It’s no secret that the Anaheim Ducks depth on the right side of defense has been depleted since the departure of Brandon Montour. As it stands, the drop off from Josh Manson to Korbinian Holzer is significant. Jani Hakanpaa presents an interesting option after signing a one-year contractfrom the Finnish Elite League (Liiga), but there is no guarantee he’ll jump right into the Ducks roster. Justin Faulk would immediately slot into the top-four and with Jake Gardiner signing with the Carolina Hurricanes it’s a deal that has the potential to work for both teams.
Justin Faulk On His Way to Anaheim?
With the Hurricanes signing Jake Gardiner there is uncertainty about the future of Justin Faulk, especially when Carolina already has Dougie Hamilton, Brett Pesce, Jaccob Slavin and Trevor van Riemsdyk under contract. Elliotte Friedman is reporting that there have been ongoing discussions between the Hurricanes and Ducks about a trade for Faulk.
He has a modified no trade clause in his contract where he would submit a 15-team trade list that he’d be willing to be move to. Meaning he would have to approve any possible trade to Anaheim. Friedman also reported that the Ducks are pursuing an extension with Faulk. His current deal expires at the end of the season with an average annual value (AAV) of $4.83 million. The Ducks are approximately $8.5 million under the salary cap, so there is enough space to get the deal done.
It’s no surprise the Ducks are in the hunt for a right-shot defenseman. The Athletic‘s Eric Stephens reported back in August that the Ducks had offered unrestricted free agent Kevin Shattenkirk a two-year deal with an AAV north of $2 million. (from ‘Why did the Ducks make a play for Kevin Shattenkirk and would he have made sense in Anaheim?, The Athletic, 08/05/2019) Shattenkirk eventually settled on a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Faulk represents the younger option at 27, compared to Shattenkirk at 30.
Faulk Provides an Immediate Upgrade
After Josh Manson, the Ducks are lacking in depth on the right side of defense. Faulk steps in and immediately challenges Manson for the team’s best right shot defenseman and provides some stability to the top four.
Faulk’s biggest impact could come in an area that the club is in desperate need of an upgrade, the power play. He’s been outstanding for the Hurricanes on the man advantage. His six power play goals last season were five more than the Hampus Lindholm and Cam Fowler, who both had one each.
At 5v5 with Faulk on the ice, the Hurricanes control 53.77% of the shot attempts and control 51.72% of the scoring chances. They also have an expected goals percentage of 53.42%.
Faulk’s contribution extends beyond the power play where he is one of the best defensemen in the league when it comes to shot contributions. He is ranked 16th in total shot contributions per 60 and seventh in shots/60. The highest ranked Duck was Brandon Montour at 78th and 115th, respectively.
Clearly it’s an area the Ducks could use an upgrade in. They really haven’t had a high volume shooter since Sami Vatanen and even he wasn’t in the same tier as Faulk. Over the last five seasons he has 10-plus goals in all but one. Over that span only six defensemen have more goals than Faulk (67): Brent Burns (101), Oliver Ekman-Larsson (84), Mark Giordano (74), Shea Weber (72), Dougie Hamilton (70), and Roman Josi (70). He’s certainly keeping some elite company.
It’s safe to say Faulk would present an immediate upgrade to the Ducks blue line, but at what cost?
Ondrej Kase Heading the Other Way
No deal has been made official yet, but it seems if Justin Faulk is traded to Anaheim than Ondrej Kase will be part of the package heading to the Hurricanes.
Kase has been primed as a breakout star for the Ducks since his 20-goal campaign in 2017-18. He was on pace to surpass that mark in 2018-19, but his season was cut short to 30 games due to injuries. He still managed to score 11 goals during that span. The young player was due to be an x-factor for the Ducks in 2019-20.
With the loss of Corey Perry the Ducks could use a pure shooter and they don’t come much better than Kase. He generated the second most shots per 60 in the league last season, only Brendan Gallagher had more. Not only that, he also ranks in the 99th percentile in zone exits and entries over the last three seasons.
Kase is arguably the Ducks best offensive weapon and could be threat for 30 goals this season.. if healthy.
And that’s the key – if he can stay healthy.
He’s still young, at only 23, but he’s already dealt with multiple concussions in his career and suffered a shoulder injury that ended his season last year. It’s possible the organization is concerned about his long-term health and that may be one of the reasons they are willing to part ways.
Although when you can do things like this it makes the decision that much harder.
Kase for Faulk Actually Makes Sense
Just don’t tell that to the majority of the fan base. Kase is adored in Anaheim and for good reason. He tends to make good things happen when he’s on the ice and how can you not root for a guy who was a former seventh round pick.
In any case, if this trade does go through it’s sure to be met with some animosity from the home supporters. Although, maybe it isn’t all that bad.
The Ducks have a plethora of young wingers who are on the verge of making it to the NHL. Troy Terry, Max Jones, and Daniel Sprong all spent significant time in the NHL last season and are vying for one of the few roster spots available. Unless Bob Murray’s plan has changed that could only be three or four spots. Maxime Comtois started the season in Anaheim before being sent back to the QMJHL. Kiefer Sherwood bounced between the NHL and AHL last season and was one of the Ducks best forwards at the 2019 Rookie Faceoff. Any one of those five could make the roster this year, which makes it a little easier to move a player like Kase.
Bob Murray – Anaheim Ducks General Manager
“I’m not going to put six, seven kids in our lineup right off the bat. You’re setting them up for failure, and we have to set them up for success. We have to give them an opportunity to have some success. So they’re fighting for three or four jobs, and they’ve been told that”
Not to mention, the Ducks still have some fringe players like Derek Grant, Carter Rowney, and Nicolas Deslauriers who will likely fill out the bottom six.
The addition of Faulk drastically changes the outlook of the Ducks blue line. Head coach Dallas Eakins has plenty of options, but a combination of these six players is certainly more exciting than what they would have without him.
Whether this trade happens seems to be up to Faulk. He’ll have to approve any potential deal to Anaheim. Either way, this could be one big step towards the Ducks making the playoffs sooner rather than later.