With many veteran defensemen continuing to look for work, it might take a while for them to find a home for the upcoming season. With Dan Hamhuis being the top remaining unsigned defenseman on our Top 50 UFA list, not far behind him is Luca Sbisa.
Sbisa is coming off an unusual season. Having been practically written off after a disappointing 2016-17 season with the Vancouver Canucks, the Vegas Golden Knights stepped in and selected the 28-year-old blueliner. While his contract might have been the biggest issue while in Vancouver (he was making $3.6MM for the previous three years), Sbisa proved that he wasn’t good enough to be a top-four defenseman when with Vancouver.
However, after being acquired by Vegas, suddenly Sbisa’s game showed up as the veteran started the season as a top-four defenseman and quickly found himself averaging more than 20 minutes per game. He was paired with Nate Schmidt and was even one of the leaders of the team as he wore an “A” on his sweater. With the team expected initially to move out some of their pending unrestricted free agents at the trade deadline, Sbisa looked to be a potential major trade chip for Vegas. Unfortunately, injuries got the best of Sbisa as the veteran missed chunks of time with numerous injuries and in the end played just 30 games.
By the time Sbisa came back, long after the trade deadline, the 28-year-old saw his playing time shrink as he took a third-pairing role late in the season and into the playoffs. In fact, his demotion seemed to be more of a result that other players played better after Sbisa was injured and because of that, the veteran saw a reduced role — not necessarily because he was playing poorly. Rather than bring him back on a reduced contract, the Golden Knights instead opted to sign veteran Nick Holden to take his place and supposedly never even made an offer to Sbisa.
Regardless, in just those 30 games Sbisa showed some promise if he can prove he can stay healthy. Despite those limited games, Sbisa proved he can provide offense as he tallied 14 points. Shockingly, that’s his second-highest point total in his 10-year career. He did, however, have one of the worst Corsi-For percentage of his career at 43.8 percent, which didn’t help.
While an offer could come at any time, many of the veteran defensemen looking for work may have to wait a while as teams assess their strength and weaknesses over the summer. Sbisa has a lot to offer and despite a 10-year career, he is just 28 and should easily be able to handle a third-pairing role with most teams.
There have been some rumors that Sbisa, who spent three years in Vancouver, might be looking to return to the Canucks who are short on depth options at that position, so that is a legitimate possibility. There have also been reports that the Chicago Blackhawks might be interested in bringing Sbisa into their depleted blueline although the same rumor exists for Hamhuis. He might also be a good third-pairing option in Toronto.
Before free agency, we predicted Sbisa would garner a two-year, $4.2MM contract, but with little interest so far, it would be more likely that Sbisa will have to settle for a one-year deal and be forced to show that he isn’t as injury prone as he was in 2017-18. It’s far more likely a one-year, $1MM deal or just above it is the most likely possibility.