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Free Agency Grades: Defensemen

These grades, just like my grades for goaltenders, are from the team perspective rather than the player. I will address the deal from the player’s perspective within the analysis.

Alex Pietrangelo

7 years/$61.6 million with the Vegas Golden Knights

Grade: A

This is a great deal for both the team and the player. Pietrangelo gets the money and term he deserved, while signing with a team with a great chance to win.

When a team with Stanley Cup aspirations signs an elite, right-shot defenseman, it is almost always going to earn a high grade at the time of the signing. This deal is in line with other players of Pietrangelo’s caliber at the position. John Carlson, of the Washington Capitals, is the closest comparison because he, too, is an elite, right-shot defenseman. Carlson’s contract carries an average annual value (AAV) of $8 million, while Pietrangelo’s has an AAV of $8.8 million. The fact that Pietrangelo entered free agency, while Carlson signed an extension with the Capitals, meant that his price would go up, as the process of multiple teams bidding will drive up prices.

Pietrangelo makes Vegas a better team, and he will continue to be the effective player he was in St. Louis. The back end of this contract may not be perfect, as he reaches his upper-30s, but Pietrangelo’s play in the next few years will determine if this was as good of a deal as it looks on paper. The only downside of this deal is that Vegas had to clear cap space to make the signing work. I talked more about that in this article.

Torey Krug

7 years/$45.5 million with the St. Louis Blues

Grade: B+

I really like this signing for the Blues. They decided they couldn’t afford to pay Pietrangelo, so they got the next best player available at the position. Pietrangelo is a better player than Krug, and Pietrangelo gains even more value as a right-shot. However, doing the best you can to fill a massive hole left by a player like Pietrangelo makes a lot of sense, especially when Krug costs over $2 million less per season. Unfortunately, for the team, they have salary cap issues that will need to be addressed. Vince Dunn is an RFA, who is yet to sign, and, after reinstating Vladimir Tarasenko from Long-Term Injured Reserve, they will have to move multiple players to get under the cap.

This is a great deal for Krug, especially if he gets to join the top defensive pair in St. Louis with Colton Parayko. That would be a dynamic pairing as both players are strong skaters with great offensive instincts, and Parayko has shown he can be a high-end shutdown defender as well. Krug should be able to open up his offensive game, in addition to quarterbacking the Blues top power play unit. His career high in points is 59 during the 2017-18 season, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets well into the 60s this year.

Tyson Barrie

1 year/$3.75 million with the Edmonton Oilers

Grade: A

This is a low-risk signing with the potential to be a home run for Edmonton. One-year deals are almost always good for teams because if they don’t work out, the team isn’t stuck with the player or the contract long-term.

Barrie had a rough year in Toronto last season, which likely lead to him getting less interest in free agency. He is betting on himself with this deal, and I think it is a great move for him. Many people, myself included, think of Barrie as an offensive defenseman who can join the rush and quarterback a power play. He signed with a team who has two of the best offensive players in the league on its roster in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, and had the number one power play in the NHL last season. He has the potential to explode offensively this season, and set himself up for a big payday next summer.

T.J. Brodie

4 years/$20 million with the Toronto Maple Leafs

Grade: B+

Toronto’s roster construction over the past few years has left them on a continuous search for help on defense. This is a solid addition, and probably the best player they could have added, given their salary cap constraints. Brodie is more of a defensive defenseman, and won’t contribute a ton offensively, and that’s why he’s a good fit with the Leafs. Toronto has no problem scoring goals, and I doubt that changes anytime soon, given the offensive talent on their roster. They struggle to keep the puck out of their own net, which is where Brodie should be able to help.

This is a nice deal for the player as well. He gets a slight raise from his last contract in Calgary, and gets a four-year term, which was not all that common in free agency this year. Teams, given the economic uncertainty in the league right now, and the upcoming expansion draft, were seemingly more hesitant than normal to give out longer-term contracts. He should get plenty of ice-time and will likely play meaningful minutes late in games with the Leafs, and he gets a chance to compete for a championship, which is ideal for almost any player.

Kevin Shattenkirk

3 years/$11.7 million with the Anaheim Ducks

Grade: C

When I saw this signing, I was a little surprised. I expected that Shattenkirk would find a multi-year deal with a contender looking to add some offense to their back-end. Maybe the Ducks view themselves as a bounce back candidate after a dismal 2019-20 and think they can get back into playoff contention this year. However, I would have expected Anaheim to give their young players an opportunity to fill out their roster with an eye toward the future heading into this season.

Shattenkirk will fit in well behind Josh Manson on the right side of the defense, and should get time on their power play. Also, if he plays well, and the Ducks are not in contention, he could be an attractive target on the trade market for teams looking to add for a deep playoff run.

From Shattenkirk’s perspective, this is a nice deal for him. He was bought out after one season with the New York Rangers where he failed to meet expectations. Then, he signed a one-year deal with the Lightning to show he can still be an effective player in this league, and he did just that. He was an important piece for the Lightning during their run to the Stanley Cup, and he was rewarded with a nice contract from the Ducks.

-All contact details via CapFriendly

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