As the offseason has slowed to a lull, organizations have gone into talks with their restricted free agents. The Ducks have done this as well, signing players such as Jesse Blacker, Mat Clark, Antoine Laganiere, and Louis Leblanc to one year deals.
However, the first big domino fell today, when the Ducks signed Sami Vatanen to a two year deal worth $2.525 million. The bridge deal expires in 2016, but Vatanen would still be a restricted free agent, meaning the Ducks would be free to negotiate a long-term deal with him at that juncture.
Vatanen has proven himself on the international stage, winning a bronze medal with Team Finland in the Winter Olympics this past February. In limited ice time with the Ducks, he’s added a dimension of speed and skating ability from the blue-line that we sorely lacked, with players such as Francois Beauchemin, Bryan Allen, and Mark Fistric back there who are not exactly on the quick side.
While he passes the eye test and the scouting report shows his great abilities, Vatanen also stands out on the analytics side. He controlled play better than any of the Ducks’ blue-liners during the regular season, with the team controlling 51.5% of all shot attempts at even strength with him on the ice. The Ducks have not been a great possession team and were frequently hemmed in their own end, especially in the playoffs against Dallas and Los Angeles. Vatanen will help the Ducks in both terms of puck possession and overall team speed from the blue-line, an area that has been exposed in the past.
Sami Vatanen is only beginning his NHL career. He’s going to start getting regular minutes on this team, and in two years, he may be due for a major pay raise. It’s going to be real exciting watching him play this season, and I’m glad he’ll be wearing our colors for the foreseeable future.
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