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Grading the First Day of Free Agency

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Ducks sneak through free agency on tip toes and steal some underrated gold

NHL: St. Louis Blues at Arizona Coyotes Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

As is typical in Anaheim, the Ducks sat back and watched the world burn on the first day of free agency. Detroit went ahead and attempted to postpone their inevitable rebuild. The Islanders allowed the master to give the apprentice the only remaining shred of hope that franchise had, after a decade of wandering in purgatory. They then compounded that by offering up a clutch of horrible contracts for some of the lesser players on offer in the free agent class, ensuring that they would remain mediocre for the next half decade.

Perhaps more pertinent to the Ducks themselves, the Vancouver Canucks went ahead and piled up a whole bunch of money and burnt it in a pile on the ground. In a concerted effort to not end up like the Oilers, and yet having no idea what the Oilers did wrong, they proceeded to go ahead and make every single mistake the Oilers ever did. The Canucks ensured that they would be cellar dwellers and easy standings points for at least the next 5 seasons. Go Ducks!

By all appearances, their fans are very happy with this 4 dimensional chess game GM Benning is playing. And who can blame them with this selection of fine young men: Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel & Tim Schaller.

*Edit: For the record, the Canucks contracts have modified no-trade clauses, and are essentially buyout proof due to signing bonuses etc.

But that isn't to say the Ducks merely stood by watching and doing nothing. Big changes were hinted at by Murray in the end of season press conference, so standing pat in free agency would have been a hard sell after a fairly quiet draft.

Yesterday the Ducks moved oft injured local lad Nic Kerdiles to the Winnipeg Jets, for another youngster who grew up watching the Ducks in Chase De Leo. Details of that trade can be found here.


But that was yesterday, and this is today! The third biggest day on the hockey calendar behind the Stanley Cup parade and the Entry Level Draft.

After watching the world burn for many hours, news came out that the Ducks had made some minor moves in a bid to shore up their AHL team. Later still, news broke of this wonderful signing.....

The former Toronto Maple Leaf defenseman, Luke Schenn, had signed with the Ducks. Naturally this hasn't yet been made official - likely to be confirmed soon - and thus we don't currently have the organisations thoughts on the move. However, given Schenn is similar to previous players the Ducks have picked up it’s likely that the following phrases will come up: Cheap veteran; “We” know him; Plays hard; Leadership; Good in the room; Toughness; Hard to play against; Something “we” were missing in the playoffs.

For those that haven’t followed Schenn around during his stops with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Phillidelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings and Arizona Coyotes, Schenn is a stay at home defenseman. That is he should stay at home, and stay far away from the rink. However that may be a little disingenuous.

The last word on hockey had this to say about him:

“The Ducks have defensemen that stand out, like Hampus Lindholm and Cam Fowler, so adding Schenn is more about getting experience on the blue line. After being swept out of the first round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Ducks need a change. With talent up front, the place to bulk up is on defense. Schenn is the fourth oldest defenseman on the active roster and brings experience to a team ready to take it further in the playoffs after coming up short last year. Schenn is closer to the end of his career than the beginning, and his numbers are not outstanding, but his offensive-minded play makes him a two-way threat for the Ducks.”

With that said, his 1 goal and 6 assists over 64 games last season should go a long way to helping the Ducks improve on their offensive woes last season, despite his last 2 goal, 10 point season being 2 years ago with the LA Kings. Schenn’s two-way ability becomes more important once the combined loss of Francois Beauchemin’s 17 points, and Kevin Bieksa’s 8 points is factored into the calculation. As Schenn is not a volume shooter (he hasn't had 100 shots in a season since the 2010-2011 season) he will be tasked to somewhat lift the ~1.5% shooting percentage he’s maintained over the past 2 seasons in Arizona.

Nonetheless, special assignment scout and consultant Dave Nonis, as well as Head Coach Randy Carlyle, both have previous knowledge of Luke Schenn from their days in Toronto. Nonis was the Senior Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations during Schenn’s time in Toronto, while Carlyle coached out the final 18 games of the 2011-2012 season with Schenn as a player, before he (Schenn) was traded to the Flyers. These hockey men know what Schenn brings to the table.

Despite his lauded two-way game on this Ducks team, Schenn will likely be tasked with playing in a defensive role to offset the more mobile players already on the roster. His previous two seasons of -9 and -12 on the plus/minus rating shouldn't dissuade anyone from the hope that he can hold down the fort in a complimentary role. Nor should his last two seasons of fancy stats. For the record these are the numbers (as rates per 60), and where they would sit on the Ducks (amongst defensemen only) in each season:

