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State of the Division: Breaking Down the Metro’s Defensemen

The Metropolitan Division will have a bunch of new-look defensive depth charts in 2021-22.

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Islanders - Game Six Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Metropolitan Division is back together for the 2021-22 season, but the defensive lineups will look very different from years past.

Big names were on the move during the summer months, including Norris Trophy candidates moving from one Metro team to another, veteran blueliners stepping into Stanley Cup-contending locker rooms, and young players with significant upside getting a change of scenery.

This season is difficult to predict, but we know how every team is expected to line up on opening night.

This is the state of the defense in the Metropolitan Division.

Columbus Blue Jackets

CBJ Defense

Zach Werenski Adam Boqvist
Vladislav Garikov Andrew Peeke
Jake Bean Dean Kukan
CBJ defensive depth chart according to Daily Faceoff.

It will be a rough season for the Blue Jackets, and the root of their troubles could be their blue line.

The team traded Seth Jones over the offseason due to his lack of interest in signing a long-term deal with the team. They recouped a lot of assets, though, including young defense Adam Boqvist. Boqvist is expected to get big minutes and perhaps play next to an established top-end player in Zach Werenski.

Columbus dealt a second-round pick to Carolina for Jake Bean and signed him to a three-year contract extension. Bean showed promising signs before fading off in the second half of his shortened rookie season. He will have an opportunity to prove himself with steady minutes on a bottom-of-the-barrel Columbus team.

New Jersey Devils

NJD Defense

Ryan Graves Dougie Hamilton
Ty Smith Damon Severson
Jonas Siegenthaler P.K. Subban
NJD defensive depth chart according to Daily Faceoff.

The Devils made the biggest splash of free agency with the signing of former Hurricane Dougie Hamilton to a seven-year contract worth $9 million AAV.

In addition to adding a bonafide elite right-handed defenseman, New Jersey acquired the service of Ryan Graves, a former Avalanche blueliner who burst onto the scene as a stout defender over the last two seasons.

Top prospect Ty Smith is expected to make the jump to the NHL this season as well. The WHL product has an array of talent that makes him a dynamic offensive defenseman with plenty of upside.

New Jersey is a team that went out and got definitively better during the offseason, and that started with an overhauled defense that can make plays in all three zones.

New York Islanders

NYI Defense

Adam Pelech Ryan Pulock
Andy Greene Noah Dobson
Zdeno Chara Scott Mayfield
NYI defensive depth chart according to Daily Faceoff.

While several teams in the Metropolitan Division reworked their roster during the summer, the Islander held firm and made minimal changes to a group that once again knocked on the door of the Stanley Cup Final.

Adam Pelech is one of the best defensemen in the NHL with his elite play-driving and shot suppression. He and Pulock will make up one of the best pairings in the NHL.

The only change to New York’s blue line is in the addition of future Hall of Famer Zdeno Chara, who will return to his former team in hopes of making one last Cup run.

The Islanders are as consistent as they come in the NHL, and they once again have a team and system capable of having major playoff success.

New York Rangers

NYR Defense

Ryan Lindgren Adam Fox
K'Andre Miller Jacob Trouba
Patrik Nemeth Nils Lundkvist
NYR defensive depth chart according to Daily Faceoff.

Former future Hurricane Adam Fox is already one of the best players in hockey. The reigning Norris Trophy winner is every bit of what the Hurricanes thought he could be when they traded for him, and Fox’s decision not to sign has certainly bit Carolina.

New York’s blue line is more than just Fox, though. K’Andre Miller is a young defender with tons of tools and lots of upside. Nils Lundkvist is coming overseas for his rookie year in North America after showing out in the SHL over the last two seasons as one of the youngest defenders in the league.

Fox and Trouba are the standout names right now on Broadway’s blue line, but there’s a handful of players who could turn into difference-makers.

Philadelphia Flyers

PHI Defense

Ivan Provorov Ryan Ellis
Travis Sanheim Rasmus Ristolainen
Keith Yandle Justin Braun
PHI defensive depth chart according to Daily Faceoff.

The Flyers had a bizarre offseason, which started with a great move to get veteran top-four defenseman Ryan Ellis. He should be an outstanding addition, unlike Rasmus Ristolainen.

Ristolainen has been one of the worst defenders in the NHL for years, but the Flyers decided to get him and his hefty contract for a collection of valuable assets.

Finally, they added an elite power-play quarterback in veteran Keith Yandle in free agency. He is expected to slot in on the third pairing and provide a spark of offense at even strength and on the man advantage.

The team is hoping for a bounceback season from Provorov next to a solid veteran like Ellis. Sanheim is also primed to take another step in his development.

Pittsburgh Penguins

PIT Defense

Brian Dumoulin Kris Letang
Michael Matheson John Marino
Marcus Petterson Mark Friedman
PIT defensive depth chart according to Daily Faceoff.

Kris Letang returns as the star on Pittsburgh’s blue line in 2021-22. Despite battling injuries over the last few seasons, Letang is coming off of a 45-point season, and his offensive impact has remained into his mid-30’s.

Former Hurricane Brian Dumoulin is Letang’s defensive anchor and is back again.

The rest of Pittsburgh’s defense has some question marks.

John Marino broke into the league and was outstanding as a surprise rookie in 2019-20 but took a step back in his offense last season. He has been a steady defensive presence from the jump, though, and is primed to take another leap in his third full season.

Marcus Petterson and Mark Friedman aren’t an overly exciting third pairing. Petterson has experience but has been a lackluster player at times in Pittsburgh.

Washington Capitals

WSH Defense

Dmitry Orlov John Carlson
Michal Kempny Justin Schultz
Trevor van Riemsdyk Nick Jensen
PIT defensive depth chart according to Daily Faceoff.

There have been questions surrounding the Capitals and their staying power ever since they won the Stanley Cup, but they’ve held up as contenders every year.

John Carlson is a former Norris winner with tons of offense in his game, but his defensive consistency has always been the detractor. Dmitri Orlov has been a consistent two-way force, and that duo should continue to lead the way for their blue line.

Michal Kempny didn’t play in the NHL last season due to a severe achillies injury and then got clipped by a shovel during a rehab game in Hershey in May.

He is an important piece on Washington’s blue line, so getting him back would be a big boost for the Capitals this season.

Justin Schultz had a productive first season in Washington and will look to build on that in year two. He had 27 points in 2021.

Former Hurricane Trevor van Riemsdyk is also entering his second season with the Caps. He only got into 20 games last season.