finish with six points were Adam Larsson who is not known for his offense, and Joel Edmunson who is not known. Edmunson got his six points in two less games and was a plus-12 to Shattenkirk’s minus-4.

Among all defensemen in the playoffs Shattenkird logged barely more than fifteen minutes of even strength time on ice that put him in the bottom half of all defensemen. With just two points at even strength in the playoffs he ranks in the 30s among blueliners keeping company with Matt Benning, Marc Methot, and Dan Girardi.

The one area in which Shattenkirk was above average was in powerplay points, where he was tied for second. Five points in thirteen games is nothing to sneer at, but it isn’t enough to compensate for the .896 even strength on ice save percentage, well below Holtby’s .911 sv% and putting him 259th of all players in that number.

Most NHL observers would have put Shattenkirk’s next contract around the seven to even eight million dollar per year range similar to the best players in the league. If you look at the numbers you can’t justify anything more than five and that might be a stretch.

Take a moment and listen to this weeks Two Man ForeCheck and weigh in on a new Twitter poll.

For the Minnesota Wild I think the biggest goal in adding depth to the team is pretty simple; Don’t disrupt the chemistry. Offensively, and even at defense they don’t have a single current NHL superstar. Eric Staal once held that status, Ryan Suter probably should hold that status, and Zach Parise spent several years right on the cusp of superstardom, Mikko Koivu has been largely ignored in his career.

Hanzal at 30 will have all the things he should need to contribute without disrupting the locker room:

  • agemates
  • motivation to perform as he’s a UFA
  • the opportunity to play on a team that is easily the best of his pro career going into the playoffs.
  • no need to do everything
  • guys happy to see him because of what he brings

On top of that, being that Minnesota is a medium or small market, he won’t face the galactic size culture shock of going someplace like Montreal, Toronto, or one of the big cities where you not only have all the pressure of playing and winning but are likely to be set upon by fans, media, and traveling rival fans at any given moment. The Twin Cities are sure as heck going to be colder for the next few months than the greater Phoenix area, but playing hard and long shift will keep him warm. Not to mention the hope of a Cup playing for what is quite likely the most consistently good team of the year out west.

Win or lose in the playoffs, how he does for individual stats will greatly impact the number of teams, and number of dollars he is offered in July when he hits UFA status.

With the bulk of the NHL’s best free agents signed, its time to look at who did best.

Metropolitan Division

Winners

Washington Capitals:

They were 21st in goals against last year. What did they do about it? They picked up two 21+ minute a night guys. One who averaged almost 3 minutes a night shorthanded, the other who specializes in lugging the puck out of the defensive zone. Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen are at least for the next two to three seasons good gets.

New York Islanders:

Signing up Grabovski long term and sliding him in behind Tavares gives them a smart, two way center who plays with passion. Chad Johnson gives them a pretty solid backup goaltender as well. Are the Islanders suddenly cup favorites? No. Are they are probably eight or ten points better than last season just based on those moves.

Losers

Pittsburgh Penguins:

Greiss is a good pickup, but Ehrhoff is going to cost them one way or another, he’s not good defensively, and if he puts up offensive numbers on his one year contract he’s either bolting for more money elsewhere next year or is going to demand a contract on par with Letang’s. The rest of their pickups were spare change.

Pacific Division

Winners

Dallas Stars:

With the addition of Spezza  (via trade) to the free agent signings the team can look forward to offensive balance for the first time in a decade.

Losers

Arizona Coyotes:

Last year the franchise was on the outside looking in and while Devon Dubnyk is well suited to their needs, I’m not convinced he’s enough to get them into the playoffs.

Central Division

Winners

Chicago Blackhawks:

They found a motivated guy who can play in the 2nd pivot slot and it didn’t cost them much.

Saint Louis Blues:

Taking one of the veteran leaders of a conference rival is always a good get, adding a guy with preexisting good chemistry with some of your top players just makes it even better.

Losers

Vancouver Canucks:

Despite the addition of a good goalie, they are no closer to playoff contention than they were at this time last week.

Atlantic Division

Winners

Tampa Bay Lightning

Adding Anton Stralman to the rest of an underrated cast makes this one of the most credible defensive units in the East heading into the season.

Florida Panthers

They added lots of highly competitive veterans, the skilled Jussi Jokinen, to wrap around their core of young players like Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov. They are a very long shot to make the playoffs, but the pieces they added were priced appropriately (and in Jokinen’s case low) and unlike other teams they haven’t crowded other young talent off the roster allowing for young players to come in and win a roster spot and NHL experience for the future.

