Sunday, July 12, 2009

The 1.5 Million Dollar Man

Anaheim calling to the hockey world...

Three days ago, the Ducks announced the signing of former Panthers defenseman, Nick Boynton. Dan Wood of the OC Register reports the contract as 1 year/1.5M. That salary is a paycut from the 3 year/2.95M per year deal he signed with Phoenix in 2006, a contract that saw him take a trip through the waiver wire, a trip to Florida in the Olli Jokinen trade and a suspension after a run-in with Panthers head coach Peter DeBoer. Before he was traded to Phoenix for Paul Mara, Boynton made 1.75M per year with the Boston Bruins, who drafted him in the First Round in '99.

Daniel, you've been particularly concerned about getting some Top 4 help on the blueline. Are you happy with Boynton? And if not, who in the 1.5M range were you hoping the Ducks could land?

Happy is a relative term. I think Murray established two simple criteria for defensive help: did X-defenseman play 500 games in the league, and will X-defenseman take less than $2 million? Once he got Nick Boynton to take that money, he called off the search. This isn't a great signing, but fortunately it's not a bad one either.

Let's start with the positives. When Boynton was in Boston early in his career, he put up Top 4 numbers for a couple years: 24 and 30 points, and +8 and +17. Sportsnet says he uses his size for a physical game, has a good shot and is defensively responsible. All qualities we need in a d-man right now. He's a former First Rounder who has the potential to get the job done.

But, last year was the first time he was a plus-player in three seasons. I understand that number is less reliable when looking at a guy who was playing for the Coyotes, but I'd like to see a little more out of a Top 4 guy. Also, our top d-men log massive minutes. Carlyle has been playing Niedermayer and Pronger to the tune of almost 25 minutes a game. Last year Boynton only played 16 minutes a game. I need to see if this guy has the legs.

Finally, I don't know who else was really out there. I think Paul Mara might have been a good choice, with his 21 pts, 6'4" frame and $1.675M. I liked Leopold a lot (he only signed for $.25M more in Florida) because he's a little meaner and better at transition offense. I think that would have been a better fit for us. Even re-signing Montador might have been a great option, since we've seen how effective he is in our system. Other than that, I have to admit that Murray did a good job getting what was out there. Unless he could have traded for a Klesla out of Columbus, I don't see what else he could have done.

First, I want to welcome you to the Klesla fan club. He was sidelined with some nagging injuries this season, and his deal is backloaded so that he actually makes 2.2M this year in salary (1.5 cap hit), but I still love the idea of him in a Ducks sweater. And if anyone from the Top 5 of the 2000 Draft class has been had at a steal, it's Klesla.

As far as Boynton, the thing I like most about this deal is its mobility. If one of our blueline prospects has a breakout season, we can move this contract. Boynton's name still has some cachet with GM's around the league, though none of them were willing to claim him from waivers two years ago (not at 2.95M a year). And Murray did the right thing here, talking a guy down from an overpriced contract, instead of trying to lure a 250 game guy into a sweetheart deal.

I don't think Boynton's numbers have been too bad when you consider that he hasn't been shooting the puck since he left Boston. His Corsi number, the +/- metric that measures shots directed on net, was pretty bad in 2007-08 (-4.9/60 minutes and 8th worst amongst PHX defenseman), but that was coming off an offseason where the Coyotes waived him. This season, his -2.9/60 minutes puts him in the middle of the pack on both the Phoenix and Florida rosters. If the Ducks let him shoot a little more, he'll be a tradeable asset come March, if not an asset to the team.

As far as what else was out there, I don't think Murray could have found a 500 games guy at 1 year/1.5M. Leopold really seemed to enjoy Florida (as he turned down multi-year offers), and guys like Montador were looking for multi-year security. This deal was the best way to fill the void, and still give a guy like Mitera room to make the team this season.

BUT if I knew for a fact that none of the Ducks prospects would make the blueline this year, I'd say that Murray should have picked up Andrew Alberts, even at a 2 or 3 year deal. And he should have been in discussions with Greg Zanon on July 1st.

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