Corsi Against

2017: 66.01 (CF% = 44.05) / CA = 11th, CF% = 10th

2018: 65.35 (CF% = 45.40) / CA = 9th, CF% = 6th

Scoring Chances Against

2017: 30.42 (SCF% = 40.80) / SCA = 10th, SCF% = 9th

2018: 28.76 (SCF% = 43.75) / SCA = 9th, SCF% = 9th

High Danger Chances Against

2017: 12.53 (HDCF% = 38.81) / HDSCA = 11th, HDSCF% = 12th

2018: 11.67 (HDCF% = 44.58) / HDSCA = 3rd, HDSCF% = 9th

Goals Against

2017: 2.34 (GF% = 43.53) / GA = 10th, GF% = 10th

2018: 2.41 (GF% = 38.33) / GA = 8th, GF% = 8th

Given that Marcus Pettersson and Andy Welinski both somewhat struggled in the NHL time, Jaycob Megna appearing to be past his time and not required at NHL level, and Jacob Larsson not yet taking a role as his own, there is a case to be made for a solid veteran to come in and play a supporting role around the now-veteran Fowler, Lindholm and Josh Manson trio. The numbers above clearly show a good case for Schenn to take such a role and make it his own - not for the NHL team obviously, but potentially for the new ECHL affiliate should that come to pass. However, it appears likely that he will slot into the rotation in some manner, and thus his veteran moxy should prove memorable to Ducks fans in the coming season.

GRADE: F, for Fat F**king Fail.


In addition to Luke Schenn, the Ducks also acquired a former Vancouver Canuck: the speedy Anton Rodin. Currently 27 years old - 28 in November - Rodin has had the ill fortune of being drafted to the Canucks in the second round of the 2009 entry draft. For those interested, this is after Bob Murray left that organisation to work with the Ducks.

An excellent skater and a superb playmaker, Rodin left the Canucks organisation for the Swedish Elite League back in 2013 - a league in which he would go on to be named the league MVP. In this respect, this could be an underrated signing by the Ducks. A reasonably-sized fast skating scorer is what the doctor ordered in many ways, and it is a sign that Murray at least partially meant what he said about becoming a faster team.

Unfortunately, Rodin has fallen on hard times of late. He played only 8 games for his NLA team last season and 6 games the season before (between the Canucks and their AHL team). He did manage 33 games in the SHL the season prior in which he went (approximately) point per game, although this season too was cruelled by injury. 47 and 54 games in each of the next previous seasons respectively round out his time since leaving North America.

Make no mistake, this move is a gamble. Yet it is a low cost high reward gamble. That will either not impact the Ducks at all, or will improve them dramatically. There is no downside, and only upside. It’s a good move by the Ducks, on a day where smart moves were a rarity.

GRADE: B


The Ducks, or rather the San Diego Gulls, also acquired a veteran netminder.

There isn’t a great deal to say about this. However for those interested parties, staff writer John Broadbent is adamant that the net will remain in Boyle’s hands. If anything, the 1-year deal seems to be a slight stop gap between now and next season when Eriksson-Ek may be more likely to challenge for a larger role in the organisation. The step required for him to make himself known to Ducks fans at large.

With the two picks in this draft, Eriksson-Ek in the recent past, and now Jared Coreau, the Ducks seem very aware of the dangers of John Gibson succumbing to rubber poisoning, his groin injuries flairing up again, or him simply leaving for more money in the future. Correct development of these netminders is key. Given the rush for Gibson to enter the league, and his subsequent injury issues, collecting netminders and bringing them along slowly is a refreshing change of pace.

So with that in mind, this is a fantastic, although minor, deal.

GRADE: C+


All in all it was a quiet, yet somewhat productive day on the home front. The poor signing of Schenn was mitigated by the fact that it was only a cheap, 1-year deal, and that they picked up some areas of relative need. Also on the cheap.

On a personal level, it saddens me that the Ducks yet again have an ex-Canuck and an ex-Leaf on the roster. Although I suppose that would pale in comparison to an ex-Wing in many eyes.

I would also express my disappointment that J.T. Brown wasn't retained. Quite frankly I’m a huge fan of what he and his family do in the community (and Lexi on Twitter is hilarious). Given the inexpensive deal he signed with the Wild, I cant imagine the Ducks couldn't afford him. I do understand that perhaps it would have been easier to move on from him in order to play some of the Ducks prospects, and that they likely aren't losing much in that exchange.

Yet Brown played fun hockey, was the fast feisty 4th liner teams need, and was a cheap signing. Given the off-ice things he did, he was an extremely marketable player and a fantastic person to have in the organisation. It may seem counter-intuitive to say so about a role player who wasn’t here long, yet the Ducks are a lesser organisation for them gone. I truly hope that he and his family have nothing but success in the future.

A further minor disappointment is that elite #1 centre Derek Grant also remains unsigned. Yet I shall refrain from further commentary here until he is...there is still hope!

For all of that however, after last seasons successful free agency, Ducks fans once again can sigh in sweet relief after escaping Canada Day in relative serenity once more.

Poll

Grade the Ducks Opening Day of Free Agency

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    A
    (5 votes)
  • 10%
    B
    (18 votes)
  • 31%
    C
    (56 votes)
  • 30%
    D
    (54 votes)
  • 24%
    F
    (44 votes)
177 votes total Vote Now