Anton Volchenkov could be faced with a very interesting and eventful year this year. Not because he will have a career year, but because he may not be a New Jersey Devil when the season concludes this year. His name flew around during free agency as a possible trade piece but nothing materialized. The Devils are cornered with his contract that includes 3 more seasons at 4 and a quarter million each. The problem is, he hasn’t been producing enough to compliment that salary.
Anton’s best season came in 2006-07. He totaled 19 points and had a +/- of 37 with the Ottawa Senators that year. His plus/minus has steadily decreased to around 0 and his worst season was 2008-09 where he had a -10. Granted it was a shortened season this year, Volchenkov had his worst plus/minus (-1) since his rookie season with Ottawa in 2002-03 (-4).
He had produced a little over double the shots (38) in just under double the games played (37) compared to 2003-04 when he played in 19 games and produced 15 shots. That was his sophomore season.
It’s no secret Volchenkov’s defensive play has declined over the past couple of years. Despite being known as a “stay-at-home defender” (blocking shots and laying on big hits), his effectiveness has clearly been declining. After having a somewhat impressive season in 2008-09, his last in Ottawa, the Devils signed him to a 6-year, $25.5 million contract.
All of Volchenkov’s career totals have come as a Senator, but not because he has spent more time there (7 seasons). They just happened to come when he was in his prime. Now at 31, turning 32 during the season, he will be in his mid-30s when his contract expires and his effectiveness will probably continue to decline.
That is what to expect of Volchenkov this season. Nothing outstanding and certainly nothing deserving of being the highest paid defenseman on the team.
I’d like to believe that he wouldn’t take a top line spot but it looks like he might be on the top line with Marek Zidlicky.
The real question is for how long, though. A lot of teams could still see some promise in him considering he isn’t THAT bad of a defenseman if placed on the right line or the right team. His contract is a big burden for any team to handle with his play as of late.
Like I mentioned before, he isn’t a horrible defender, he is just not worth the money the Devils are shelling out for him.