If there’s one thing all hockey teams are big on, it’s depth moves that can bolster a blue line in times of injury or help spark third- and fourth-line forwards into generating offense.
GM Bob Murray has, time and again, proven this is no exception when it comes to his Anaheim Ducks. The acquisition of Korbinian Holzer at the 2015 trade deadline and the signing of Mike Santorelli over the summer were both moves clearly meant to shore up the team against the inevitable wear and tear of the season, and both, for the most part, did their job admirably when called upon.
The question is not so much about the choice between re-signing Holzer and re-signing Santorelli as it is about where each should land in the organization.
The question is not so much about the choice in our fictional “Be a GM” mode between re-signing Holzer and re-signing Santorelli—we should keep both—as it is about where each should land in the organization (i.e. with the Ducks, or with their AHL affiliate, the San Diego Gulls). Ultimately, in a sport that’s difficult on the body, having depth is never a bad thing, and both Holzer and Santorelli provide the Ducks with options should the need arise (hats off to you, Mr. Murray).
Holzer arrived from the Toronto Maple Leafs during 2015’s busy trade deadline in exchange for defenseman Eric Brewer and a fifth-round draft pick in 2016. He wouldn’t play his first game for the Ducks until October 18th’s match-up vs. the Minnesota Wild, having suffered a concussion in his final outing with the Leafs. Of his debut, Bruce Boudreau told the OC Register, “He was fine…in the third period, I thought he showed his true worth, hitting with his stick, clearing guys out. He’s a big, strong man. We can always use that.”
However, trying to crack a (very) deep Ducks’ defense-corps meant that Holzer was often the odd man out. He played only 29 games on the season, finishing with 3 assists, 10 PIMs, and a -3 rating overall.
Defensively, the Ducks are not likely to get thinner anytime soon (even with the inevitable shake-up between RFAs Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm). Several prominent prospects are coming up the pipeline, either gearing up for, or already used to, NHL play. These include Shea Theodore (who played 19 games, scored 3 goals, had 5 assists, and a +/- of +7) and Brandon Montour (who was named an AHL All-Star and helped the SD Gulls make the playoffs), as well as new signings Jacob Larsson (drafted 27th overall in 2015 and signed to a deal in May) and Andy Welinski (who signed his ELC with the Ducks at the beginning of April).
Holzer is a mostly-solid defenseman when called upon, especially given the length of his periods of inactivity, but his being on the Ducks takes a roster spot from perhaps more talented rookies—those Shea Hey Kids who play very solid positional defense and can generate offense. Of course, this isn’t to suggest that Holzer is incapable of producing such offense—he did, after all, have the game-winning goal during the IIHF Worlds match-up between Germany and the US—just that he is not as consistent in this production as others.
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Pros: Solid, respectable back-up, $$$
Cons: Not as strong as certain prospects
Mike Santorelli is a perpetual team-hopper, having played 406 regular-season contests between Florida, Toronto, Vancouver, Nashville, Winnipeg, and Anaheim. He played 70 of those games with the Ducks, scoring 9 goals, having 9 assists, and finishing with a -4 rating. While he did not reach the 20-goal plateau he discovered in Florida during the 2010-11 campaign, he had his fourth highest amount of goals scored and his highest shooting percentage while in Anaheim (at 11.1). He also proved adept in the face-off circle, winning 47% of his contests.
Santorelli became one of the Swiss Army Knives of the Ducks, called upon by Boudreau to play both center and wing. He proved a solid bottom six addition to the Anaheim offense—a bottom six that was arguably much less difficult to crack than the defenders Holzer was faced with (which says more about the Ducks’ offense than it does anything else).
Pros: Can play center or wing, experience, $$$
Cons: No star power
Money is a non-issue in this “battle”—Santorelli was getting paid $875,000 on the season, and Holzer $750,000, both decent amounts for depth signings. In the end, Mike Santorelli is perhaps more valuable if only for his versatility and offensive output.
Sign: Both—but keep Santorelli with the Ducks, and sign Holzer to a contract with the Gulls.
Before wrapping up our discussion of the Anaheim Ducks UFA questions, we should mention Anton Khudobin, who came over from the Carolina Hurricanes in a trade for defenseman James Wisniewski prior to the start of the season.
The plan at the beginning of the 2015-16 campaign is well documented by this point: John Gibson starting in San Diego, Dobby backing Frederik Andersen up at the big club. But, as with much of the season, this plan had to be mended on the fly after Freddie got the flu and Gibby made the trip up the 5 freeway—becoming a wall (literally) in net.
Dobby would no doubt have been a capable back-up had the plan worked, but in the 9 games he played with the Ducks he posted a .909 save percentage, which—on a team struggling to generate anything offensively—was a death-knell. It was somewhat surprising that he managed to clear waivers on Freddie’s return, but clear waivers he did, playing 31 games with the Gulls and putting up a .921 save percentage. He was hurt for the duration of the Reign-Gulls match-up in the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs, after suffering an upper-body injury vs. the Texas Stars on April 29th—otherwise, one feels the Gulls’ inaugural season might have turned out differently.
Oh, Dobby, this writer would keep you in her “Be a GM” mode. Given time (and given the resolution of Anaheim’s net-minding problem), Khudobin would have proved a decent back-up, and an excellent asset to have in San Diego. It would appear, however, that Khudobin is set on moving overseas to the KHL—which, on the bright side, will free up more money.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know who you think should get the nod in this UFA Battle Royale.
*All money statistics provided by General Fanager: all NHL stats provided by NHL.com.