Two UFA Options for Shutdown Defense

Mike Green needs help

Mike Green needs help (Rick Stewart/Getty Images).

This week, the Caps free agent picture became clearer as the organization announced they will not be renewing the contracts of defenseman Joe Corvo and forwards Brendan Morrison and Scott Walker, and Tarik El-Bashir reported that José Theodore‘s tenure with the Washington Capitals may be over.

All this leads to more speculation as to what the roster will look like next year. ESPN and the writers of Puck Prospectus have addressed the offseason needs for all 30 NHL teams and surprised no one by stating that the Caps need a shutdown guy on defense.

The Bruins signed defenseman Dennis Seidenberg to a four-year contract extension, taking off a likely target unrestricted free agent acquisition during the offseason and leaving only a few top four shutdown defensemen left in the UFA pool.

The Caps need as close to a sure thing as you can get. They can’t afford to let age (Sergei Gonchar) or injuries (Paul Martin, Willie Mitchell, and Mark Eaton) detract from the production of their top four defensemen during next year’s inevitable Cup run.

With Tarik El-Bashir reporting “the team does not, in fact, plan to pursue the Ottawa blue liner [Volchenkov],” that leaves just two defensemen that can fill a Top 4 spot. And more specifically, the top pairing with Mike Green:

Zybnek Michalek
Zybnek Michalek

Michalek has proven to be an effective shot-blocker in the NHL. His 14.2 Blocked Shots For, On Ice, per 60 minutes is more than both Mike Green and Jeff Schultz while playing against MUCH better competition.

Michalek earned $1.5 million last year, which makes him a very affordable option.

Henrik Tallinder
Henrik Tallinder

GMGM said both John Carlson and Karl Alzner will be full-timers in Washington next season so it would be nice to have a veteran with experience in helping rookies, similar to what Tallinder did for Tyler Myers in Buffalo.

Described as “more Poti-lite than like Poti” by Corey Masisak, Tallinder averaged over 20 minutes per game for the fourth time in the last five years. Tallinder would bring durability, shot-blocking ability and 36 games of playoff experience.

Tallinder made $3.25 million in 2009-10, which may be a tough fit financially, but having a defensive mentor for the youngsters may be worth the extra cash.

It’s true the pool of UFA defenseman is deeper than it has been in years past, but I think with Volchenkov reportedly off the table, the Caps’ needs are specific enough that there are not too many quality options available.

Now to find a second-line center…

  • I see we both like M. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s a shot he makes it out of Arizona though. Here’s to wishful thinking!

  • I was all excited about Volchenkov and the possiblility of a multi-comrade vodka-swilling team, but I really like the idea of Michalek and Green.

    I know nothing about Tallinder, except this worrying sexual exploitation accusation:

    This is probably a Kobe Bryant situation, but the Caps would be crazy to put a guy like that in a room with Wawota Saskatchewan’s prettiest center.

  • Uh oh…I knew someone would bring that about about Tallinder.

    Well, considering I actually do know a thing or two about the guy, having watched his entire career here in Buffalo, let me fill you in:

    He is not perfect of course, but this incident was 5 years ago during the lockout. The case was dismissed, there was no evidence of anything criminal. Buffalo isn’t that big of a place, we tend to know what our hockey players are out doing most of the time, and as far as I know there was never any issue with him being too much of a partier (unlike certain other Sabres). I think he’s grown up a lot since then – he’s married with kids, and his teammates never have anything but good things to say about the kind of guy he is in the locker room. I’ve met him several times, he’s very nice and good with fans.

    He really broke out when the Sabres had their good run in 05-06, but then had some injury problems the next couple years and his play seemed to be on the decline. But this past season he was back to his old self and playing on the top pair once again.

    He isn’t overly physical, but he is great on the PK and did wonders with Myers this year. Not the best d-man in the league, but if the Caps want a steady blueliner who gets the job done, I think he could be a good fit.