Player Name/position: Ben Lovejoy, D
Overall Grade: A
Acquired a few days after Jarret Stoll injured Cam Fowler for a fifth-round draft pick in 2014, Lovejoy was probably expected to be a serviceable third pairing defenseman until Fowler's return. Instead, he evolved into an extremely reliable defender, putting into perspective the $9.5 million in salary going to Sheldon Souray, Bryan Allen, and Luca Sbisa.
Contract Status: UFA, $525,000 salary and cap hit in 2013
Playoff Stats: 0 goals, 2 assists, +4, 0 PIM in 7 games.
Offense: He met expectations by notching a modest but not insignificant ten assists. Both of his assists in the playoffs led to game-winning goals. To make that sound more impressive than perhaps it really is, two thirds of the Ducks' playoff victories came as a direct result of plays made by Ben Lovejoy.
Defense: Behind Francois Beauchemin and about even with Toni Lydman, Lovejoy was a solid defenseman in the Ducks' zone. He didn't hit like Beauch and he wasn't as good at clearing the puck as Lydman, but he made simple, sound defensive plays all year.
Highlight of the Season: His assist on Nick Bonino's overtime winner in Game Five was a thing of beauty. Don't you wish every stay-at-home defenseman would make plays like that?
Expectations for Next Year: Lovejoy will become an unrestricted free agent, and if I'm Bob Murray, I'm praying that the rest of the league ignores the Ducks as much as all of our fans say they do. The chances that he will be as cheap as he was this past season are somewhere between zero and nothing, so Murray may have to trade at least one other defenseman — Souray, Allen, or Sbisa — in order to make room on the payroll. And I know we would all be devastated if that happened . . .
If Lovejoy does return to Anaheim next year, he will play the same type of game as he did this year. Perhaps some increased time on the second power play unit will give his offensive numbers a lift, but what really counts with Lovejoy is the defensive aspect of the game. Hopefully we get to see more of that.