Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun
Which defensemen can help at deadline?
Scott Burnside: Hello, Pierre. We’ve spent a fair amount of time talking about offense and goaltending, but there are a number of teams that will be looking to shore up their blue lines before March 3, and a relatively limited selection of players is out there.
The guy I’m really interested in watching is Dan Hamhuis in Nashville. He doesn’t have the profile of a Shea Weber or Ryan Suter, his blue-chip teammates in Nashville, but he’s a solid young defenseman who would help a Stanley Cup-hungry team like, say, the Washington Capitals. Hamhuis could become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, and I think it’ll be tough for GM David Poile to fit him in with Weber and Suter already locked up.
And knowing the Predators’ long-term success comes from grooming assets from within, I know Poile will do everything to keep Hamhuis from walking away for nothing on July 1. He also has to be practical about what his team might accomplish this spring; if the Preds manage to hang on to a playoff spot, it likely will be as a seventh or eighth seed, which means the chances of a long playoff run will be modest at best. What say you, my friend?
Pierre LeBrun: The onus is clearly on Poile to try to get Hamhuis signed during the Olympic break, when he plans on speaking to the agents for his unrestricted free agents. But at this point, it doesn’t sound too promising.
“No progress to report on Hamhuis. We are keeping the lines of communication open,” Hamhuis’ agent, Wade Arnott of Newport Sports, told me in an e-mail this week. His salary-cap hit is $2 million (his salary $2.5 million), so not too extravagant for a team at the March 3 deadline. I think Poile will look at trading him if he can’t sign him before then, and he’ll be looking for offense in return.
Another defenseman I’m hearing is available for the right price is James Wisniewski of the Anaheim Ducks. He’s a restricted free agent with salary arbitration rights this summer, and I’m not sure the Ducks are convinced they can afford his raise, which in arbitration could land anywhere between $3.5 million to $5 million based on the market and his numbers. Reports in Chicago newspapers have linked the Blackhawks to their old blueliner, and it certainly would be a good fit when you consider how considerate the Hawks’ front office wants to be with team chemistry. This is a guy who knows almost everyone on the team