Losers

Boston Bruins

A laundry list of miscues means that the players signed by this team since noon on July 1 and the departures of a very solid backup and hall of fame forward leave the team worse off than they have been in years. Realistically, I doubt any Bruins fan had even heard of either guy, and its not a stretch to say their agents probably have trouble picking them out of a crowd.

Detroit Red Wings

What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. The Red Wings didn’t add any talent via free agency, and history tells us any of their draft picks this year are four or more years from the NHL.

With Jason Spezza already dealt the market has seen its first bellwether. We know what the trade value for a top level offensive center. At 31, there’s still a chance Spezza could sign long term and be a big part of the Dallas Star’s success in future. Who else will set the standard for guys like them?

Jarome Iginla, the only UFA who scored 30 goals last season. A first ballot hall of famer who proved that even in the playoffs he can produce without a center showing up for work.

Josh Gorges, the defensive defenseman is overdue for change (even if it is really difficult to imagine the Montreal Canadiens without him) entering next season with four years remaining at under four million, and 30 years old he’s a 2/3 defensemen in 25+ systems in the NHL.

Paul Stastny, a young, effective forward. One can ask if he’s a piece or a complimentary player, but there’s no denying when he’s dialed in he’s damned effective.

Brooks Orpik at 33, the clock is ticking if a Stanley Cup ring is in his future. Does he feel the Penguins are moving in the right direction? Can someone offer him a great ride on a top contender? Those are the factors that will weigh in on his choice.

Ryan Miller, hands down the best goalie in the batch. Would he be the perfect fit for the Minnesota Wild? He’s been healthy which none of their guys have, he’s played with several of the the key guys on the roster in the Olympics.

P.K. Subban, the top free agent of any kind this year is an RFA defenseman, he should receive offer sheets and arguably with Gorges likely departing he should sign one of them. Whatever price is set for him, whenever and wherever he signs will be the high water mark for defenseman for the next couple years.

Jaden Schwartz put up good offensive numbers on a defensive team, with 25 goals and 56 points, its going to be hard to argue what he signs for won’t impact other RFA forwards this summer.

Anton Stralman is a defenseman who made himself more valuable with his playoff run. Is he an elite #1 defeneman, no. But then there are only about four to six of those in the NHL right now. Based on his playoff run, there are some, starting with his agent who will argue he’s in that next group of defensemen.

The time until camps open is draining remorselessly away. There are still some high quality restricted and unrestricted free agents who don’t have contracts going into the season. Teams are walking into a trap that not only will leave them short of talent, but deprive them of merchandise sales. With the RFA’s teams that don’t want to make a deal should make a trade and bring in replacement assets or sign a deal and live with it. UFA’s at this point need to either swallow their pride or head for Europe because the number of teams with cap space, and the money to pay veterans isn’t that high.

Mikkel Boedker: RFA Forward

The new Coyotes owners have committed to staying in Glendale, they should make the same commitment to the quality of the roster. Boedker has proven to be a clutch player in the playoffs, has improved year over year. As one othe beter young talents on the team,  he can either be a strong trade piece or further developed into a cornerstone for a Stanley Cup contender.

Ron Hainsey UFA Defenseman:

At 32, Hainsey has more than a little tread left on the tire. He averaged just under 23 minutes a night last year, and picked up his points per game over the previous year. Currently the Winnipeg Jets are looking to go into the season without last years ice time leader, who stood tall for three minutes a night of shorthanded time.

Carlo Colaiacovo UFA Defenseman

Last season was pretty unpleasant for the 30 year old Colaiacovo. Between injuries and the lockout he managed a slim six regular season games, and an additional nine in the playoffs. If healthy, theres no reason not to pay this solid points producer in the same neighborhood as the $2.5m he made the last two seasons. Historically he picks up north of 40% of his points on the powerplay.

Tim Thomas UFA Goalie

Hands down the best goaltender on the market. Yes he took a year off, yes he’s one of the older players in the free agent market, but who else comes close to his resume? Two Vezina’s, a Jennings, an Olympic Silver Medal, a Stanley Cup and an impressive set of career statistics. As a backup or bridge to a new starter, teams could make a short term investment with a great return.

Cody Hodgson RFA Forward

The Buffalo Sabres haven’t been deep in high end talent in a very long time, Cody Hodgson’s upward trajectory continues to impress. All the more so for being on a team with questionable commitment and highly deniable talent. In 2012-13, he was the teams second leading goal scorer and second in points overall. If Myers can be brought back to form, he two togetehr could transform the offense of the Buffalo Sabres for a long time to cove.

