Top UFA defensemen debated by NHL.com

For teams looking for help on the blue line, there is an impressive list of defensemen who could become unrestricted free agents Wednesday.

Whether it is a top-two pairing guy, a depth infusion blueliner or a power-play specialist, the shopping list options are bountiful.

But, which of the potential unrestricted defensemen will provide the best value when the free agent market opens?

We asked seven NHL.com writers for their opinions.

John KlingbergDallas Stars

Kris Letang signing a six-year extension with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday opened up the board for Klingberg. The offensive defenseman will be prized in free agency by teams looking for a player who can drive the play. Klingberg scored 47 points (six goals, 41 assists) in 74 games in 2021-22, his highest point total since his career-high mark of 67 (eight goals, 59 assists) in 82 games in 2017-18. It looks like Klingberg will be finding a new address soon after spending the first eight seasons of his NHL career in Dallas, but he should have no shortage of suitors. — Amalie Benjamin, staff writer

Klingberg is a skilled puck-moving defenseman who could play on the top pair for most teams. The 29-year-old had a points-per-game average of 0.64, best among defensemen eligible to become unrestricted free agents (minimum of 10 games played). He was third on the Stars in averaging 22:13 in ice time and led their defensemen with 20 power-play points and 19 power-play assists, which tied for eighth in the NHL among defensemen. Klingberg’s 86 power-play assists since the start of the 2017-18 season rank sixth in the NHL. A solid performer in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Klingberg helped the Stars reach the 2020 Stanley Cup Final when he had 21 points (four goals, 17 assists), including seven power-play assists, in 26 games. — Tom Gulitti, staff writer

Klingberg has been a staple on the Stars’ power play for eight seasons. He is third all-time among Dallas defensemen with 374 points (71 goals, 303 assists) in 552 games. He is eighth among all defensemen in scoring since entering the NHL in 2014-15. Bottom line, Klingberg provides offense and he will likely be doing that for a different team starting next season. The Stars are not expected to re-sign Klingberg, who is 11th among defensemen in power-play points with 148 (19 goals, 129 assists) since 2014-15. He’s experienced. He scores. He understands what he does best. He will be in demand. — Dan Rosen, senior writer

Video: DAL@MTL: Klingberg follows up own shot, nets his 2nd

Nick LeddySt. Louis Blues

Astute teams will notice the impact Leddy had upon arriving with the Blues after a trade from the Detroit Red Wings on March 21. The 31-year-old added depth to the Blues’ blue line, provided a jolt of offense (eight points in 20 games after the trade), stepped into the breach to help run the power play and provided some valuable leadership. Leddy, who had 24 points (three goals, 21 assists) and averaged 21:25 of ice time in 75 regular-season games this season, isn’t the boldest name on this list, but he may well provide the most value. There are few defensemen on this list who have seen and done as much in high-pressure situations as Leddy. He has played 130 postseason games, scoring 38 points (eight goals, 30 assists) and he won the Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013. — Shawn P. Roarke, senior director of editorial

Josh MansonColorado Avalanche

There’s nothing like winning a Stanley Cup to burn your reputation and provide motivation. That could be the case with Manson, who the Avalanche acquired from the Anaheim Ducks on March 14, but probably won’t be able to re-sign. The 30-year-old had seven points (two goals, five assists) in 22 regular-season games with Colorado but was strong in the Stanley Cup Playoffs when he had eight points (three goals, five assists) in 20 games and averaged 17 :11 of ice time per game. He helped bolster the Avalanche defense, especially after Samuel Girard suffered a broken sternum against the St. Louis Blues in Game 3 of the Western Conference Second Round and missed the remainder of the postseason. Now, Manson could help another team’s defense, as well. — Tracey Myers, staff writer

Talking to NHL executives at the 2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft in Montreal, the feeling is that Manson, son of former NHL defenseman-turned-Edmonton Oilers assistant Dave Manson, could be one of the hidden gems in free agency. One referred to him as “a great mixture of hustle and muscle.” There’s the rub. Klingberg is the shining star of this class and rightly so, but he is known more for offense and can, at times, be physically challenged by forecheckers. No such issue with Manson, who also has chipped in with 120 points (28 goals, 92 assists) in 475 career games. He will be a top-four defenseman who will make any team he joins harder to beat. — Mike Zeisberger, staff writer

PK SubbanNew Jersey Devils

The 33-year-old is no longer the player who won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman with the Montreal Canadiens in 2013 and was a Norris finalist with the Nashville Predators as recently as 2018. He had 22 points (five goals, 17 assists) in 77 games for the New Jersey Devils this season, averaging 18:18 of ice time per game, the lowest amount of his NHL career. But there are fewer attractive defensemen than forwards on the free agent market, and if you’re looking for potential impact, Subban might be interesting. Will he accept a short-term deal for fewer dollars than he has made in the past? Can he rediscover at least some of his game in the right situation? Perhaps his booming shot from the point can still produce offense on the power play. — Nicholas J. Cotsonika, columnist

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