There was a recurring theme this NHL offseason has been teams trying and failing to find a top defenseman. Kevin Shattenkirk’s name was bandied about by multiple teams, but as the offseason nears its end, the St. Louis Blue remains with his current squad.
The Edmonton Oilers acquired Adam Larsson from the New Jersey Devils, but Larsson is not a top defenseman and the Oilers problem remains. Outside of the Florida Panthers nabbing Jason Demers and Keith Yandle, teams have struggled to acquire defensive talent without surrendering key pieces themselves.
The Boston Bruins went into the offseason looking to shelter Zdeno Chara so the 39-year-old wouldn’t have to go up against increasingly speedy top lines. Unfortunately for Boston, the team could not entice Keith Yandle to join the team, nor could they find a way to acquire Shattenkirk or Jacob Trouba.
Boston was certainly not acquiring P.K. Subban from their arch-rivals, so the offseason came and went without any major acquisition. This leaves the top Bruins defensemen as Chara and Torey Krug, with very little depth.
Similarly, the Detroit Red Wings and Edmonton Oilers both looked at Shattenkirk but failed to acquire the Blues defenseman. Detroit extended Danny DeKeyser, perhaps signaling a bigger role for the homegrown defenseman.
However, DeKeyser will be out of place on a top pair with the aging Mike Green or Niklas Kronwall, a serious concern for the regular playoff contenders.
Edmonton brought on Larsson, but he probably belongs on the second pair, not the first. Edmonton’s top pair looks to include Andrej Sekera and Larsson, two defensemen that will be out of position and exploited by opposing offenses. Edmonton could have looked at P.K. Subban but chose not to, and were unable to match the prices for the likes of Tyson Barrie, Matt Dumba, or Jacob Trouba. From Elliotte Friedman:
The Oilers tried to add defencemen any way they could. Chiarelli wouldn’t provide specifics, but it is believed their targets included St. Louis’s Kevin Shattenkirk, although they wouldn’t trade anyone with term for a player who could walk 12 months later; Carolina’s Justin Faulk and Colorado’s Tyson Barrie. Before the draft, there was a lot of smoke surrounding a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins/Matt Dumba deal, but that fizzled.
Perhaps the most interesting case of all was the New York Rangers. New York spent the offseason purging themselves of high-cost players, leaving the team with plenty of salary cap space for a top defenseman. Kevin Shattenkirk has expressed interest in joining the Rangers, who don’t have a clear top four defenseman outside of Ryan McDonagh.
Despite all of these factors, though, the Rangers have done nothing to fix their defense, instead adding an abundance of forwards and ignoring their woes on the backend. It remains possible the Rangers are playing the waiting game regarding Shattenkirk or another defenseman, but the decision to not buy-out Dan Girardi or Marc Staal dampens that hope.
While the Bruins, Red Wings, and Oilers struggled to find the depth to trade for a defenseman, the Rangers have the forward depth, salary cap space, and need. For whatever reason, Jeff Gorton has thus far opted not to bring a blueliner to the blueshirts.