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2010 NHL Free Agency: What about … Mike Mottau?

Sep 25, 2010, 7:20 PM EDT

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At this point in free agency, the focus shifts from the gems to flawed guys who can still bring some skill to the table. So, going forward, we’ll spotlight individual players who are flying under the radar.

Previous Entries: Slava Kozlov, Alex Frolov, Willie Mitchell, Lee Stempniak, Maxim Afinogenov, Patrick O’Sullivan, Marek Svatos.

mikemottau1.jpgToday’s entry: Mike Mottau

Name: Mike Mottau
Height:6-0 Weight:190 lbs.
Position:D
Strengths: Very versatile, can log big minutes, nice mobility, some offensive skill
Weaknesses: Not a big hitter, won’t put up fantasy hockey offensive numbers, steady but not spectacular in general

It’s been a tough off-season for goalies and many depth forwards, but I’ve noticed that middle pairing defensemen/sub-elite blueliners often made a relative killing. From the big deals earned by unrestricted free agents Paul Martin, Dan Hamhuis and Zbynek Michalek to the hefty earnings by RFAs including Marc Staal, it’s been a seller’s market for defensemen in a free agent market that’s been bone dry for other position players.

That doesn’t mean that every capable defenseman is sitting fat and happy this September, though.

One player who seems lost in the shuffle is underrated Devils defenseman Mike Mottau. Joe passed along this story from Andy Strickland that came out a week ago, fitting in nicely with the under-the-radar nature of Mottau’s free agency. Strickland points out some of the reasons why Mottau should already have a job.

First, he hits the kind of numbers that non-sentimental, stat-crunching dorks like myself enjoy seeing.

1. Ranked 2nd in the entire NHL in average shifts per game with 31.5 shifts per game

2. Ranked 3rd in the entire NHL in total shifts with 2,489 (1st Pronger- 2,552 2nd Bouwmeester- 2,516 3rd Mottau- 2,489 4th Marek Zidlicky- 2,476)

3. Ranks 15th overall among all NHL defensemen in +/- over the last 2 seasons with a +28 rating

mottaufightsavery.jpgThen again, an overly negative dissenter might point out that newly acquired Anton Volchenkov would soak up those minutes and that Mottau might not be that worthwhile on a team with … you know, actual above-average defensemen (seriously, what happened to the Devils blueline?). Others might yawn at all of those numbers. The thing is, Mottau appeals to the crowd who values character over numbers.

7. Versatile & Durable – Can play the PP and PK as well as playing the right or left side. Has averaged 78 games per season over the last 3 seasons

8. Character & Grit- Received New Jersey’s Players Player Award- voted on by his teammates. Link to fight with Sean Avery

Maybe Mottau isn’t an all-world player or the kind of offensive force who will draw much All-Star or Norris Trophy interest, but surely a team in need of a versatile defenseman could use him … right? Why wouldn’t the San Jose Sharks, Washington Capitals or any other contender try to throw a reasonable one-year offer his way?

Again, Mottau won’t change the very makeup of your team, but defensive depth is becoming a premium coveted by the team’s upper crust. Don’t be surprised if he helps a team climb another level or two this season, even if most of his work only ends up being appreciated by his (new) teammates and a few nerds like myself.

(John Fischer of In Lou We Trust has a nice breakdown of Mike Mottau – and also asked why he hasn’t been signed yet – in an August post.)

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