How Do The Anaheim Ducks Fix Their Shortage of Right Handed Defensemen?

OTTAWA, ON - FEBRUARY 07: Anaheim Ducks Defenceman Josh Manson (42) prepares for a face-off during second period National Hockey League action between the Anaheim Ducks and Ottawa Senators on February 7, 2019, at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, ON, Canada. (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
OTTAWA, ON - FEBRUARY 07: Anaheim Ducks Defenceman Josh Manson (42) prepares for a face-off during second period National Hockey League action between the Anaheim Ducks and Ottawa Senators on February 7, 2019, at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, ON, Canada. (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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Anaheim Ducks
ANAHEIM, CA – JANUARY 23: Anthony DeAngelo #77 of the New York Rangers battles for the puck against Antoine Vermette #50 of the Anaheim Ducks during the game on January 23, 2018 at Honda Center in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Anaheim Ducks are a Playoff Team

Suppose that the first thought is the correct one, and the Ducks are a playoff team poised to make some noise on the back of John Gibson’s exemplary play in net. In this instance, it should be noted that the Anaheim Ducks currently only have three bona fide top 4 defencemen. Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson, make one right-left pairing. Leaving the left-shooting Cam Fowler without a ready-made partner. Certainly, he will be trialed with a number of youths, and while Brendan Guhle performed well in a short sample last season, it is always best to have surety and consistency when embarking upon a playoff run.

Like many players, Fowler has a number of strengths and weaknesses to his game. He is a wonderful skater, with and without the puck. He has a great pass. It’s with these skills in and around the neutral zone play which should win him applause. Fowler won’t be the player most likely to break up a defensive play and provide the outlet pass, however, he is excellent in a role allowing him to receive the puck and skate out of the defensive zone and into the neutral zone.

Nor will he be the player hammering home one-timers from the point, once the offensive zone has been breached. His smoothing skating allows him to create separation from the opposing team, and with time and space, he is then able to distribute the puck safely and effectively to a skating forward. Fowler does all of this on his natural wing so that he is facing into center ice.

With these factors in mind, it bears consideration that a key factor of building lines is to accentuate the strengths and mitigate the weaknesses of your players. In Fowler’s case, the Ducks don’t necessarily need another skating-passing defenceman (although those skills should always be in vogue.) They do, however, require a player who is strong at breaking up passing lanes and getting into traffic to disrupt the opposition’s offense. When they do reach the offensive zone, they could certainly use a penetrating shot, either by accuracy or speed and weight.

As mentioned above, Murray has already begun to explore the trade market, however, Faulk is not the only target that the Anaheim Ducks could pursue. Teams such as the St Louis Blues or the Buffalo Sabres currently have an excess of either right-shooting defencemen or defencemen in general. For instance, the Blues are currently looking at eight NHL ready defensemen, and while only three are right shots, Murray may be able to pry the 30-year old Robert Bortuzzo away from them for a reasonable price.

Bortuzzo, wouldn’t necessarily set the world on fire, but he would provide a sound and measured player that could fit on the third pairing and play on the second pairing in a pinch. It may be that his measured style would accentuate Fowler’s dynamic skating and pass rather than adding a wrinkle to the pairing. With two years left on his deal after this season, Murray wouldn’t need to worry about negotiating an extension, nor would he be required to trade salary to fit the player in going forward.

The Sabres, after acquiring Colin Miller, Henri Jokiharju, and Anaheim’s own Brandon Montour, seemingly have a glut of right-shooting defencemen and up to nine NHL defensemen on the roster. There are rumors that Rasmus Ristolainen is on the outward bound train in Buffalo, and could potentially be an acquisition target for Murray. Statistically orientated fans may cringe at the thought, however, it worth mentioning that the big Finn is only 24 years of age, meaning that even according to aging curve data he is likely to improve for a year or two yet before hitting his peak.

A simplified role may be what is required to change the perception around him and propel his game forward to what it was once predicted to be. On a pairing with Fowler, Ristolainen wouldn’t be required to rush the puck, but merely play the foil and use his long reach to disrupt lanes. Naturally, an ability to pass the puck is a boon, and Ristolainen can do that, it just wouldn’t be his primary role. It is also worth noting that the Anaheim Ducks are seemingly getting smaller and smaller over time, and that reach and length can still be an asset.

One trade option that may fit into both the playoff picture and the rebuild idea, would be the recently extended Tony DeAngelo. The Ducks potentially missed the boat by not sending him an offer sheet, as the Rangers would likely not have been able to match it and it would have only cost the Ducks a couple of mid-draft, draft picks (assuming the offer sheet was ~2 million dollars.) This would have been a young and talented acquisition for a very affordable price.

However, with those days gone, it is worth discussing his acquisition in a trade. The Rangers don’t really need DeAngelo as much as they did this year after acquiring Jacob Trouba and Adam Fox in the offseason, but they are short on cap space. It would seem a 2nd round pick and a prospect unlikely to play, would be enough to get the deal over the line.

The Senators may be another team the Ducks could leverage a defenceman away from. Certainly, the Senators only have seven defensive players signed, however, they are also not truly expected to matter towards the playoff picture overly much this coming season. If the Ducks aren’t necessarily willing to give their own prospects, such as the left-shooting Jacob Larsson NHL playing time, then a trade centered around him could be beneficial to both teams.

While it would likely require the Senators parting with one of their many draft picks, a Larsson for Ron Hainsey swap could potentially be something Bob Murray could pursue. While no longer a particularly effective hockey player, Hainsey oozes leadership and with Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler no longer with the team, perhaps a veteran voice is what is needed for a season.

Nonetheless, while right-shooting defencemen are somewhat harder to acquire than their left-shooting counterparts, there is a number out on the market for the Anaheim Ducks to inquire about. Should they truly believe that they are a playoff team, and should they decide that one of the Conferences heavyweights (Winnipeg Jets) rapidly falling from grace presents an opportunity to advance through the playoff picture, then leveraging one of their unused prospects for a veteran presence seems like a good idea.

The Ducks definitely have a lack of right-shooting defencemen and a lack of top 4 defencemen in general. Acquiring one would certainly provide some relief for new coach Dallas Eakins, and allow a solid platform to launch the offense from while reducing the workload star netminder John Gibson will certainly be tasked with handling.