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Thursday, July 12, 2012
Updated: July 14, 12:48 AM ET
Thin Blue Line: Impact of Suter deal

By Victoria Matiash
Special to ESPN.com

After breaking the hearts of several NHL general managers -- and reducing Nashville Predators GM David Poile to a state of near inconsolability -- Ryan Suter opted to dump his defensive partner and good buddy of seven seasons for the chance to link arms with compatriot Zach Parise in Minnesota. As far as we know, Shea Weber is still reeling. The Predators' blue-line "Bert and Ernie" is no more. And frankly, the all-around fantasy ramifications are still a bit fuzzy. In Nashville, at least.

As the runaway No. 1 defenseman for the Minnesota Wild, Suter is set to do some serious damage from a production point of view. In addition to Parise, Wild coach Mike Yeo will be able to mix and match forwards from a roster including Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, Kyle Brodziak, possibly Mikael Granlund, Matt Cullen and a healthy Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Goodness gracious, this Wild club could put up some eye-popping totals in 2012-13.

Beyond Suter, Tom Gilbert could also be in for a career campaign after floundering well below expectations since notching 45 points in 2008-09 (remember the promise shown with the Edmonton Oilers?). Meanwhile, young Jared Spurgeon will be expected to blossom more fully in the final year of his entry-level contract.

Unlike his former defensive partner in crime, Weber could take a mild -- and we do mean mild -- fantasy hit following the Predators' recent loss. At least until the general manager wrangles up a new warm body worthy of filling the present void. While the free-agent well is nearly dry (more on that below), Poile could add a prominent blueliner via trade. Jay Bouwmeester, Keith Yandle and Paul Martin make up a sampling of trade candidates bouncing around the rumor mill. If not, 21-year-old offensive-defenseman Ryan Ellis will be asked to bring it big-time. And yes, we're assuming Poile manages to retain Weber, a restricted free agent, for this coming season.

Top 75 Defensemen

Note: Victoria Matiash's top 75 defensemen are ranked for their expected performance in ESPN standard leagues from this point on, not on the statistics that have already been accrued. ESPN standard stats include goals, assists, power-play points, shots on goal, plus/minus, penalty minutes and average time on ice. Last week's ranking is indicated in parentheses.

1. Erik Karlsson, Ott (1)
2. Kris Letang, Pit (2)
3. Zdeno Chara, Bos (3)
4. Dustin Byfuglien, Win (4)
5. Brian Campbell, Fla (5)
6. Dan Boyle, SJ (6)
7. Ryan Suter, Min (9)
8. Alex Pietrangelo, StL (8)
9. Shea Weber, Nsh (7)
10. Alexander Edler, Van (11)
11. P.K. Subban, Mon (10)
12. Dion Phaneuf, Tor (13)
13. Michael Del Zotto, NYR (12)
14. Tobias Enstrom, Win (14)
15. Jack Johnson, Cls (15)
16. Keith Yandle, Pho (18)
17. Mark Giordano, Cgy (16)
18. Mark Streit, NYI (17)
19. Kimmo Timonen, Phi (19)
20. Niklas Kronwall, Det (20)
21. Duncan Keith, Chi (21)
22. Ryan Whitney, Edm (24)
23. Drew Doughty, LA (22)
24. Christian Ehrhoff, Buf (23)
25. Alex Goligoski, Dal (28)
26. James Wisniewski, Cls (25)
27. Matt Carle, TB (31)
28. Lubomir Visnovsky, NYI (27)
29. Kevin Shattenkirk, StL (26)
30. Andrei Markov, Mon (29)
31. Joni Pitkanen, Car (30)
32. Mike Green, Was (33)
33. Sheldon Souray , Ana (44)
34. Tyler Myers, Buf (34)
35. Marek Zidlicky, NJ (36)
36. Sergei Gonchar, Ott (38)
37. Dennis Wideman, Cgy (37)
38. Cam Fowler, Ana (39)
39. Brent Burns, SJ (35)
40. Dmitry Kulikov, Fla (32)
41. Justin Schultz, Edm (45)
42. Jason Garrison, Van (46)
43. Brent Seabrook, Chi (41)
44. Brendan Smith, Det (42)
45. Erik Johnson, Col (50)
46. Zach Bogosian, Win (43)
47. John-Michael Liles, Tor (47)
48. Kevin Bieksa, Van (40)
49. Slava Voynov, LA (49)
50. Ian White, Det (48)
51. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Pho (52)
52. Tom Gilbert, Min (62)
53. Travis Hamonic, NYI (51)
54. Nick Leddy, Chi (53)
55. Justin Faulk, Car (55)
56. Jake Gardiner, Tor (54)
57. Dennis Seidenberg, Bos (57)
58. Dan Girardi, NYR (58)
59. Stefan Elliott, Col (59)
60. Jared Spurgeon, Min (64)
61. Victor Hedman, TB (56)
62. Adam Larsson, NJ (61)
63. Paul Martin, Pit (63)
64. Joe Corvo, Car (65)
65. Ryan Ellis, Nsh (NR)
66. Ryan McDonagh, NYR (60)
67. Sami Salo, TB (NR)
68. Stephane Robidas, Dal (72)
69. Tomas Kaberle, Mon (66)
70. Ryan Murray, Cls (68)
71. John Carlson, Was (69)
72. Luca Sbisa, Ana (74)
73. Jay Bouwmeester, Cgy (73)
74. Dougie Hamilton, Bos (NR)
75 (tie). Jamie McBain, Car (70)
75 (tie). Jeff Petry, Edm (67)

