Free agent defenseman Luke Schenn came into the NHL with plenty of expectations, having been drafted with the fifth overall pick in 2008 by the Maple Leafs, winning a gold medal at the World Junior championship, and cracking Toronto’s lineup at 18 years old. Since then, Schenn’s value has diminished, and he’s quickly becoming a veteran journeyman, rather than a budding star.
Initially viewed as a young bright spot on a bad Leafs team, Schenn played 70 games at over 21 minutes a night. The longer Schenn played in Toronto, the more he seemed to be questioned. He was still seen to have the potential to become a high-end NHL defenceman in 2011, when he was signed to a five year, $18MM contract. After signing, Schenn continued to struggle, and was subject of trade rumors all season, until he was dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers at the draft for left winger James van Riemsdyk.
There have been flashes along the way, and Schenn has had success playing with more skilled defense partners, such as Kimmo Timonen, or Michael Del Zotto. Like in Toronto with his draft position, Schenn faced expectations in Philadelphia based on his salary and what was given up to acquire him, and never fully lived up to them. In January, he was dealt to the Los Angeles Kings along with Vincent Lecavalier for Jordan Weal and a third round pick.
While he’s unlikely to be called a top-four defenseman, Schenn has value. He’s an experienced and capable player, and plays the right-handed. Teams looking to balance their defense pairings will take a long look at him. The Boston Bruins, for one, only have two right-handed defensemen signed to NHL contracts, and have the sort of puck-skilled left-hand shots that Schenn has seen success with, including former teammate John-Michael Liles. The Edmonton Oilers have also been speculated to be looking for a right-hand shot.
Placing Schenn 30th on our NHL free agent rankings, we had projected he would receive a three-year, $8.25MM contract. Given how much of the cap space throughout the league has already been spent, it’s hard to imagine him signing for much more than $1MM for one year in an effort to rebuild his value, or provide depth to a contending team. Teams looking for size and balance may be willing to pay more, but one would have to think that if they were, it would be done by now.