Derek Stepan RFA Forward

Arguably the best forward as yet unsigned, Stepan has been a mainstay of the New York Rangers for the past three seasons. He broke onto the scene as a rookie and scored 21 goals on a team not gifted with offensed. In the two seasons since there has been no retreat from the promise shown then. Last season he handily beat Rick Nash, Brad Richards, and the rest of his team in scoring. He plays almost six minutes of special teams time a night split between the powerplay and penalty kill. It is hard to come up with a good reason why he isn’t already locked up longterm. If the cap is the issue, there are plenty of players who can be jettisoned to make room.

Alex Pietrangelo RFA Defenseman

Hands down Pietrangelo is the most valuable piece on the board. There are exactly 29 general managers around the league who would snatch him up in a heartbeat if he hits the market. But on September fourth less than a month before opening night Pietrangelo sits unsigned. Last season he spent over 25 minutes a night on the ice, with nearly seven minutes of special teams time each game.

So what gives? Are these teams not committed to winning? Are the owners just cheap, or are the players floating contract demandst just to get out of dodge? Either way, where’s the deal?

Silly season is absolutely one of my favorite times in hockey. The drama. The desperation. The dollars. The dipshits pulling the strings. This summer the RFA market is definitely as tantalizing as the UFA market.

Bloggers who wish to participate should comment here, or send me a message @PuckSage on Twitter to be linked to and for bragging purposes. All entries must be up by the Noon ET on June 30, 2011. Bloggers can participate in any or all parts of the challenge. For the sake of everyone using the same source, we will use NHLNumbers ( www.nhlnumbers.com ) for the free agent listing and TSN.ca or NHL.com for any signings that don’t make the NHLnumbers site by deadline. You can of course make more than one post to cover each part.

Part 1: The First Domino

Pick a player at Forward, Defense & Goal off the UFA list who you expect to be the first to be signed.

Part 2: Team UFA

Very simple, really. Make a team 13 forwards, 7 defensemen, 2 goalies that is all off the UFA list and under the cap. Projected salaries for each player should be realistic.

Part 3: Worst Contract

Name the team likely to hand out the most absurd contract on July 1.

Part 4: Where’s Zach and

That right, you too can gaze into your crystal ball, ask your magic 8 ball or ouijia board or just sprinkle some Angel Dust on your Poptart and use it to tell the world where Zach Parise will be playing next season.

Remember, prizes are bragging rights, pity beer from your friends, and not having to think of something to blog for at least one day. Void where prohibited!

This is the the beginning and end for more than just the two organizations playing in the finals. Teams that were eliminated in the first round, or never made it in will spend this last stretch of the marathon evaluating what works best for other teams, who might reach the free agent market, and of course looking at the draft. With the general managers meeting today, some trades will go down as well.

For the Los Angeles Kings, many of whom have never played in the second round before this year, this is a huge adjustment. It’s not just the size of the stage that may start pressing on them. It’s the duration of the season. The bulk of the roster hasn’t played extended NHL hockey. Yes, they are a pretty young group. They have also been lucky enough to have some short series. But this is still an extra two months of hockey, and the Phoenix series was certainly not a gentle one.

Back on the east coast the New Jersey Devils have a far wider span of age and playoff experience. Marty Brodeur has been to the top of the mountain three times. Ilya Kovalchuk had never seen the second round before this year. The Adam’s had never seen the NHL post season until this year. Marek Zidlicky doubled his playoff experience along the road to the finals. The Devils are also a noticeably older team than their opponents, with nine players over 30 to just four on the Kings.

We all know who the best players on each team are. The question is of course who will be the best players in the Stanley Cup Finals. The last two Cup clinching goals were a rarity. Both Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins and Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks were already players most hockey fans were familiar with. The two were key parts to their teams and if you were identifying weaknesses or needed changes they’d be on the short list of players titled must keep. That’s not always the case in the Stanley Cup. It isn’t even often the case.

So who will come up big this year? Will Dwight King and Jordan Nolan be the guys who tip the balance of this series? Will Mark Fayne and Peter Harrold finally make the hockey world stand up and take note of who they are? None of the four is even close to a household name today. The Stanley Cup finals can turn some from anonymous grinder to sensation in one flick of the wrist.

