This is Anaheim Calling to the Hockey World. The trade deadline is looming and as the OC Register reports the Ducks are looking to upgrade the back end. The article lists seven defensemen that the Ducks might consider pursuing: Pavel Kubina, Dennis Seidenberg, Jordan Leopold, Dan Hamhuis, Joe Corvo, Aaron Ward, and Andy Sutton. I'll go ahead and add Sheldon Souray to this list since he hasn't been moved yet, and the Ducks are on his list of potential destinations. Not to mention, Leopold has since been traded to the Penguins so the list can stay at a solid 7. What will follow is a brief profile of each player and an analysis of the advantages they bring as well as the cost that each one might fetch.
Remaining Cap Hit: 1.08 million
Stat Line: 6'4", 250lbs, 5+29=34, +6
Kubina has the distinction of being the only player on this list who combines size with a good scoring year. His 34 points lead everyone on the list, ranks 15th in the league and only 2 points out of the top ten. He's played in 59 of Atlanta's 60 games. He's played in 70 or more games in 7 of his last 8 years, implying he has high durability. Additionally, Kubina is playing against top offensive talent every night, but is still +6. There's an argument to be made that acquiring Kubina might be like getting a slightly better Ryan Whitney, because he doesn't always use his size effectively and can make mental mistakes in his own end. But he can log a lot of minutes, he currently averages about 23 a game, and would make a solid top pairing with Niedermayer, or provide Whitney a little more security. If the Ducks want to make a serious run at the playoffs, this is probably the defender to pick up. It'll cost them. Even though he's going UFA this summer, the Thrashers are probably looking at a serious retooling if not full on rebuilding, that means a high draft pick and top prospect minimum, as well as an NHL level player. Still, with the potential to have 2 fantastic scoring lines and a top 4 combination of Scott Niedermayer, Ryan Whitney, Pavel Kubina, and the surprisingly reliable Brookbank, Ducks fans might be able to whisper about a deep playoff run. Not to mention if Kubina likes it in Southern California, the Ducks might have a chance at re-signing him in case Niedermayer finally calls it a career.
Team: Florida Panthers
Remaining Cap Hit: 489,637
Stat Line: 6'1", 210lbs., 2+20=22, -1
Seidenberg is another interesting option for those seeking blueline help. For the Ducks it means getting a second Sheldon Brookbank only better. The man makes smart plays and moves the puck effectively. That's key for an Anaheim team that wants to get out of their zone quickly and spend as much time as possible in the offensive zone so the Big Line can let loose. He's also a UFA this summer, but the rental price might not be as high for a 28 year old who has only played 70 games once in his career. Seidenberg doesn't really have a physical side to his game and I think that's a downside that just can't be ignored. If the Ducks aren't making a high end acquisition, i.e. Souray or Kubina, then the Ducks should be looking to a game changing hitter. He'd certainly be a great asset for a Ducks defense that needs a little more security. The Panthers are in full rebuild mode and Seidenberg comes at a minimal cap hit. That's great for a Ducks team that has an extra first round pick, and might not miss the two mid-round picks it would cost to get Seidenberg. Then they can keep Wisniewski for the playoff run and maybe re-sign the cheaper Seidenberg while pursuing a different top 4 guy in the off season.
Remaining Cap Hit: 435,233
Stat Line: 6'1", 209lbs., 4+12=16, +1
Not getting anything too different from Seidenberg here, except he comes at a higher price. He's an efficient puck mover who doesn't have a strong physical side to his game play. His point totals leave a little bit to be desired. However, Hamhuis has a bit of the Scott Niedermayer factor going. He sees the game well enough to know where to be at the right time. So, even though he doesn't have the physical upside, he still knows how to use his body positionally to deny the puck. As a former first round pick, his price tag will be a little higher. Ideally, the Ducks would like to include Jason Blake in this kind of deal since the Predators are desperate for offense, but the Preds aren't known for taking on these medium-big sized contracts. Even though, they currently sit in a playoff spot and would probably rather have NHL players, Nashville likes prospects and Hamhuis is going to come at a cost. Probably one the Ducks can't afford.
