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Defensemen for CBJ fans to watch in Free Agency

The Jackets got long-term D help at the draft, but is there more out there?

Calgary Flames v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images

With Free Agency opening up Wednesday at noon, the Blue Jackets have two main positional needs: Defense and Center. With about $17 million in cap space according to CapFriendly, the Jackets could be poised to make a splash, even with Patrick Laine (expect around $9M) and others (Emil Bemstrom, Nick Blankenburg, and Trey Fix-Wolansky; expect less than $3M total) to resign. Let’s look at how they could add some talent to the back end.

John Klingberg, Dallas Stars

At 29 years old, John Klingberg is on the younger end as free agents go. He also is by far the most effective offensively, putting up 47 points in 74 games last year, almost double the next highest UFA D available. And he plays the right side. As such, he’ll likely be the most expensive, likely pricing him out of the Blue Jackets’ range.

Ben Chiarot, Florida Panthers

Speaking of next-highest-scoring-UFA-D-available, Ben Chiarot! The 31-year-old defensemen was dealt at the deadline to the Florida Panthers, and posted 26 points for them and the Montreal Canadiens in 74 combined games. That being said, his advanced stats are... less than ideal. Pass.

Nick Leddy, St. Louis Blues

The other major player on the market, Nick Leddy seems to frequently go under the radar. Leddy set up 21 goals this year between the Red Wings and Blues, but at 31, it seems his best days are behind him. I’d be very hesitant to sign him for more multiple years.

Josh Manson, Colorado Avalanche

The 30-year-old impressed with the Avalanche in the Playoffs, which will drive up his price, but he plays the right side and could potentially fill in next to Zach Werenski, allowing Andrew Peeke to slide down to a more appropriate role on the third pairing. I’ll be honest, his advanced stats are significantly lower than I expected; like I said, I was very impressed by him in the Playoffs.

Calvin de Haan, Chicago Blackhawks

If you ask me, Calvin de Haan should be the Blue Jackets’ main target. He’s on the wrong side of 30, but is one of the best defensemen available in terms of WAR%. His offenseive advanced stats are also decent enough, though he only put up 8 points last year. Playing on the Blackhawks will do that to ya. He probably shouldn’t play top-line minutes, but I could see him and Zach Werenski making a decent enough top pairing until David Jiricek develops. (Also sorry for the low image quality.)

Nikita Zadorov, Calgary Flames

If we can’t get de Haan, I would not mind Nikita Zadorov as a consolation prize. While his WAR% here may look unimpressive, look at the Defensive Expected Value. That’s our main need, and that’s his specialty. Plus he can play the right side, is only 27, and put up 22 points last year. Like de Haan, he probably shouldn’t get top-end minutes, but he’s better than Andrew Peeke.

Ilya Lyubushkin, Toronto Maple Leafs

Though more of a depth option, Ilya Lyubushkin is another young, defensively-minded, right-handed defenseman. Aka, exactly what the Blue Jackets need. The question is, is he better than Andrew Peeke? Jake Bean? Nick Blankenburg? He has experience playing with Jakob Chychrun, so maybe he’d mesh well with Zach Werenski.

Justin Braun, New York Raners

Another name to look out for is Justin Braun, a 35-year-old righty, who is also all defense. Don’t expect anything from him offensively, but defensively he’s one of the best in the league, in the 92nd percentile. I wouldn’t mind a flier on him, though age is a concern.

PK Subban, New Jersey Devils

This is honestly a terrible idea and the opposite of what we need, but it’d be fun.

Other notable names

In order of average time on ice, and only those who played more than 50 games:
Anton Stralman, Zdeno Chara, Danny DeKeyser, Olli Maatta, Erik Gudbranson, Mark Pysyk (who apparently also plays wing?), Brett Kulak, Marc Staal, Andy Greene, Ian Cole, Justin Schultz, and Stanley Cup Champion Jack Johnson