Sheldon Brookbank found a solid slot in the Top 4 tonight backing up Lubomir Visnovsky, and other than an ill-advised punch to the back of a head in 1080p view of the referee, he played well. Brookbank has exceeded expectations in various positions on the depth chart, and he's already refused a contract offer this season, an offer we presume was equivalent to bottom pairing pay around the league.
Arthur, you've expressed a fondness for Brookbank but have been quick to qualify it by noting that his meat and potatoes defense would find itself undressed by the gourmet NHL talent that Top 4 defensemen usually face. But he was a good match for Whitney and appears to be a quality partner for Visnovsky, so based on what you've seen, is Brookbank worth another offer, perhaps a Top 4 offer, or at least as much as Steve Eminger?
First, I have to say that it is SO tough for me to separate my fondness for Brookbank from a critical evaluation of him. He's a former Cincinnati Mighty Duck, he's a strong character guy who never complained about coming off the scratch list, he drops the gloves whenever the team needs him to and he plays a brand of defense so textbook that you think you're watching an instructional video. But it's that last one that makes it hard for me to say 'Top 4' or 'seven figures.'
Brookbank doesn't play so well when he tries to do more, when he tries to make that NHL play. His aggression often gets him on the wrong side of the whistle, and he rarely comes up with the big hit you'd expect from your stay at home blueliner. Still, he's reliable, and he complements offensive defensemen well.
The fact that he could be a reliable partner for Visnovsky could justify a big raise, even if a serious offensive line could easily overwhelm Lubo's size and Brookbank's lack of defensive imagination. The fact that this defensive corps is in such disarray definitely qualifies him for as much as Eminger is making. And ultimately, I don't think we can ask him to take less. This is a guy who maneuvered a one-way contract out of New Jersey and parlayed it into a regular starting position with us. He has every intention of creating another opportunity for himself this offseason.
Brookbank might be asking for more than he could get on the open market, but I also think he's worth more to us than Murray would like to admit. So I think we have to make another offer, and it has to be seven figures.
I think Brookbank is worth a deal with a seven-figure cap hit. I don't know if Murray tried to offer three years at 850K or something like that, but that's not going to cut it. Brookbank is definitely worth more than Eminger, even using Duck economics. And I think it might be worth it to overpay him to the tune of 1.5-2M if it means we have a defensive defenseman we know. The alternative would be to overpay a free agent defensive defenseman to the tune of twice or three times that and still be unsure of what we're getting. Of course, Murray could always spread out a few million in another Boynton/Eminger situation, but I think Ducks fans remember how that went: Awful!
I won't go into your breakdown of Brookbank's skills excpet to say that he does complement offensive defensemen well, and Visnovsky is the long term future of this blueline. If we've found a player that pairs well with him, a player that Visnovsky might be confident leaving to cover the 2-on-1's, then overpaying him by a mil or so doesn't seem like a big deal. If nothing else, Brookbank has earned a raise. Whether or not he ends up anchoring the Top 4, he has the potential to be Visnovsky's partner and be a Top 4/depth hybrid that gets paid bottom pair money. That moderate increase in salary, for an expansion of services, is well worth it.