Deadline D-men worth pursuing

Zbynek Michalek plays a two-way role for Arizona, and could be a top-four blueliner on a contender. Len Redkoles/NHLI/Getty Images

Hockey analytics pioneer Rob Vollman is ESPN Insider's armchair GM this season, exploring how modern statistics can inform front-office decisions.

A solid top-four defenseman is a common item on a Stanley Cup contender's shopping list ahead of the trade deadline, but they have been left as a scarce commodity with the recent extension of Ottawa's Marc Methot, as well as acquisitions of Cody Franson by Nashville and Tyler Myers by Winnipeg. Leading up to this season's March 2 deadline, the three remaining options who should be most aggressively pursued are Arizona's Zbynek Michalek, Carolina's Andrej Sekera and Edmonton's Jeff Petry.

At least, that's the impression one gets when studying all potentially available defensemen through the dispassionate eyes of hockey analytics. During trade-deadline season, it's easy to get excited about all the big names out there, where they might land and what kind of potential impact they will have. That's why an objective look at the underlying numbers can provide some useful insights, and they all point in the direction of those three players.

Essentially, the fundamental difference between Michalek, Sekera, Petry and everybody else is that they have proven capable of handling tough minutes while still tilting the ice in their team's favor. We'll take a closer look at how I arrived at this assessment before settling on a potential price tag and likely destination for each.