The Ducks now have ten games remaining, all of which are likely academic. And one of the most pressing questions yet to be resolved is which of this year's blueliners will make it to next year. Brookbank (UFA) and Wisniewski (RFA) have already refused offers, Niedermayer and Ward are likely to leave and Mikkelson may find himself in the AHL next season even if the RFA re-ups without negotiation.
Interestingly, other than Visnovsky, the Ducks only have two blueliners under contract for the 2010-11 season: Brett Festerling and Steve Eminger. The latter is due 1.5M in salary, which is roughly three times what Festerling will be making. Festerling hasn't necessarily impressed, but Eminger has been scratched for disappointing the coaching staff on multiple occasions. Neither seem strong candidates for next season's team, but either or both could end up fulfilling his contract with the organization. Arthur, should Bob Murray keep either of these players?
I think you keep Festerling for depth. You can always send him down, and he's played enough games to where you might be able to get something for him. If you can't trade him, he's the devil you know, even if he's also the devil you're not all that impressed with. But I don't think it makes sense to carry Eminger, not at 1.5M next year. Yes, it's cheap for an experienced player, but how many times is the front office going to let Games Played tank this defense? We have to move him. With that money, we could carry three players at minimum salary, two players at around 800K salary and really, just leave our options open. Yes, that might leave us with a very green blueline, but I wasn't all that impressed with the grey blueline we put on the ice this season.
We could also just use that money to add 1.5M to our offer to ANY free agent, blueliner or not. With that money, we re-sign Koivu or make a play for a great Top 4 defenseman. I just haven't seen enough from Eminger to believe he warrants a 1.5M investment for what is essentially another tryout year. This blueline is rebuilding, and he's a jagged brick. We shouldn't be trying to cover him with cement to square him up and make him fit.
Eminger has been a huge disappointment this year. It was a lot like watching the Last Samurai. You keep expecting something amazing to happen, but then you realize it's just Dancing with Wolves in Japan. I always felt like Eminger was going to turn a corner and be productive for us, but he could never find a way to do it. As such, there's no way he can get 1.5 million to take playing time away from our prospects who desperately need it. It's money better spent convincing Niedermayer to play another year, or convincing Kubina he'd like California. The UFA market may not be sexy, but we can't lowball anyone if we're looking to add a player. Moral of the story is that Eminger has become dead weight and needs to go.
As for Festerling, I think his value decreases, or increases, when the blue line takes more shape in the off season. On the off chance that we can't re-sign Brookbank, then Festerling is a very convincing candidate for that bottom pair job. If we do, I'm sure there will be somebody looking for a young defender on draft day and picking up Festerling for a 4th or 5th round pick might be good for them. I'm pretty much in favor of Eminger and Festerling being let go. Mostly because I dream of a Bob Murray who has the wherewithal to pick up Shane O'Brien for 2.5M a year to play with Sbisa, and who manages to get Brookbank to take 1.25M to play with Visnovsky. The Ducks blueline is a work in progress, but one good signing can turn things around for the franchise while all those D prospects develop.