The Anaheim Ducks are 0-3-1 to begin the new NHL season, and their defense is a wreck.
Why is that the case? Well, their No. 1 defenseman, Hampus Lindholm, remains unsigned as a restricted free agent and therefore still training in his native Sweden.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie provided an update on the situation Tuesday, and it doesn’t sound like a swift resolution is coming.
The Ducks have just $365,836 in salary cap space, per CapFriendly. General manager Bob Murray is in a difficult spot, and it looks like his decision to lock up other RFAs like as Sami Vatanen and Rickard Rakell before finishing with Lindholm was a poor one.
Lindholm’s absence is being felt at both ends of the ice. His excellent skating, playmaking and awareness allow him to drive puck possession at a high rate. Unfortunately for the Ducks, very few of their other D-men have that ability. Just two of the Ducks’ seven defensemen are driving possession above 50 percent (as measured by even-strength Corsi percentage).
Anaheim has a 49.33 Corsi percentage as a team, which helps explain its minus-5 goal differential during 5-on-5 play through four games. Lindholm had a 7.75 percent Corsi relative last season, which means the Ducks averaged almost eight percent more shot attempts at even strength than their opponent when he was on the ice compared to when he was on the bench. That enormous difference led the league among defensemen last season.
In addition to his puck possession impact, Lindholm also regularly faces the opponents’ top lines, and his 28 points ranked T-2nd among Ducks defensemen in 2015-16.
The Ducks need to sign Lindholm soon or their chances of making the playoffs in an ultra-competitive Western Conference will diminish. They survived a terrible start last season, but overcoming a challenge like that again without one of their best players will be much, much tougher.
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