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Free agent defensemen, goalies who have history with Alain Vigneault

We’re good on defensemen, thanks.

New York Rangers v Montreal Canadiens - Game One Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

After we looked at some interesting free agent forwards who have a past with head coach Alain Vigneault, let’s take a look at some defenseman (and a goalie you may have heard of) who have played for the Philadelphia Flyers’ new bench boss in the past. A couple of the forwards mentioned on Friday are forwards that many fans of the Orange and Black are probably hoping Chuck Fletcher is able to sign. The more notable defenseman from AV’s past are, ah, some defensemen most fans probably wouldn’t be too excited to sign. These rearguards may earn a contract with the team this summer, but hopefully Fletcher’s attempt to add another top-four defenseman comes from somewhere else.

Alex Edler
A 33-year-old left-handed shot, Edler did post 34 points in 56 games this season and did have the best Goals Above Replacement rating among all Vancouver Canucks’ d-men this season. However, he’s had either a negative relative corsi for percentage or barely positive ones on Canucks’ teams that have been near the bottom of the league in possession over the last few seasons. Also, as illustrated by (friend of the show Flyperbole) Ted in a tweet last week, Edler’s on-ice impact kind of feels similar to a defenseman Flyers’ fans are not thrilled to watch routinely.

Another reason why Edler would be intriguing to a team in free agency is the fact he’s been an important player on Vancouver’s power play for years now. With Shayne Gostisbehere (hopefully) rebounding to his 2017-18 status and Travis Sanheim possibly getting a look at the point on the second power-play unit next season, finding a blue liner that can help the power play isn’t necessarily a need for Philly. He might make an impact in cleaning up the team’s defensive zone troubles, but considering how much money he’ll probably be looking for and his inability to stick out in Vancouver the last few seasons perhaps it’d be better for Fletcher to at other options.

Anton Stralman
The 32-year-old rearguard is hitting free agency after having a down year that saw him only play in 47 contests due to injury. One of the better d-men across the league in the advanced stat era (2007-08 to the present) when it comes to actually doing pretty well in their own zone but may not get a lot of attention because he doesn’t put up a ton of points, Stralman saw a dip in a lot of the key possession stats this season. His corsi for percentage, shot attempts against per 60, fenwick for percentage, unblocked shot attempts per 60, scoring chances for percentage, and scoring chances against per 60 this season were all his worst for a single season in his 12-year career. He carried Marc Staal on the Rangers’ second pair during the 2014 postseason and has fared very well playing alongside Victor Hedman, Mikhail Sergachev, and Ryan McDonagh in Tampa Bay. Stralman may be looking for a little less money than Edler, but it’s fair to be concerned whether or not he has finally hit a wall and will never be the true shutdown defenseman he used to be.

Dan Girardi
This should be the signing fans are scared of most. However you want to analyze Dan Girardi’s game, it isn’t pretty. He doesn’t provide offense and he struggles to defend. This season was the first season he had a 50 corsi for percentage or better for the first time since 2013. He’s had a relative corsi for of -1.52 or worse in each of the last seven seasons. Over the last three seasons his two most common defense partners have been Victor Hedman and Ryan McDonagh. these numbers:

With or Without Dan Girardi

Player Time on ice with Time away from Corsi for % with Girardi CF% away Player CF% away Expected goals for % Girardi xGF% away Player xGF% away
Player Time on ice with Time away from Corsi for % with Girardi CF% away Player CF% away Expected goals for % Girardi xGF% away Player xGF% away
Victor Hedman 878.31 951.58 49.21 50.62 54.51 50.9 52.94 55.55
Ryan McDonagh 783.49 150.49 43.42 45.64 54.99 45.45 48.2 60.13

Despite these numbers, and the fact he isn’t exactly killing the eye test either, in the four seasons that Girardi’s and Vigneault’s tenures overlapped in New York Girardi’s 6,440:38 of ice time was second among Rangers’ blue liners to only McDonagh’s 7,060:31.

Even with the crowded blue line one can see how Fletcher may be tempted to bring in a veteran d-man that his new coach would like to hand top-four minutes. The best way to avoid having to watch Girardi play more minutes than preferred on the Flyers’ blue line next season is to not give Vigneault that option at all.

Cam Talbot
Not exactly the most exciting name in free agency to Flyers’ fans because he was here this past season, but he does have ties to Vigneault. Philly didn’t get an extensive look at the former New York Ranger and Edmonton Oiler, as he went 1-2-0 in four appearances with an .881 save percentage and 3.70 goals against average, but it doesn’t hurt the goalie’s chances of being here next season that he is familiar with both Carter Hart and AV. This season and last season weren’t Talbot’s best in the NHL, but he posted his two highest save percentages and lowest goals against averages for a single season in his two seasons with the Vigneault and the Rangers back in 2013-14 (.941, 1.64 in 21 games) and 2014-15 (.926, 2.21 in 36 games). Talbot did also have a stellar 2016-17, as he posted a .919 save percentage and .839 high-danger save percentage (eighth out of the 35 goalies who played at least 2,000 minutes) in 73 games to finish fourth in Vezina voting. Talbot and Brian Elliott are probably the two best options to serve as the team’s backup goalie next season, as there aren’t many great options in free agency outside this pair.

*Stats courtesy of Evolving Wild,, Hockey Reference, and Natural Stat Trick.