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It’s a good time to be a right-shooting d-man free agent

May 6, 2014, 11:47 AM EDT

Pittsburgh Penguins v Columbus Blue Jackets - Game Four Getty Images

So I was thinking something watching the Rangers’ power play last night…

No, it wasn’t, “Boy, that does not look like a very confident power play.” Though it definitely didn’t.

It was this: If you’re a right-handed shooting defenseman that can play a regular number of five-on-five minutes and help a team’s power play, you’re going to be a hot commodity this summer.

Because the Rangers — with all due respect to Dan Girardi, Anton Stralman, Kevin Klein, and Raphael Diaz — don’t really have one of those double threats. Or, at the very least, they don’t have one that’s doing a very good job of it at the moment.

And the Rangers aren’t alone. The Red Wings made no secret that they’re in the market for “a top-four right-handed shooting defenseman.” Detroit’s power play hasn’t been the same since Brian Rafalski retired.

The Vancouver Canucks, meanwhile, were forced to dress seven defensemen on occasion this season, just so power-play specialist Yannick Weber could be available. Vancouver’s power play hasn’t been the same since Sami Salo took his booming shot to Tampa Bay. (And similarly, since right-handed shooter Mikael Samuelsson was traded.)

Read this post on the Phoenix Coyotes for more on the importance of right-handed shooters to teams’ power plays.

Then, after you read that, read MLive’s list of players the Wings could target this offseason, whether in free agency or a trade. Safe to say, Matt Niskanen is going to get PAID.

Finally, just in case you’re not sold yet, here are the top 10 d-men in terms of power-play points during the regular season. Notice anything about seven of them?


  1. avfanforlife - May 6, 2014 at 12:05 PM

    Wouldn’t mind seeing Shattenkirk back in an AV’s sweater.

    • avfanforlife - May 6, 2014 at 1:52 PM

      No? Why not?

    • flyerspsu - May 6, 2014 at 2:31 PM

      i dont think anybody would mind seeing Shattenkirk on their team, in fact most would love it, but hes signed for another 3 years and you would need to give up a lot to get him in a trade

  2. penvik - May 6, 2014 at 12:20 PM

    Pens need to drop Orpik and get Nisky signed. They should have the room to get this done with the great ELC defensemen they have in the pipeline.

    • c9castine - May 6, 2014 at 1:01 PM

      not necessary.

      • elvispocomo - May 6, 2014 at 1:15 PM

        Way to fully explain what you mean with a well thought out response…

      • c9castine - May 6, 2014 at 1:21 PM

        orpik is not going anywhere. you dont let veteran defenseman walk that you drafted 14 years ago, is a two time olympian and stanley cup winner, just because some dumb fans think he is over the hill.

        maybe martin gets traded because of his one remaining year and 5 mil salary because HE will be impossible to sign after next year. you cant let him walk away from the team for nothing, better off trading him for the heap of assets he could bring.

        maybe nisky, for all the talk of loving it here and wanting to stay, decides he can be a highlight player and get paid somewhere else and be happy? we cant pay him like letang, and if we pay him like martin, martin will be gone. so hes either gonna take 3.5-4 mil per year and stay, or go somewhere else.

        maybe scuds gets bought out. hes proven himself to be effective only as a bottom pairing defenseman playing 14 minutes a game.

        in all these scenarios, trust me, brooks orpik is going nowhere.

      • elvispocomo - May 6, 2014 at 1:39 PM

        That makes more sense to a point, where you could have been saying dropping Orpik, re-signing Niskanen or using young players on ELCs was “not necessary.”

      • flyerspsu - May 6, 2014 at 2:33 PM

        Niskanen is younger and better, you have to try to sign him even if it means letting go of a veteran like Oprik

      • elvispocomo - May 6, 2014 at 3:19 PM

        Orpik brings something different to their D and isn’t that old at 33, so I don’t agree they automatically dump them. It’d hurt to lose Niskanen for nothing to free agency, but they do have some young talent coming up that could replace him if they aren’t worried about Letang in the short term. Big decisions for them on that this summer though.

      • c9castine - May 6, 2014 at 10:47 PM

        yes. it depends on what management thinks (obviously)….personally i see Maatta as a Martin replacement. play the same style game. really similar.

      • steelpenbucs87 - May 6, 2014 at 4:31 PM

        c9astine I am beginning to be convinced that you are related to Brooks Orpik in some form or fashion.

        The guy was a huge part of a transition from some of the terrible Pens teams to the good ones you see now. He was instrumental in the cup run, and he was a solid defenseman for a long time.

