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The Calgary Flames would like to add a veteran depth defenseman. Several insiders have reported as much over the last couple months and where there is smoke, there is usually fire.
Be it a rotational upgrade over Dalton Prout, or someone the Flames wish to dress on a nightly basis, it seems likely they'll bring someone in prior to the deadline.
Let's take a closer look at four potential targets.
New Jersey - RD - Ben Lovejoy - $2.66M, pending UFA
Over the last two years, he's partnered primarily with Will Butcher on the 3rd pairing and the results have been good. Sheltered minutes help the cause, of course, but the Devils have controlled ~51% of the attempts and ~53% of the goals and expected goals with Lovejoy on the ice at 5v5. His relative numbers in all three categories are positive. Beyond holding his own at full-strength, he has fared very well on the penalty kill.
In Calgary, he'd be asked to play alongside a young, offensively-gifted defender (be it Juuso Valimaki, Oliver Kylington, or Rasmus Andersson – if someone plays their offside) and he has proven in New Jersey he can be successful doing that. If Brad Treliving really wants to add a depth defender, I think Lovejoy is worth consideration. He's pretty good and I don't think he'd cost more than a mid-round pick.
Detroit - RD - Nick Jensen - $812K, pending UFA
The cost of acquisition for Jensen might be more than the Flames want to pay but rightfully so. He's quietly putting together a really solid season in Detroit. Among seven eligible Red Wings defenders (400+ 5v5 minutes), Jensen ranks 1st in Corsi For% (50.93) and 2nd in Scoring Chance For% (52.29). He's the only Wings defender above 50% in both. His expected goal numbers are really impressive, too. The Wings control 7.53% more of the expected goals with Jensen on the ice. That differential is the 6th largest among regular defenders, behind only Erik Karlsson, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brian Dumoulin, Radko Gudas, and Troy Stecher.
If the Flames really want someone stable who could comfortably step into the top-4 if injuries arise, Jensen is a nice target.
New York (R) - LD - Freddy Claesson – $700K, pending RFA
Health pending, Claesson is one of my favorite under the radar deadline targets. He's what I consider to be a modern-day depth defenseman. He won't put up many points and he's not a bruiser you generally find on bottom pairings. He's just a smart, mobile defender who keeps good gaps in the neutral zone, and he can move the puck a little. I think he could be had fairly cheap and, if things work out, can be brought back next year at an affordable cost.
Florida - RD - Mark Pysyk – $2.73 million, signed through 2019-20
Pysyk is the best chance suppressor inside Florida's top-4 and is the kind of stabilizer teams generally like to pair alongside young defenders. The issue with him, and it's a big one, is the contract. It's too rich for someone who'd play on the 3rd pairing, especially considering the Flames already have that issue with Michael Stone (when healthy). For this to work, the Panthers would probably have to eat salary.
Numbers via Corsica.Hockey and NaturalStatTrick.com
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