By Thomas Harrington
One year ago, the Anaheim Ducks traded defenseman Jesse Blacker and a conditional draft pick to the Florida Panthers for defenseman Colby Robak. The pick is for either 2016 or 2017: the condition was how many games Robak would play in Anaheim, but I have yet to see exactly how many games would trigger which year. This was a stop gap measure for Anaheim, as the recently acquired Eric Brewer had been injured after playing in only two games for the Ducks. Blacker was clearly not in the Ducks’ future plans and Robak was brought in to fill the void on defense with so many players out.
The Ducks had acquired Blacker when they sent Peter Holland to Toronto. Blacker is more of an offensive defenseman, and showed that by scoring 24 points in 50 games for the Norfolk Admirals in his first season with the Ducks’ organization. In his second season, he appeared in 15 games for the Admirals and recorded five assists. When the Ducks’ blueline was decimated by injuries, Blacker was called up and made his NHL debut against the Chicago Blackhawks. His lone NHL game did not go well as he played just over six minutes, had a -2 rating, and was simply overmatched by the high skilled Hawks.
Robak was a selected in the second round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft by Florida. He spent parts of four seasons in Florida, never playing in more than 16 games in any season. He didn’t score any goals for the Panthers and had a total of three assists in his time there. He primarily played in the AHL for the San Antonio Rampage.
When Robak joined the Ducks, he took Mat Clark’s spot in the lineup. While Robak will never be considered a top four defensemen in the NHL, he was definitely an upgrade over Clark and Blacker. Overall, he appeared in five games for the Ducks and played between 13 and 17 minutes per game during his time in Anaheim. He didn’t score any goals but he did record an assist in his final game with the Ducks. Like I said earlier, Robak was never meant to be a part of Anaheim’s future, he was brought in to fill the holes in the Ducks’ lineup because of the absurd amount of injuries the team went through early last season. And that’s exactly what he did. Other than his lone assist, he was rarely involved in the Ducks’ offensive chances, but he did a good job of giving the team safe minutes on the backend. When the Ducks finally got healthy, he was sent to the AHL and joined the Norfolk Admirals for the rest of the season. The Ducks did not give Robak a contract at the end of the season and he signed an AHL deal with the Rochester Americans in September.
Blacker didn’t play any games for Florida after the trade. He remained with their AHL affiliate and played in 40 games for the Rampage and scored 18 points. The Panthers were able to save some money on this deal, and that, along with the draft pick, were probably the main reasons they did the deal. Robak’s AHL salary was $100,000, while Blacker’s was $67,500. Robak also had the higher cap hit in the NHL. At the end of the season the Panthers did not offer him a contract and he signed an AHL deal with the Texas Stars.
Given that both players signed AHL deals for this season, it’s clear that neither team had high hopes for the two players involved in the deal. Robak is the better player, while Blacker was the cheaper one. The Ducks got a player who could give them save minutes in the NHL and Florida was able to save some money and get a future draft pick. This was a small deal that left both sides happy.
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