Rising and Falling

Justin Schultz, Edmonton Oilers (up four spots): Dominating headlines and trending Twitter-wise during the post-draft/pre-free agency lull, Schultz had the NHL universe riveted as he systematically settled on signing with the Oilers. The whole process was a bit bonkers, really. However, even if the University of Wisconsin star is half the gem 26 of 30 clubs salivated over in the lead-up to June 30, he should be a solid top-50 fantasy asset. Whether they perform as a couple on the Oilers' top power-play unit, or are split betwixt units primary and secondary, Ryan Whitney and Schultz should put up laudable numbers in 2012-13. Meanwhile, Jeff Petry slips down the club's fantasy depth chart.

Alex Goligoski, Dallas Stars (up three spots): The Stars added a lot of firepower this offseason, and Goligoski stands to benefit handsomely. Veterans Jaromir Jagr, Ray Whitney and Derek Roy will make forwards Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson, and a potent offensive-defenseman like Goligoski, only better. Furthermore, depending on whom GM Joe Nieuwendyk acquires between now and the start of the season, Stephane Robidas may -- may -- remain relevant as a fantasy asset.

Jason Garrison, Vancouver Canucks (up four spots): It's anticipated the newest blue-line acquisition will fit in somewhere among the Canucks' top four with Alexander Edler, Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis. Where, exactly, remains to be seen, but we predict Edler will benefit.

Sheldon Souray, Anaheim Ducks (up 11 spots): Look for Souray to make the same impression with the Ducks as he did in his 2011-12 renaissance season with the Dallas Stars: A whole lot of productive noise in the first few weeks -- using that cannon of a shot from the point -- before settling into a less-intense (and less-rewarding) routine. Utilize the 35-year-old accordingly.

Joe Corvo, Carolina Hurricanes (up one spot): It's not often a player re-signs again with a former team, but lo and behold, Corvo has done just that. Rewind to the power-play performer's last stint with the Hurricanes and anticipate a slightly diminished grand total (40 points in 2010-11). Young Justin Faulk has more upside.

Matt Carle, Tampa Bay Lightning (up four spots): The Lightning's blue line is in much finer shape following multiple offseason moves, headlined by the corralling of Carle and veteran Sami Salo. The 27-year-old once-again member of the Lightning, in particular, should take a huge load of offensive pressure off the shoulders of Victor Hedman. Don't be surprised if Carle breaks through the 50-point mark by season's end. GM Steve Yzerman is wagering $33 million (over six years) on it.

Free Agent Watch

Homeless for the moment, UFA Carlo Colaiacovo is expected to latch on somewhere in the not-too-distant future. A gig with the Detroit Red Wings or Philadelphia Flyers would add some shine to the D-man's faded fantasy value. There's also a sound chance Colaiacovo could re-enlist with the St. Louis Blues. … While the addition of Filip Kuba strengthens the defensive corps altogether, we're still waiting for the Florida Panthers to work out a new deal with restricted free agent Dmitry Kulikov. … RFAs Michael Del Zotto (New York Rangers), Mike Green and John Carlson (Washington Capitals) remain without new deals at the time of this writing, but there's no real cause for concern.

Changing sweaters?

As mentioned above, the Calgary Flames are rumored to be seeking out a new home for Jay Bouwmeester and his ginormous $6.8 million/year contract. Beyond those looking to add an effective minute-munching D-man, any team struggling to reach the cap floor could be in contact with GM Jay Feaster. … The Phoenix Coyotes don't necessarily want to trade Keith Yandle, but likely would for the right return. … Despite GM Ray Shero's claims to the contrary, we still believe the Pittsburgh Penguins would off-load Paul Martin if a satisfactory scenario presented itself. … In summary, the Red Wings are still expected to add a prominent puck-moving defenseman; the Blues and Preds are shopping for top-pairing partners to Alex Pietrangelo and Weber respectively; and the Chicago Blackhawks, Ducks, Flyers, Penguins, Ottawa Senators and Stars are actively in the market for blue-line help altogether.