For the organizations as whole, the finals appearance is huge. The Devils started the year with ownership concerns. The Kings have spent more than four decades in the NHL and only put their hand on the gate to the promised land once. Tonight for both teams, win or lose is the confirmation that the organizations are build right.

The Stanly Cup Finals are also a beginning. Even wit the looming labor negotiations, someone has to decide what to do with the sixteen pending UFA’s between the two teams. Someone has to figure out which of the RFA’s to tender qualifying offers to by July 1. For team with college players, and prospects playing out contracts overseas, we’ve hit critical mass on inviting these players to camp. Then there’s the behind the scenes contracts for coaches and managers, and of course European, juniors and college free agents. There’s no off season in hockey, just a time when less hockey is played.

With the CBA negotiations looking more and more likely to vent heat from both sides, the possibility we will see a large number of high end UFA’s all at once is growing daily. In addition to those top UFA’s this season: Suter, Parise, Semin, Selanne, Whitney, Jagr, Parenteau, Holmstrom, Garrison and more if there is cancellation of this season, the next year the market gets even more mouthwatering. Add in some or all of: Crosby, Iginla, Staal, Quick, Alfredsson, Backstrom (goalie), Perry, Getzlaf, Thomas (goalie), Vishnovsky, Lupul, Streit, Hartnell, Clowe, Howard and well, you get the picture. Coming out of the last lockout we saw a number of players sign with friends to teams and go for it all. We also so the Avalanche load up with a who’s who of hockey in their last cup win.

Even going with just the players from this year, that’s more talent than most teams boast.  Even cup winning teams. If the labor negotiations stretch to a point where the season is shortened, say camp starting the week before (American) Thanksgiving, and the first real games being played on December first, organizations hungry for a championship might be willing to accommodate the wishes of a group of players who all wanted to play together for one (shortened) year for a reasonable sum.

Say for example the Coyotes sale does actually go through. They currently have 17 players signed for next season, and total cap hit of just under $35,000,000. If they somehow magically (wanted and got) all nine of the above, to sign one year deals for $3,300,000 they could trade a few other pieces for roster space and draft picks or assign players back to the AHL, and still have wiggle room under the cap for injuries, and or other additions. The nine would have a total cap hit of $29.7 million, and for a team in need of a shot in the arm that could be just what the accountant ordered. Even Nashville would be in position to make a similar move, they have only 12 players signed for next year and already have a solid goaltender.

Assuming the dispute did cancel next season, the possibility of one or more super-teams goes up. A team that could play a duo consisting of a combination of a well rested Quick, Thomas, and/or Howard in net is absolutely frightening. If they managed to push each other to still higher levels of performance the potential goaltending records for the year are absolutely mind-numbing. Forward lines that had Parise, Staal, Iginla, Afredson, Crosby, Semin, Selanne would be unlike anything the NHL has ever seen. We aren’t talking an All Star semi-competitive practice billed as a game, or even an Olympic campaign where the players practice together for a couple weeks. We’re looking at months of synergy building practice, play, and travel from some of the biggest talents in the game.

With the Philadelphia Flyers out of the greatest sports tournament it all comes down to goaltending. We have a living legend in New Jersey. Martin Brodeur is arguably the greatest goaltender of all time. His statistical records hold records. Mike Smith was discarded by the Tampa Bay Lightning and seen by many in Phoenix as no more than a stand in until a “good goalie” could be found. Well, surprise surprise, Mike Smith is possibly the next best puck handler in the NHL among goaltenders after New Jersey’s juggernaut. The stand-in also has a modest .948sv% this post season. Either the King Henrik Lundqvist, or the baby of the bunch Braden Holtby will advance in the other series, neither has much to complain about this post season. And then there’s the hands down favorite to win the Conn-Smythe, the All American Jonathan Quick, the King of King’s owns the playoffs this year.

With the draft approaching and the resolution of ownership issues for several teams (Sabres, Jets, Blues, Stars, Devils and in theory the Coyotes), the trading action as teams attempt to clear space to go after this summers big fish could be the biggest we’ve seen in years. Parise and Suter will be the biggest fish on the market, but don’t expect Carlo Colaiacovo, Semin, Parenteau, and the rest of the second or even third tier to come cheap. If the market for skaters is shallow, the goalie market probably isn’t even deep enough to wet the whole tread on your average sneaker. Clemmensen, Harding, Vokoun and that’s about it.Vokoun ended the season on the shelf, Harding is injury prone, and Clemmensen has never managed to hold down a starting job.