        He is also a defenisve liability – posting terrible possession numbers that were only passable because he was paired with Martin. He should not still be on this team past this season UNLESS he signs for around $1.5 MM (which he won’t).

        Let Orpik walk, buyout Scuderi, thrown $6M at Niskanen and roll with this next year:
        Letang – Martin
        Maatta – Niskanen

      • c9castine - May 6, 2014 at 10:48 PM

        you cant give niskanen 6 mil a year.

        you cant have 20 million dollars tied up in 3 defenseman. PERIOD.

      • c9castine - May 6, 2014 at 10:48 PM

        especially when maatta will at some point require a big boy contract.

        you may think im crazy but i hope you remember this conversation next october. or sooner. well revisit.

      • bethgoesglobal - May 6, 2014 at 9:12 PM

        6 million/yr for Niskanen would be absurd at this point. While he did have an excellent year, he hasn’t shown that he can consistently produce yet. The Pens should definitely aim to re-sign him, but I’d give him a shorter contract at around 4 million/yr. Of course I wouldn’t be surprised if he was offered that kind of money from other teams, but I think a big contract would be a little risky right now.

      • steelpenbucs87 - May 7, 2014 at 9:20 AM

        A couple of things here:

        1) It wouldn’t be $20M tied up in three defensemen – it would be $18M in three for one year, and then $13M in two for a longer period. That you can swallow – especially given the young defensmen coming up. With that said, I fat-fingered the $6M for Niskanen – actually meant $5M and meant that as a ceiling, not necessarily what we go out with. I think its reasonable to try to sign him for less than that, but that would be the ceiling.

        2) Maata doesn’t need a “big boy deal” for at least another two years, against a cap that will continue to rise, and coincides exactly with when Paul Martin comes off the books. I LOVE Pauly, but the fact of the matter is that he will be expensive, and 34 years old – someone will over pay him. Signing Maata to a big boy deal likely wouldn’t be an issue, even with Niskanen on the books.

        3) I’ll be happy to revisit this conversation in October (or sooner), just as long as you recognize that if Shero follows your plan it doesn’t make you (or Shero) right. Anyone with two eyes can see that Orpik is on the decline, and keeping him around at even half of what he’s making now would be a mistake – numbers and eyeball test will continue to bear that out.

      • c9castine - May 7, 2014 at 12:45 PM

        first, i realized the number was 18, but close enough.

        second, your your just gonna let paul martin’s contract run out? not gonna trade him when the market for top pairing defense is so good right now and it seems 25 teams are desperately looking for one??

        im sorry, but what shero does is going to be way more right than anything you ever say. there should be no explanation needed for that.

        you may think hes on the decline, but your opinion, im sorry, is very irrelevant. hes not a running back. hes had a really good season on a team where everybodys possession numbers and blah blah blah were way down. spent a lot of the year injured with 3/4 of a lineup at best.

  3. sjtorpitt - May 6, 2014 at 12:26 PM

    *7 of them

    • Jason Brough - May 6, 2014 at 12:50 PM

      Thanks. For some reason I had Yandle as a righty in my mind.

  4. joey4id - May 6, 2014 at 12:28 PM

    Matt Niskanen absolutely carried the d core on his back this year with all the injuries the Pens suffered on the back end. It’s good time to be a 27 year old right handed d man. There’s a premium to pay for back end talent, and a hefty raise in the making for this young man. He’s as entertaining to see play as Keith, though not at the same level as the Hwaks’ d man.

  5. wjarvis - May 6, 2014 at 12:31 PM

    I think the main thing to notice is that only one of them is still playing, and 6 of them were not on playoff teams. Having a d-man score on the power play is nice, but it’s not essential to win games.

    • Jason Brough - May 6, 2014 at 12:52 PM

      Subban, Niskanen, Doughty, Seabrook
      Are those guys still playing?
      Yep, they are…

      • wjarvis - May 6, 2014 at 2:03 PM

        It’s funny how only one of those players is on the list in the article. I guess that was my point, I’d much rather have Doughty or Seabrook on my team than most of the players on the list above. Yet Doughty has what maybe 1 year where he was one of the top defenseman for pp points in the league, and Seabrook only has 1 season where he had 20 pp points (6 out of 9 years he’s had 10 or less).

        Niskanen is probably going to make more money next year than I’ll make for the next several several decades. My point is that having a good defenseman for the power play is not what usually drives team success.

        I’m a Hawks fan and while I was sad when Buff got traded, I think I’d rather have Hjalmarsson on the team (who doesn’t have a single power play point in his career) than Buff.

