Where Does Clayton Stoner Fit in the Ducks Defense?

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December 11, 2013; Anaheim, CA, USA; Anaheim Ducks center Saku Koivu (11) passes the puck against the defense of Minnesota Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner (4) and defenseman Keith Ballard (2) during the second period at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

To say that the Ducks made some controversial moves this offseason would be putting it mildly. From failing to resign RFA Mathieu Perreault to bringing in all-star Dany Heatley, Ducks GM Bob Murray has given us plenty to talk about this summer.

However, no move has created more buzz than the signing of defenseman Clayton Stoner during the free agency blitz on July 1st. Much ink has already been spilled on Stoner’s value as a player, and many have wondered whether or not the 4-year, $13 million deal could be considered an overpayment.

Stoner is a defensive defenseman. We know that he’s not going to put up the kind of offensive numbers that Cam Fowler or Sami Vatanen might. His job is to be physical, winning battles along the boards and clearing the front of the net. His 6’4”, 215lb frame lends itself well to this end. While many Ducks fans were hoping for a top pairing defenseman this offseason,

“The Stoner deal actually has the potential to make the Ducks a worse team if he takes away too much ice time from defensemen who deserve it . . .”

Stoner’s usage in Minnesota suggests that he doesn’t fill this role. As per extraskater.com, Stoner averaged 13:06 of ice time per 60 minutes, even less than Anaheim’s regular third pair of Bryan Allen (17:18/60 minutes) and Sami Vatanen (17:12/60 minutes).

TOI usage does not always paint a complete picture, but in this case it suggests that Stoner was not trusted enough in Minnesota, and may have even been considered a liability. His possession numbers further confirm this, as he posted a 5-on-5 CF% of 47.5% in sheltered minutes against weak competition.

Like it or not, Clayton Stoner is here to stay, but the question of how he fits into the Ducks’ defensive lineup has yet to be answered.

Though the departures of Stephane Robidas and Luca Sbisa will make things easier, the Ducks currently have 8 healthy NHL defensemen under contract.

Stoner’s ice time will have to come from an already established member of the Ducks defense. The only question is this: Whose ice time will be reduced to make room for Clayton Stoner?

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