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Which free-agent defenseman should the Ducks target?

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There are some veteran options available to bolster Anaheim’s blue line.

Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images

As the NHL playoffs go full-steam ahead in the two bubbles, the eliminated teams are preparing for what should be a short, but busy offseason.

The Anaheim Ducks haven’t played a game since the league shutdown in March due to the pandemic but will have some big decisions to make as general manager Bob Murray tries to rebuild the roster.

With the NHL’s salary cap expected to stay flat for the 2020-21 season, the Ducks should have some wiggle room if they want to try and add to their blueline corps. As it stands, Anaheim has roughly $3 million cap space, but that will go by just under $7 million with center Ryan Kesler expected to be placed back on long-term injured reserve.

That would give Murray nearly $10 million to work with. The Ducks still need to re-sign some of their players but will have a nice chunk-of-change available to attract a veteran free agent.

The Athletic’s Eric Stephens was asked in a recent mailbag about three-potential options to help the blue line, including Tyson Barrie, Sami Vatanen, and Kevin Shattenkirk.

Barrie is a right-handed defenseman who spent last season with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’s a power play specialist who finished with five goals and 34 assists last season. Barrie struggled defensively but could command a salary in the $5 million range given the NHL’s economic situation.

Vatanen is a former Duck, who was traded to the New Jersey Devils during the 2017-18 season. The 29-year-old had 23 points in 2019-20, and his puck-moving skills would bring an element of skill the back end. He finished with a 48.1% Corsi For last year, while the Devils gave up 12 more event strength goals than they scored when Vatanen was on the ice.

The final option is Kevin Shattenkirk. The 31-year-old is in his first year with the Tampa Bay Lightning, putting up 8 goals and 34 points in 70 games with the Bolts. Shattenkirk’s underlying numbers were fantastic during the 2019-20 season, but the data is inflated due to the fact he’s playing on a stacked Tampa Bay team. Still, he would be a welcome addition to the blue line, especially considering Anaheim’s defensive corps is the second-youngest in the NHL.

Which of the three defensemen do you think would be the option for Murray to go after in free agency?