My most recent free agent profile focused on forward Craig Smith. Someone that can be described as a “value signing.” Value signings, as was mentioned in the Craig Smith profile, are going to be a theme of this upcoming free agency. Especially given the strict budget-cutting and internal salary caps some NHL teams are imposing.
One of those teams that are rumored to be imposing an internal cap ceiling is the New Jersey Devils. Given this news, guys like Alex Pietrangelo, Torey Krug, and maybe even T.J. Brodie may be out of the price range of general manager Tom Fitzgerald. So, this profile will also focus on another potential value signing, this time on the defensive end. That being former San Jose Shark, Brenden Dillon.
Brenden Dillon is a 29-year old Canadien defenseman who was signed as an undrafted free agent. He’s left-handed, and has great size, as he’s listed at six-foot-four and 225 pounds.
Dillon started his NHL career with the Dallas Stars, then was moved to the San Jose Sharks where he spent the majority of his career. After six years with the Sharks, he was traded during the 2019-20 season to the Washington Capitals where he played the final 10 regular-season games and eight playoff games.
Worth noting, Dillon has 70 career playoff games under his belt, as well as a 2015-16 Stanley Cup finals appearance.
Across his tenure with three teams, Brenden Dillon has played a total of 598 regular-season games. In these games, he has only totaled 114 points. So, he can be categorized as more of a defensive defenseman.
Dillon has been a roughly 19-minute a night player. He enjoys using his body as he has close to 200 hits per season as well as around 100 block shots per season. This is an area the New Jersey Devils would welcome a boost as the team saw elite shot-blocker Andy Greene traded and have lacked that physical, hitting type defenseman for years.
Brenden Dillon also passed the advanced statistics test. He has a career Corsi For % (CF%) of 51.7 which is readily above the league average. His Corsi For % Relative (CF% Rel.) has been 2.4, 0.5, 3.3, and 2.9 the past four seasons, respectively. So, when Brenden Dillon is on the ice his team is controlling the shot attempts better than when he is off.
Brenden Dillon’s Regularized Adjusted Plus-Minus chart is a thing of beauty. I have no problem categorizing Brenden Dillon as one of the better defensive-defenseman in the NHL. Per the chart above, the far-right bars are Expected Goals Against per 60 (xGA/60) and Corsi Against per 60 (CA/60). As you can see, Dillon is one of the best in the league at suppressing the opponent’s shot generation and quality chances .
As mentioned in my free agent profile on Radko Gudas, I prefer to use the Wins Above Replacement (WAR) metric instead of Goals Above Replacement (GAR) when evaluating defensive defenseman. Over a three year total the below chart shows how Brenden Dillon compares to fellow unrestricted free agent T.J. Brodie, former Devils’ defensive defenseman Andy Greene, and Montreal’s Shea Weber.
|Names||Wins Above Replacement (WAR)|
Brenden Dillon is coming off a five-year, $16,350,000 contract. He will most likely be looking for an increase in his $3,270,000 average annual value in unrestricted free agency. The question is now posed, how much of an increase does he deserve– if any — and for what term?
Well, Evolving-Hockey is projecting a four-year, $3,732,000 deal for Dillon. Meanwhile, Dobber Sports’ Network has Dillon signing a contract with a yearly salary of $3,133,261. In today’s environment, with the flat salary cap and the news of several teams imposing their own internal salary cap ceiling, it is hard to project.
In the end, a four-year deal seems to be the right term for the 29-year old. His style of play will also make a four-year deal not as risky as an endeavor being a defensive defenseman. These type of players prove to regress later than most others do.
A salary of around where he was making seems reasonable, maybe topping out around $3,300,000 to $3,400,000 seems fair as well.
Brenden Dillon may be the most underrated defensive defenseman in the NHL. His defensive metrics are fantastic and he would provide a top-four option on the right-side for several teams.
I would much prefer – when you leave money out of the equation — T.J. Brodie, as he would bring more offensively. However, Brenden Dillon would be a fantastic consolation prize, and at the price projected would be the better option to fulfill the New Jersey Devils’ hole on the left-side.
General manager Tom Fitzgerald must at least investigate the prospect of bringing Brenden Dillon to the red and black. He would instantly bring a physical presence the Devils have lacked on the back end as well as help replace the blocked shots that left when Andy Greene was traded to Long Island.
Not the flashiest option, but Brenden Dillon would be a solid top-four option if signed. Additionally, he would fit the definition of a “free agent bargain” or “value signing” perfectly. Something that is going to be vital in an offseason of much intrigue and full of abnormalities.