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On Gragnani’s Signing & Portland’s Defense

08/06/10
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In a move to shore up the Portland Pirates’ defense, Darcy Regier successfully re-signed RFA Marc-Andre Gragnani to a one-year contract. With the offensive-defenseman back in the fold, Portland now has a stocked roster. Let’s have a look at what’s up down on the farm’s blueline after this signing.

In a previous post in which I tackled the entire Pirates roster, I pointed out that the AHL team already had five defensemen locked in place – newcomers Alex Biega and Nick Crawford, and AHL blueliners Dennis Persson, Drew Schiestel, and TJ Brennan – and one defenseman who could possibly make the jump to the Sabres – Mike Weber. By adding Gragnani back into the mix, Kevin Dineen now has 7 defensemen he could be working with.

How will that shake out pairings-wise, you ask? Well I see two purely-offensive defensemen among the bunch (Gragnani, Brennan), three well-rounded defensemen (Crawford, Schiestel, Biega), a shutdown beast (Weber), and dead weight (Persson). I’d put Weber and Gragnani together on the top pair if neither makes it to the NHL, with the second pair being Crawford and Schiestel and the third pair being Brennan and Biega. I’d leave Persson as the 7th defenseman because, frankly, he sucks. I’d probably play the second and third pairings close to even minutes, honestly.

If Weber gets promoted to the Sabres, I’d move Crawford up to the top pair to play with Gragnani while shifting Brennan up to the second pair and slotting Persson in next to Biega. In the highly-unlikely event that Gragnani gets promoted over Weber, I’d replace him on the top pair with Crawford and use Brennan on the second pair with Persson getting slotted back into the third pairing.

I really don’t see both Weber and Gragnani starting the season in Portland, but if it happens, the team will be pretty stacked with one great top pair and two good pairs below them. If either one of the two gets promoted, Dineen will have to hope for his squad to step up to perform at a high level.

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