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Analysis: Ducks Sign Dennis Rasmussen, But Why?

Anaheim’s fourth line wasn’t all that impressive last season, and they tried to address that on Friday.

Montreal Canadiens v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Anaheim Ducks took another step in bolstering their forward depth on Friday afternoon, signing center Dennis Rasmussen to a one-year, $725,000 contract.

Although 27 years of age, Rasmussen has only spent three seasons in North America, initially with the Rockford IceHogs and eventually with the Chicago Blackhawks for the past two seasons.

Elite Prospects describes Rasmussen as:

That’s certainly a glowing scouting report. Anaheim has lacked foot-speed in its bottom-six, which is presumably where Rasmussen will be slotting in.

There’s not much in the way of data, however, to really get a handle on why the Ducks sought out his services.

In his two seasons with the Blackhawks, Rasmussen was never a guy to drive play, and he provided essentially nothing in the way of scoring, either.

His best shot-attempt differential last season came when skating with Marcus Kruger, where he barely broke even with a 50.1 percent figure.

Even for a fourth liner, that hardly feels impressive. Anaheim leaned heavily on its top-six to push play last year, so the hope would be that someone joining the top-six would help in alleviating that.

If there’s at all a perception out there that Rasmussen has a strong defensive game out there, there’s a decent chance that it has more to do with luck than anything else.

In 2015-16, he benefited from a godly 10.16 on-ice shooting percentage at five-on-five, while having the goalies behind him post a whopping .955 save percentage. Anyone can look passable with those kind of numbers.

That insane on-ice shooting percentage dipped all the way down to 4.94 in 2016-17, while goaltending stayed strong at .933. It was enough to crater Rasmussen’s goals-for percentage at even-strength, perhaps eventually making him expandable in the eyes of Chicago general manager Stan Bowman.

The strong on-ice save percentages that he’s enjoyed in the last two years certainly seem to be more of a result of Corey Crawford’s excellence than Rasmussen’s middling shot metrics.

Anaheim Ducks v Calgary Flames - Game Three Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images

His arrival could indicate that Anaheim brass isn’t totally comfortable with its options at fourth line center. Neither Chris Wagner nor Logan Shaw came anywhere close to standing out last season.

Wagner, especially, was disappointing after having shown some promise in 2015-16. Meanwhile, Shaw has “career fourth liner” written all over him.

(Getting paid close to seven figures to play your favorite sport isn’t such a bad outcome, by the way)

Rasmussen’s value will probably come on the penalty kill. He was one of Chicago’s better penalty killers last year from a sheer goals against perspective, so he has that going for him.

Anaheim’s penalty kill completely fell apart in the playoffs this past season, so Rasmussen’s arrival could indicate an urgency to address that weakness by management.

In any case, the newly minted Duck’s utility seemed limited at best, but that’s typically the nature of fourth line skaters in the NHL. Let’s just say the competition that he’ll face for playing time won’t be all that stiff.