Within moments of the clock hitting 12:00 ET, there was wave after wave of free agent signings. And although the Ducks did not make many moves today, they did walk away with a new addition on their blue-line, signing Clayton Stoner of the Minnesota Wild to a four year, $13 million deal.
While he may not have been as flashy an addition, such as that of Anton Stralman or Matt Niskanen, Clayton Stoner is a solid addition by the Ducks. Anaheim seems to be committed to adding grit, physicality, and toughness to their team, having traded for both Ryan Kesler from the Vancouver Canucks and Nate Thompson of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Stoner is a big body who loves to deal punishing checks and get in the face of his opposition.
Clayton Stoner is not going to light up the stat sheet as an offensive threat, but he can be a solid stay-at-home defenseman. The 29 year old is also willing to drop the gloves for the Ducks, refusing to let himself or his teammates get pushed around without a fight.
Clayton Stoner doesn’t necessarily address the Ducks’ need for a player on the blue-line who can drive play. The Wild controlled 46.5% of the shot attempts at even strength with Stoner on the ice, which was 1.8% worse than with him off it. That 46.5% mark was also worse than that of all the Ducks’ blue-liners who played at least 41 games.
Clayton Stoner is also very similar to another defenseman on the Ducks, Bryan Allen. However, remember that both Francois Beauchemin and Allen become unrestricted free agents after this season. That would leave the Ducks with Cam Fowler, Ben Lovejoy, Mark Fistric, Hampus Lindholm, and Stoner on their blue-line (this is pending what Sami Vatanen signs for this offseason as a restricted free agent). Though the financial figure may seem to be a bit high, remember that Stoner is signed for cheaper than Bryan Allen, in terms of average annual value.
By signing Clayton Stoner, the Ducks address a need for depth on the blue-line in the future and can replace a similar player on the roster with somebody who is younger. While it may not be the splash signing many were hoping for, remember that the Ducks are committed to giving younger players an opportunity. That means that the veterans the team signs in free agency should either play a similar game to the other veterans currently on the team (as Stoner does) or add a different dimension to the team. Players like Vatanen, Patrick Maroon, Emerson Etem, and Rickard Rakell cannot grow if the team signs veterans and blocks them from playing tougher minutes. The Ducks are committed to going younger, so the team should not have been expected to go hard in free agency after big names.
This may be the only major domino to fall on the Ducks’ free agency front, as the Ducks are a budget team that will work around $60 to $61 million. However, I trust in Bob Murray. The best teams should not have to make major moves to improve their team, as championship-caliber teams should already have the majority of their core in place before the free agency period starts. I believe that the Ducks are a contender out West, and I believe in the roster as it is currently constructed. The Ducks have never been a major player in free agency, so let’s wait to criticize Bob Murray for being mostly quiet in free agency. After all, he did just win GM of the Year.
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