Therein lies the trouble for prospective bidders, and the blessing for Michalek (and Walsh). The defenseman is polished, competitive, accomplished, durable, coachable and just entering his prime. In many free agency previews he has also been called "affordable." We wouldn't be so sure. Let's take a look.
Vitals: The man his teammates call "Z" -- and the brother of Ottawa forward Milan Michalek -- is 6-foot-2, 210 pounds. He is a prime free-agent catch for many teams because he doesn't turn 28 until December. About that durability, Michalek has played all 82 of the Coyotes' regular-season games in three of the last five years. He missed just 17 combined in the other two seasons. In his five-season career with Phoenix, he has averaged over 22 minutes a game.
Strengths: The Czech Republic native is a pure stay-at-home defenseman. Perhaps his game has developed so strongly over the years because Michalek knows what he is. A minus-22 over his six-year career (he played his rookie season in Minnesota), Michalek was plus-5 in 2009-10. An excellent shot-blocker who is sound positionally, Michalek can be part of a team's top pair of shut-down defensemen. Although he has just 27 career goals, he can play the point on a second-unit power play.
Weaknesses: Coaches counting on Michalek to use his size and mobility to morph into a punisher may be a bit disappointed. He is not going to be featured in a Don Cherry DVD laying out opponents with big hits. As his career goal total illustrates, Michalek does not use what is an above-average shot as often as he should. Perhaps in a different setting he can be convinced to do so.
Price: Michalek made $1.2 million in 2009-10. As one of the most reliable defensemen in the market, he could command at least $3 million a season. "Affordable" to some teams, but that's richer than several will either want to go to or could fit under the salary cap. If there is intense competition for his services, as FanHouse projects, Michalek will get a contract of four or more years.
He will not be one of those unrestricted free agents who falls through the cracks and is forced to take a lesser deal later in the month. Count on Michalek being signed by the Fourth of July, if not a lot sooner.