Michigan is saying goodbye to two defensemen, including captain Mac Bennett, and will bring in two and, potentially, three blue liners next year to replace Bennett and Clare.
In the fall, the Wolverines signed East Lansing native Cutler Martin. The 6-1, 210-pound defender played for the Tri-City Storm of the United States Hockey League this past year, but appeared in only 23 games after suffering a head injury.
"He had a concussion but when he gets healthy, and hopefully he will be healthy by the fall, he will add a physical part to our defense, and I think that was lacking," head coach Red Berenson said. "Whether he's a top-four defenseman -- I wouldn't put that label on him right now."
Michigan probably doesn't need a top-four defenseman with sophomores Michael Downing and Kevin Lohan, and senior Andrew Sinelli expected to anchor the blue line. Sophomores Nolan DeJong and Spencer Hyman, and seniors Brennan Serville, Mike Chiasson and Michael Szuma also getting a shot to round out the top six.
But a healthy Martin could be an asset.
"He will play physical, in-your-face hockey," assistant coach Brian Wiseman said. "We have to be tougher to play against. Whether it's helping our goalies in front of the net or being more abrasive on our blue line.
"Do we want guys to be able to add offense? One-hundred percent, and he has a rocket shot. We're going to ask all of them to do that but it takes a mentality to play the other side and we feel we have some components of that coming in."
U-M will add Sam Piazza to the mix but because the defenseman has not yet signed a letter of intent, the coaches cannot comment publicly.
The 6-0, 200-pound Darien, Ill., native had a good season with the Wichita Falls Wildcats of the North American Hockey League, putting up 11 goals and 26 assists in 58 games with 19 power-play points.