Do the Anaheim Ducks Need to Trade for a Defenseman?


Jan 27, 2015; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Anaheim Ducks goaltender Frederik Andersen (31) and defenseman Francois Beauchemin (23) defend against Vancouver Canucks forward Zack Kassian (9) during the third period at Rogers Arena. The Anaheim Ducks won 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

The trade deadline for the 2014-2015 NHL season is coming up on March 2.  As is expected, many trade rumors are circulating the news cycles and the Ducks are firmly in the mix.  Rumor has it that Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray is looking to add a top defenseman to his team, and many are speculating that the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Cody Franson is the player he has his eye on.

Franson would be a decent pick-up for the Ducks given that he is a big bodied defenseman (6’5″ 213lb), A right handed shot, and is having a career year points-wise (6-23=29 in 47 games), but is it necessary to trade for Franson?  Is it necessary to trade for any defenseman?  Just the other night, the Ducks defense kept the Vancouver Canucks to seventeen shots in a shutout victory.  What is the gap Murray is trying to fill with a deadline trade?

The primary thing on Murray’s mind is the playoffs.  Since the beginning of the season Murray has said he feels the team is close, but not quite there yet in terms of a deep playoff run.  He’s even specified the fact that in their 2007 championship run they had two top defensemen (Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger) and is constantly on the lookout for which defensemen could fill that role this season.  It’s very unlikely that Fanson is this year’s Chris Pronger, but it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility.

Namely, what Pronger brought to that 2007 team was a big shutdown defenseman, something decidedly lacking in this year’s Ducks team.  The Ducks have a lot of talented defensemen, but there’s no Shea Weber.  No Duncan Kieth.  No defenseman whose primary goal it is to neutralize the opponent’s top line.  That’s the guy Murray is looking for in this year’s deadline, and what he feels is missing in Anaheim’s lineup.  A big shutdown defenseman.

Shutdown defensemen don’t grow on trees.  Typically they’re drafted and brought up through the system.  Shea Weber, Duncan Kieth, Drew Doughty, all these are franchise defensemen who were drafted by the teams they play for today.  Their dominance defensively comes from their upbringing and their development through the system.

Dec 5, 2014; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Anaheim Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen (45) against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. The Ducks defeated the Wild 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Ducks have a few young guys that have developed well, but aren’t shutdown defensemen yet.  Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, all good defensemen, but not quite at the level of Weber or Kieth.  Murray feels as if this is the year for the Ducks to win the Stanley Cup and isn’t going to wait for these players to be ready.

This then begs the question of what is Murray willing to give up in order to get the defenseman he wants.  Would he give up the teams first round pick in this year’s draft?  For a team that likes to build from the inside, that first round pick is a major piece to give up.  In the past the Ducks have gotten the likes of Lindholm, Fowler, and Rickard Rakell in the first round (not to mention Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry).  Would the return be worth giving up a first round pick?

Would Murray trade Vatanen or Lindholm to get someone like Franson?  That’d certainly be the kind of player teams are looking at in order to trade major assets.  Trading someone like that might mess with the chemistry the Ducks defense has spent so long to establish, and that chemistry has been paying off in dividends as of late.  As I mentioned above, the Ducks were able to shutout the Canucks and keep their shots to only seventeen.  Against a team with the likes of the Sedin twins, Radim Virbata, Nick Bonino, that’s quite an accomplishment.

At the trade deadline, all teams, especially playoff contenders, are looking for that one piece that will get them a deep playoff run.  Often times it can be helpful, as it was with Marion Gaborik going to the Kings last season.  Often times that missing piece may sound good on paper, but doesn’t work out in the end (Ryan Miller to the Blues).  Bob Murray and his scouts need to be careful if a trade is to be made that the piece they get truly is the piece they need and doesn’t just look good on paper.

Bob Murray isn’t wrong in noting that the Ducks are missing something (that was made evident in the Ducks efforts in San Jose last night), but that something isn’t the kind of player that comes around too often, nor will they be easy to acquire.  Unless the Ducks are getting back a Shea Weber, or Ryan Suter, or Duncan Kieth, what Murray gives up likely will not be worth what he gets back.