      • wjarvis - May 6, 2014 at 6:26 PM

        Well when I first posted this I hadn’t realized that Hjalmarsson hasn’t been able to talk since blocking that shot with his throat on Sunday, yet he didn’t miss a shift. That just makes me respect him even more.

    • c9castine - May 6, 2014 at 1:04 PM

      its not just about that player scoring. and its not just about the powerplay.

      you were missing the point. right handed defenseman seem to be more effective powerplay quarterbacks, in general.

      hence his whole point of the article, top right handed defenseman free agents like matt niskanen are going to get paid this summer.

      • wjarvis - May 6, 2014 at 2:43 PM

        No I got the point of the article and I agree that Niskanen is going to get paid a ton of money.

        However, the last time a cup winner had one of the top 10 scoring power play point producers for the regular season was Lidstrom (who’s a lefty) for the Red Wings in 2008. Hence, why I don’t think it’s a priority for a team to have a d-man leading the power play. These players make a ton of money, and I think most of the time the money can be better spent elsewhere.

      • c9castine - May 6, 2014 at 10:46 PM

        that maybe be the case by strict stats, but the last set of stanley cup winners have featured top defenseman like Gonchar, Keith, Chara, and Doughty.

        I am not gonna go back and look at each of their seasons but I know gonchar missed a good portion of the 08-09 season (57 games actually). he had 14 points in 22 playoff games including 9 PPA and 2 PPG

      • wjarvis - May 6, 2014 at 11:54 PM

        Obviously you need to have strong play from your defenseman to win the cup, so all of the teams that have won the cup do have elite defenseman on their team.

        When I think of the players you mentioned, I really only think about the power play for Gonchar though. The other 3 do all contribute offensively, but are better defenders than Gonchar and all of the players on the list in the article except Weber.

        Also, interesting that Gonchar, Keith, and Chara are all lefties.

  6. steelhammer92 - May 6, 2014 at 12:45 PM

    Really bummed they couldn’t get a deal done last summer. I’ve always loved Orpik, but father time has caught up with him. Bortuzzo is basically a young Orpik.

    • erbaker67 - May 6, 2014 at 12:59 PM

      Bortuzzo has been great. He has really stepped up, also love him on Pittsburgh Penguins In The Room. I love Orpik but I feel, with the depth the Penguins have in the pipeline, that he needs to be moved.

    • chanceoffleury - May 6, 2014 at 6:51 PM

      Literally haven’t even noticed Orpik’s absence the last 2 games. Bortuzzo’s rose to the occasion and Scuderi’s upped his game a little to help clear the crease and give Fleury some wiggle room with his rebound control (as has the rest of the d core, but Scuderi was taking a lot of crap for it and I think he’s looked better as of late).

      The biggest difference for me between Bortuzzo and Orpik is the energy level. Bortuzzo is like a firecracker and the Pens need that. They don’t have enough of it on their team. They can be so systematic and get into a “running through the motions” type of play and it magnifies their issues with getting too complacent.

  7. imgoingtowichita - May 6, 2014 at 1:01 PM

    Ya, I noticed seven of them had the letter ‘e’ in their name.

    • elvispocomo - May 6, 2014 at 1:17 PM

      I guess that means you never even had a chance (considering your username).

      • petersteelewannabe - May 6, 2014 at 2:34 PM

        Damn, I could’ve been in the mix with 6 E’s, but I shoot lefty…

  8. matt14gg - May 6, 2014 at 2:48 PM

    Detroit’s going to be a great landing spot for one of these guys.

  9. kastout11 - May 6, 2014 at 2:53 PM

    Niskanen would look great in black and orange. He is the #1 the Flyers need to target, although I don’t think they could sign him and stay under the cap. Brough is right, he is going to get paid.

  10. snipedanglecelly13 - May 6, 2014 at 2:59 PM

    Detroit must sign niskanen

  11. homegrowntalentmn - May 6, 2014 at 3:20 PM

    Niskanen would be good along side of brodin. Sign him instead of vanek. For some reason i get the feeling vanek is gonna turn into heatley in two years or less. Got shot, good on pp but slow as sheet and a defensive liability

  12. storminator16 - May 6, 2014 at 3:23 PM

    Ah, one of my favorite topics in hockey: d-men getting paid!

    No, I’m serious. I really love it when d-men cash in. Sure someone will get overpaid, but GMs making dumb moves are a part of the game. Bring on July 1st!

