The Ducks had a fantastic day at the draft. Bob Murray has asked the media not to compare Cam Fowler to Scott Niedermayer, but the offensive numbers and smooth skating means the whispers have begun. Anaheim fans are probably already drooling over the prospects of a Sbisa-Fowler pairing in two years. Still, the Ducks have enough talent to still be a playoff contender in the Western Conference, and Teemu has said he'll only come back if the Ducks prove they are committed to winning next year. The biggest problem for Anaheim last year was a defense that lacked grit and, at times, quality decision-making skills. The Ducks need to upgrade the D, and while there are some quality defenders on the free agent market, Anaheim will need to make a few trades in order to get some value on the blueline. With that in mind, I propose this trade with the Vancouver Canucks.
On the surface, this probably doesn't seem like a very fair trade. However, the Canucks window is about to get smaller. The Sedins and Luongo are in their prime and victory will need to come shortly.
Why it's good for Vancouver:
TSN's Scott Cullen points out that one of the biggest problems the Canucks have had is a lack of veteran leadership. Marchant was patient and effective for the Ducks last year as one of the primary defensive forwards. He played in tough defensive situations, and led the Ducks forward corp in shorthanded time on ice. He pitched in a respectable 22 points, which included 3 shorthanded goals. Imagine Marchant and Kessler on the same PK unit. Todd can still get down the ice quickly. Vancouver needs a guy who has played for a Cup winner. That's Todd. It's a 1.5 salary, at a 1.25 cap hit. All signs point to Vancouver upgrading the D through free agency, after the recent Ballard trade. This means money needs to be moved off the blueline. Bieksa is a likely candidate, but that might not be sufficient. O'Brien ran afoul of Alain Vigneault, and got himself benched for a stretch of games this season. Aaron Rome is a more acceptable option as a 6th or 7th defenseman, which is what O'Brien would be if he stayed. Ultimately, the Canucks need to move some D so they can get the free agent defenseman they want, and add some veteran leadership up front. This trade solves both problems.
Why it's good for Anaheim.
The Ducks have a slight logjam at forward. The desire to have Selanne and Koivu return combined with the emergence of players like Sexton, Beleskey and what will undoubtedly be an improved Sharp, means the Ducks need to start finding some minutes for the next generation while holding onto some fan favorites. In the end, something's got to give. If that's the case, it might as well give way by gaining us an upgrade on D. O'Brien had his struggles last year, but he still managed a +15, with 112 hits and 52 blocked shots. O'Brien may not be pretty, but he can kill penalties and clear the net. I know Big Buff made him look less than ordinary at times, but Byfuglien is a rare power in front of the net. Let's be honest, the Ducks need all the help they can get in terms of physicality on the back end. O'Brien might not be pure Top 4 material, but he is the type of stay at home guy that would let Visnovsky wander up ice as often as he likes. Even though he doesn't frequently play major minutes-- he only averaged 17 minutes a game --in 12 of his last 38 games he played over 20 minutes. A competition between he and Brookbank for that Top 4 spot could only be beneficial for the Ducks, not to mention what it would mean to have two solid defenders like that as options on the PK unit. He might seem like a cast off, but O'Brien should not be underestimated. He once earned the Ducks a first round pick from the Tampa Bay Lightning. He's still 6'3", 225 and physical, everything the Ducks need right now. Also, his low price means the Ducks won't be completely handicapped in pursuing another defenseman in the free agent market. That might be the type of good faith gesture that gets Selanne in a Ducks sweater for one last go with Kariya.
As part of this deal, Shane O'Brien gets a shiny new contract. It's a two year deal that will pay him 1.5 this year and 1.75 next year. That will take him to 28; he'll be in his prime, and able to pursue a UFA deal. I think he'll be OK with making the same money in order to get that kind of opportunity. It's not a huge risk for the Ducks, because Fowler, Sbisa, Clark and a few other should be more than ready by then.
In the end, this is a deal that can be very beneficial to both sides. It solves a couple of problems for both clubs. It might not be the type of sexy move Anaheim fans would love right now, but it will be helpful in getting this team going in the right direction.