By Thomas Harrington
One year ago today, the Anaheim Ducks traded a 2016 second round pick (55th overall) to the Vancouver Canucks for defenseman Kevin Bieksa. Vancouver sent this pick to Pittsburgh as a part of the Nick Bonino deal that brought Brandon Sutter to the Canucks. One year later, this deal hasn’t been great for either team. Bieksa took a while to adjust to Anaheim’s system, and the second round pick was used in a deal that Vancouver appears to have gotten the worst of.
Bieksa was fifth round pick (151st overall) by Vancouver in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. He made his NHL debut in the 2005-2006 season and played for Vancouver for 10 seasons. With the Canucks, he scored 56 goals and 241 points and played in 597 games. He developed a reputation as a difficult player to play against because of his physical nature. He was one of Vancouver’s top defensemen for a decade, but the time had come for Vancouver and Bieksa to part ways.
Bieksa has rarely been a high scoring defenseman, though he has cracked the 40 point mark a few times. With the Ducks, he scored four goals and 15 points while playing in 71 games. It took him a while to get it going offensively, and he didn’t collect his first point until he had an assist against St. Louis in late October. His first goal didn’t come until January against Winnipeg. However, Bieksa wasn’t brought in to score; he was brought in to provide top four minutes and help replace Francois Beauchemin, who had left the team via free agency.
While Bieksa was never able to adequately fill Beauchemin’s shoes, he did get better as the season progressed. He also played a ton of minutes and finished fourth on the team in average ice time behind Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, and Sami Vatanen. Bieksa was also a major part of Anaheim’s league leading penalty kill unit. In terms of shorthanded ice time, he averaged just over two minutes a game and was eighth on the team in shorthanded ice time. He did less on the power play, but his booming shot did get time on the second power play unit, and he scored two goals and six points with the man advantage.
Vancouver had acquired Bonino from Anaheim the year before in the Ryan Kesler deal. The Canucks decided it was time for a chance and picked up Sutter from Pittsburgh. Given that Bonino helped win a Cup with the Penguins, and the fact that Vancouver gave up the second round pick in the deal, means that the Canucks got the short end of the deal in the Pittsburgh trade.
I was fine when the Ducks initially made this deal, but Anaheim gave Bieksa a two-year extension shortly after acquiring him and a no movement clause. The two-year extension is one thing, but the NMC is a problem since it means the Ducks have to automatically protect him during next summer’s expansion draft. If the Ducks lose one of their young defensemen because Bieksa has to be protected, there will be a lot of unhappy fans in Anaheim. If Bob Murray can convince Bieksa to waive his NMC before the expansion draft or buy his contract out, then Anaheim fans will feel a lot better before next June. Bieksa isn’t a bad defenseman, but he’s an overpriced veteran and he should not be the reason Anaheim loses one of its young stars on defense.
As of right now, the Ducks won this trade, primarily because Vancouver traded away the second round pick in a deal that doesn’t look too good for them. However, if Bieksa is the reason Anaheim loses one of Fowler, Vatanen, Lindholm, or Josh Manson next summer, this will end up being a very bad deal for Anaheim in the long run.
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