  13. penvik - May 6, 2014 at 3:38 PM

    c9castine, I’m confused whether your joking or not. Orpik was terrible this year, a major problem would be resigning him, same as the Scuderi signing, that was bad. We need new blood, your either joking or you don’t watch much Penguins games if you think we need Orpik. There’s no coincidence out defense got much MUCH better after he was injured this post season. I will be pissed if Bylsma puts him back in, unless he sits Scuderi for Orpik. Not sure what c9castine is trying to accomplish here. It looks like you are just here to argue bud and by the verbal diarrhea that spills out of your mouth, that’s exactly what your doing. Martin is our BEST defenseman and you would get rid of him to keep Orpik. Lolololololol!!!

    • steelpenbucs87 - May 8, 2014 at 9:54 AM

      Thank you.

  14. sayingthetruthperiod - May 6, 2014 at 3:48 PM

    People talking about getting rid of Orpik are out of their minds.
    Hes still one of the better skating guys out there.
    Ive noticed something over the years of being a fan. Younger fans always want to replace older players. They have a fascination with ‘potential’.

    Btw Bortuzzo has played well but to say he has passed Orpik by is utterly ridiculous. Orpik is still a much superior skater and hitter and overall defensman.
    If you want to make the argument we cannot afford him and hes been banged up some you would at least be remotely reasonable. I would disagree but you would at least sound like you have some idea of what you are talking about.

    Ask NJ if they missed “old” Stevens or Detroit if they missed “old” Lidstrom.

    Stop acting like you understand hockey because you sound foolish.

    • chanceoffleury - May 6, 2014 at 7:20 PM

      I don’t think people are saying Bortuzzo is better. It’s just that Orpik is going to have to really lower what his expectations probably are if he wants to stay with the Pens, and I don’t think people are confident he’s willing to do that. The difference between Bortuzzo and Orpik isn’t so game changing that the money wouldn’t be better spent elsewhere. If he’s willing to take a 2 or maybe even 3 year deal its worth listening to, but after that it starts getting hard to justify.

      I mean, really, is Orpik’s skill set so unique and irreplaceable that at 38 years old he’s still going to be worth something like 4-5 million a year? That 5 million is much better spent making sure Sutter, Niskanen, Goc, and Jokinen don’t walk because the Pens didn’t have the space to add an extra million here or there to their contracts. Remember the Pens only have 14 players under contract for next year with only 15 million in cap space available to fill the remaining spots.Are you sure Orpik alone is worth 1/3 of that space? Nobody said it’s an easy decision to just let him walk, but time is not going to be his friend in the coming years, whereas you could argue others’ contracts are only going to get more valuable as they start to hit their stride.

  15. lordfletcher - May 6, 2014 at 3:58 PM

    Out of all the Vanek talk, I really want the Wild to pour that money into a right shot Dman but he isn’t the biggest guy in the league and Wild are already pretty small / non-physical.

    Hopefully adding Christian Folin solves this issue next year. He looked great while with the club and has all the assets a GM would want.

    more than anything, don’t pay for Vanek!!!! He looks the part of wheels falling off and may be getting a 7 years deal, puke!

    in other words, save the money for now.

    Go Wild! Beat those Hawks at home!!!! Time to head down to Tom Reids now for pregame!!!!

  16. penvik - May 6, 2014 at 4:01 PM

    Not sure who your directing this at but I starting watching the Penguins exclusively in the mid 80’s. I’m 37 and Mario was the reason I got hooked. I’ve seen pretty much every game of Orpik’s career. Not saying he’s completely done but him and Scuderi should take a back seat to Nisky and Martin. If that means they have to go to get the deals done than so be it. Orpik’s skating HAS declined so your comment makes me think you shouldn’t apply to be a scout any time soon. Penguins management has made mistakes being loyal the last few years and that needs to stop. It’s time to let Doumilin and Depres play full time. Also Harrington might be ready soon as well. So bye bye Orpik, hopefully move Scuds somehow, resign Nisky and talk to Martin about an extension. If Martin wants crazy money than he can go too. Teams that win cups are able to let go to improve, not say “oh he won a cup with us and he’s been here the whole time so we have to keep him.”
    That’s nonsense. And people need to stop saying that somebody must be very young if they don’t agree, THAT makes YOU look childish.

    So saythetruthperiod, how old are you???

  17. sayingthetruthperiod - May 6, 2014 at 4:09 PM

    Well Ive been watching the team over a decade longer than you if you must know.

    Orpik is nowhere near ‘done’. There has been no decline in his skating or his physical game. It is entirely incorrect to even suggest so.

    I doubt he goes anywhere. It is possible for money reasons but doubtful. He was just named to the Olympic team

    You think because we are beating a team that doesnt trap or play a strong checking game and that we should easily beat that we are suddenly cup ready?

    Lets just say that I was glad that the Rangers beat the Flyers. Because we probably are going to lose badly next round no matter who we face.

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