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Free Agency Eve

Well, the Draft is only a few days old, but that won't stop the impending craze that will be Day One of free agency. There's not a lot of superstar talent out there, but there are still very serviceable options that would let any GM fill a couple of needs at some, hopefully, reasonable prices.

The Ducks still have some holes on the depth chart, considering the newly acquired Sbisa might not be a Top 4 defenseman for another 2-3 years, and a second line center, who is less of a defensive liability, would be nice. But the question comes in three parts today. First, what is the need the Ducks HAVE to fill in order to stay in contention next year, and who/what style of player do you see as an option to fill that role? Which player/style of player do you see the team signing that might end up being dead weight? Finally, give me the one player you'd love to sign that would fit perfectly on the Ducks.

The Ducks need a true second line center. To echo something Bob Murray said in a recent interview, we haven't been the same since we traded Andy McDonald. That isn't to say it was a mistake to let him go. We could certainly use someone bigger at that position, someone who can't be targeted by other teams. But McDonald's toolbox (strong on the draw, speed through the neutral zone and great vision) is sorely missed.

That style of player isn't really on the market right now. Not in our price range. Henrik Sedin isn't on the market by himself, and we don't have the chips to offer sheet Phil Kessel. I have to believe that the only realistic move for the Ducks is a one-year-deal with a veteran. I like Saku Koivu for that. And I think trying other veterans like Bonk or Peca would convert them into dead weight, and long-term contracts with younger players would transform into dead weight within two years.

I don't know if the Ducks can solve any problems on the blueline through free agency. There is certainly disappointment in the trio of Festerling, Salcido and Mikkelson. Apparently, when you've got three kids ready to break out of the AHL, you've really got none. Mitera may leap over all of them.

Ultimately, if we shop for blueliners in free agency, I think we acquire a middle-pairing guy, and try to force someone from our system into the Top 4 i.e. Scotty or Whitney will have to play with Mikk, Fest or Mitera. As far as who that middle-pairing guy is, I can't say. Rick Paterson is good at finding second-year guys, like Brookbank and McIver, not to mention a second-contract guy like Montador. I foolishly want us to bring back Shane O'Brien, just to put some size and grit back in the lineup.

I'm also tempted to go after Jay McKee after his buyout, but I think the Bret Hedican Deadweight award would go to Darryl Sydor. I love you Darryl, but it might be time to use that hockey stick for shuffleboard.

I agree that we haven't been the same since we traded Andy McDonald, but I think the one need we can't afford to ignore is in our Top 4 defense. Beauchemin is there, and I can't help but feel that if we let him get away, he will most assuredly make us pay for it in a way that has nothing to do with money. I like Beauchemin's ability to be nasty. He has a big shot, and he can eat up minutes. If not Beauchemin, Lepold could probably be had for a little less money if Florida doesn't sign him. I'm also in complete agreement that as long as we're bringing back our own draft picks, O'Brien would be more than serviceable. As it stands now, I just don't think we have enough on the blueline. Of course, It wouldn't surprise me to see Murray overcompensate and throw Mathieu-Schneider-money at the likes of a Blake, or worse an Aucoin, leaving us cash-strapped next offseason.

The free agent I want the most, though, is probably Martin Havlat. His style of play would really fit in Anaheim. I think he has the speed to keep up with Selanne, and he's a little more defensively responsible than Teemu. I think that would make him a great option on that line, and he could probably overcome some of Ebbett's shortcomings. Also, why not Chris Gratton. He may not be a scoring threat, but what about him and Brown as our top two PK Forwards? It's just to sexy to think about.