Remaining Cap Hit: 571,244
Stat Line: 6', 204lbs., 4+8=12, -12
For an offensive defenseman the numbers certainly aren't dazzling. In Joe's defense he's missed a slew of games to a right leg injury, and of course Carolina had all those struggles earlier in the season including that epic losing streak. Despite all of that though, Corvo still has a phenomenal point shot that he doesn't have a lot of difficulty getting through to the net, and he can definitely run the point on the power play. That last skill would have come in handy when Selanne went down and we were trying to simplify the power play. Carolina wants assets. I'm not familiar with their prospect situation; but the team does have a few old bodies it's looking to move, which will be better exemplified in the analysis of the next defender. Still, the Ducks might be able to land Corvo for a pick or a prospect or even a strait trade of Wisniewski if the Canes want to save a little salary. Still, I can't help but feel that acquiring Corvo would really be like picking up a less physical version of Wisniewski. The Ducks don't need a really offensive minded defenseman unless he comes with a physical upside or less defensive liability.
Remaining Cap Hit: 544,041
Stat Line: 6'2", 209lbs., 1+10=11, -17
The -17 is a little alarming for a guy who has spent the majority of his career as a pretty reliable stay-at-home/shut down defender. Mix in his 37 years and this has the makings of a mediocre acquisition at best. Still, Ward can be had on the cheap, and the Ducks have missed this style of defenseman ever since they traded Sean O'Donnell. It might be worth the risk if Ward can be had for a 6th or 7th round pick. The Ducks wouldn't really lose anything, and Ward might find some of the old tenacity that made him so valuable in multiple playoff series. If Ward turned out to be as reliable as he was his last couple of years with the Bruins, the Ducks would have a great penalty killer on their hands with shut down potential.
Team: New York Islanders
Remaining Cap Hit: 652,850
Stat Line: 6'6", 245lbs., 4+8=12, -3
Andy is a giant and he knows how to play like one. The Ducks have been missing blueline size all year and having a guy like Sutton to plough the net might make another first round visit to San Jose a lot less intimidating. Too bad his lack of mobility would make a first round trip to Chicago down right terrifying. He has a good point shot. But, there's no telling what the Islanders might want. They have an interesting collection of talent up front and a few quality defenders. DiPietro's perpetual injuries has made them long in the tooth in the crease, as they use a stop gap of veterans waiting for Rick to come off IR. I imagine a mix of picks or prospects and an NHL player would be the cost of Andy Sutton. I don't know if he has a large enough tool kit to be able to adapt to life in Anaheim. It would be nice to have a physical defender again, but I don't know if this is the right guy. His lack of mobility might ultimately cost us in the playoffs. He's just not a good acquisition due to our other holes. Kubina might not be as physical, but he has much more offensive upside.
Remaining Cap Hit: 1.175 millions
Stat Line: 6'3", 233lbs., 4+9=13, -19
Might seem odd for an offensive defenseman to have such low point totals and such a high minus number. Hey, strange things happen. It's been an awful year for everybody in Edmonton. Souray's shot is deadly, like being a Clippers fan and having a gambling problem deadly. He might make the Anaheim PP unstoppable. Perry's camped up front, Niedermayer is floating from the top of the crease to the blueline, Selanne runs the half boards and Souray and Getzlaf could let loose at any second. He's tied up for another year and paying 5 million to him, and 4 to Whitney might make it impossible to have Niedermayer back. He's also pretty inept at one on one defending. He can definitely protect the front of the net, but he's getting a little injury prone and those battles up front might start costing more than just a goal or two. I'm a card carrying member of the acquire Souray fan club, and the fact that he's hurt might drop the price a little come deadline time considering there's no telling how long a team will actually have him. But I'm getting nervous now that the deadline is here and the fact that Edmonton hasn't seemed to be successful in trading with us. I think they might overcharge for Souray and demand a first rounder. The only guy on this list possibly worth that price is Kubina.
In summary, I think that Kubina is probably the best option on this list in terms of immediate success. After that, Seidenberg seems the logical second, since the price on Hamhuis would probably be too high. I hope that Murray does acquire somebody for the blueline and if he could have had Leopold for a second round pick and didn't pull the trigger, then I like him a little less. Of course he should have signed him in the first place, but who's really holding a grudge. Murray has made pretty basic deals, except for the Pronger deal in which he pretty much got back everything that was given up, and he needs to make a deal that will prove he can handle a serious trade.