Eric Brewer Acquisition: Knee-Jerk Reaction, or Smart Move?


Nov 14, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Eric Brewer (2) defends Anaheim Ducks left wing Patrick Maroon (62) during the third period at Tampa Bay Times Forum. Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Anaheim Ducks 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Friday afternoon was a busy day for the Anaheim Ducks. In addition to facing the Chicago Blackhawks in an early-afternoon matchup, GM Bob Murray traded a 2015 3rd round pick acquired from Edmonton in the Viktor Fasth trade to the Tampa Bay Lightning for veteran defenseman Eric Brewer. (read more: Anaheim Ducks Acquire Eric Brewer From Tampa Bay Lightning)

The decision came down just hours after it was announced that defenseman Francois Beauchemin would miss 4-6 weeks with a broken finger, and that Clayton Stoner was not yet able to return from the mumps illness that has ravaged the team over the last month.

In addition to the absences of Beauchemin and Stoner, defensemen Ben Lovejoy isn’t expected to return for another week or two, and Mark Fistric is still out indefinitely after taking a puck to a face in his first practice back from a lower body injury. Murray had just traded away defenseman Bryan Allen to Montreal in exchange for Rene Bourque just a week prior.

Of the eight defensemen who began the season on the opening day roster, only Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, and Sami Vatanen remain healthy. Rookies Josh Manson, Mat Clark, and Jesse Blacker have been called upon to varying degrees to patch the holes on the back end in the meantime.

It’s abundantly clear why Murray acquired Brewer: The Ducks are perilously thin on the blue line. While Josh Manson has thrived in his brief time as an NHL defenseman, Mat Clark and Jesse Blacker haven’t had nearly as much success in the past few games.

With valuable standings points on the line, the Ducks needed somebody for the short term. For this reason, the trade is understandable.

Eric Brewer is a 35-year old defenseman from Vernon, BC, Canada. A former fifth-overall pick, Brewer is in the midst of his 17th full season in the NHL. He first broke into the league in 1998-99 with the New York Islanders.

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Brewer is a defensive defenseman, but he has shown the ability to put up limited points. In 982 career games, he’s scored 264 points (74g-190a). Last year, Brewer scored 17 points (4g-13a) in 77 games.

Brewer’s possession numbers indicate that he is a relatively average third-pairing defensive defenseman. Last season, his CF% was 50.4% (-0.5% rel), averaging just 14 minutes a night against relatively easy competition. This puts him in the same category of defensemen like Bryan Allen, Clayton Stoner, and Mark Fistric.

This is where things stop making sense. The Ducks just traded away Bryan Allen, a comparable player to the Montreal Canadiens for Rene Bourque, in a move that can be best described as two teams agreeing to take the others’ overpaid veterans. (Read More: Analyzing the Bourque-Allen Trade)

Though Bourque has only played four games in Anaheim, he has not particularly impressed. He has yet to register his first point in a Ducks uniform, and while he has had a few chances, one has to wonder if he is any better of an option than Emerson Etem, who was just reassigned to AHL-Norfolk to make room for Bourque.

With the acquisition of Brewer, any benefit from the Bourque-Allen trade seems to be negated. The Ducks take on another big contract ($3.85 million through this season, but Tampa Bay will retain $1 million in salary) for another defensive defenseman.

One of the key features of the Bourque-Allen trade was that it cleared room for a roster spot for young defensive standout Josh Manson. Once everybody is healthy again, the Ducks will be stuck with nine defensemen once again. This will likely force Manson back to the minors, though he continues to play fantastic hockey.

The Ducks lost, and then regained a defensive defenseman in two separate trades in the past week. Considering this, it can be said that the sum of the two trades is that the Ducks just traded a third round pick—which, from the way Edmonton is playing right now, is looking to be an early third round, if not the first pick in the third round—for . . . Rene Bourque. That is a head scratcher, to say the least.

Eric Brewer may be a better option than Bryan Allen—for the high price tag, we had better hope that he is. But his acquisition complicates things beyond the two or three weeks maximum in which he is needed to plug a hole on the Ducks’ blue line.