by PuckStopsHere on 11/16/11 at 04:05 PM ET
Nearing the end of October I picked Dion Phaneuf of the Toronto Maple Leafs as the top defenceman in the league so far in the season. While Phaneuf is having an all star calibre season so far, it is clear that he is no longer the top defenceman so far this year. Several of the usual suspects are having very strong two-way seasons so far. They include Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins, Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings and Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks. These are three players who all have won Norris Trophies in the past. Other candidates include top defencemen in Shea Weber and Ryan Suter of the Nashville Predators and Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins. In this crowded group we also have surprise players including Sheldon Souray of the Dallas Stars and Brian Campbell of the Florida Panthers. There is a strong group of top defencemen so far this year and no one candidate is way out in front of the pack.
If forced to select one at this point I pick Shea Weber.
Weber leads the NHL’s defencemen with a +14 +/- rating and he does so on a team that is only +3 itself. Weber has 11 points, which is tied for16th among defencemen. It is a bit back of some of the top offensive defencemen who are not as strong defensively. I think Weber’s defence has been very strong so far this year.
Weber’s future is a bit of an uncertainty for the Nashville Predators. He agreed to a $7.5 million arbitration award last summer. He will be a restricted free agent when it finishes but with goaltender Pekka Rinne signed to a longterm contract and Ryan Suter entering unrestricted free agency this summer, it is unclear if money will exist to sign Weber to the raise he will require with a Norris worthy season. The idea is to keep Weber well into his unrestricted free agency. He is a few months too young to be an unrestricted free agent this summer. He could be unrestricted as soon as 2013.
Shea Weber is off to a very good start this season. He is the early season Norris Trophy leader in a race with several viable candidates. He is potentially the best unrestricted free agent defenceman who could come on the market in a long time in the next few years.
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