What’s new is old again in Anaheim. Former Duck Francois Beauchemin is back on a one-year, $1 million dollar contract with $500,000 in performance-contingent bonuses, per TVA Sports.
Who are those youngsters, exactly? Cam Fowler, who turns 26 this December, has been an NHLer since he was 18. Josh Manson will also be 26 by the time the regular season starts, while Sami Vatanen turned 26 this summer.
That leaves Brandon Montour and Hampus Lindholm as the two relatively spring chickens among Anaheim’s regulars. Montour is 23, while Lindholm will be 24 in January.
Although past the point of needing mentorship, Lindholm may in fact be a focal point of the Beauchemin signing. Thanks to shoulder injuries, both he and Vatanen are set to be absent for a prolonged period of time to start the 2017-18 season.
Those dual injuries leave Anaheim’s blueline in a difficult position. As things stand today, here’s what the opening night lineup would look like:
Not exactly the fearsome group that guided Anaheim to the 2017 Western Conference Final. Beauchemin is years removed from having a positive impact on puck possession (even relative to the moribund Colorado Avalanche), while Montour has yet to demonstrate an ability to elevate his respective partner. Korbinian Holzer and Kevin Bieksa struggled badly when paired together in 2016-17, getting absolutely caved in at five-on-five.
Next Man Up
Ducks’ brass surely can’t believe that they can win with that lineup, which makes it exceedingly likely that they’ll give the likes of Jacob Larsson, Jaycob Megna, and Andy Welinski every chance to carve out a roster spot.
Larsson didn’t look out of place in an early stint last season, but a crowded blueline saw to it that he’d spend the rest of the season in Sweden. Long heralded for his eloquent skating and first pass, he feels like the favorite to potentially make the jump up to the big club, especially having been a first round pick just two years ago.
Although Larsson clearly has the organzational upper hand given his draft pedigree, that shouldn’t automatically rule out Megna or Welinski. Both were decent offensive contributors on a 2016-17 Gulls’ team that was top-ten in the AHL in both goal and shot-based metrics.
Marcus Pettersson feels like more of a long shot to stay on in Anaheim. Although an early second-round draft pick in 2014 (38th), he has yet to skate in North America. Given the void left by Montour and Shea Theodore’s departures, it would stand to reason that Anaheim would like to see him gain experience on the smaller ice playing big minutes in San Diego. Even so, he’s loaded with potential, so it wouldn’t be a shock if he steals a few games in Anaheim.
Part of the rationale in Murray sacrificing Theodore in the Expansion Draft was that Anaheim had the organizational depth to withstand such a loss. It’s impossible to foresee injuries to two key contributors, but Murray’s gamble is clearly being tested sooner than he might have liked.
Of course, it’s much more warm and fuzzy to say that Beauchemin is back to mentor the youth. If the Ducks’ still had their blueline depth of just a few months ago, however, then perhaps this homecoming never happens.