Which defensive corps is the best?
Note: With free agency anything can happen, but these pairings were assembled at what is estimated to be roughly the same overall cost and therefore are all projected to be within the Penguins budget. (Signing Gonchar and Volchenkov, for example, is not).
1. Re-Sign Gonchar + Low Cost Alternatives - Gonchar is vital to the Penguins success. He's one of the best PP quarterbacks in the NHL and he led the team in ATOI (by 2.5 minutes). He is likely to command the most money of any FA blueliner for good reason. Lovejoy is ready for a Top 4 role, and the remaining slots can be filled with a low-cost veteran #6 and Engelland as the #7.
2. Focus on the Top 4 + Lovejoy as the #6 - Sign Volchenkov and either of Tallinder/Hamhuis to pair with Orpik and Letang. That solidifies the Top 4 which is the focus here. The rest of the D corps can be rounded out by promoting Lovejoy to the #6 role, and Engelland to the #7.
3. New Shutdown Pair + Best Depth - The only thing the Pens really missed this year was a "shutdown pair." Sign Michalek to pair with Orpik. Depth is essential along the blueline. Eaton and Leopold are proven, reasonably-priced veterans who will solidify the Top 6. Lovejoy can be eased into the mix as the #7, and there is no need to rely unnecessarily on Engelland.
See the D CORPS PAIRINGS below.
Option 1 - Re-Sign Gonchar + Low Cost Alternatives
Option 2 - Focus on the Top 4 + Lovejoy as #6
Option 3 - New Shutdown Pair + Best Depth