The Anaheim Ducks wasted no time in reshaping their organization early on in the first round of the NHL Draft on Friday, trading top-pairing defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky to the New York Islanders for a second-round pick in 2013 and selecting late-rising defenseman Hampus Lindholm with the sixth overall selection at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
In an ominous backdrop to the somewhat surprising moves, dynamic young forward Bobby Ryan revealed in a conversation with Randy Miller of the Camden, N.J. Courier-Post that he has tired of hearing his name in constant trade talks and has advocated a trade out of Anaheim, preferably to his hometown Philadelphia Flyers. The Cherry Hill, N.J. native has scored at least 31 goals in each of his four NHL seasons.
“I take things personally,” Ryan said to Miller. “Anaheim to me has been a team over the past year that really has shown me nothing to prove that they want me here, unfortunately. Obviously, it’s not the ideal situation. When you get drafted, you want to win championships with that team and every time they look to add a piece to the puzzle, I’m the piece going the other way.
“I gotta be honest with you. At this point, I don’t care. Move me…because it’s just tough going to the rink every day knowing that if something goes wrong, you’re going to be the guy moved.”
As for Visnovsky, a move appeared to be a strong possibility considering he’ll become an unrestricted free agent in 2013 while carrying a $5.6-million cap hit this season. The 35-year old, who has recorded 450 points in 771 career NHL games, spent two-plus seasons in Anaheim after being acquired for Ryan Whitney and a sixth round draft pick in March, 2010. He will earn $3 million in 2012-13.
Still, this leaves the Ducks shorthanded defensively, especially considering the Orange County Register’s report last week that the team is still a ways off in an extension with unrestricted free agent Sheldon Brookbank, who appealed to his teammates in a rugged defensive role and set career highs with three goals and 14 points. According to Eric Stephens, there is a “significant difference” between what Anaheim wants to pay Brookbank, and what he is asking.
Francois Beauchemin earned a well-deserved contract extension and will appear in Orange County for the next three seasons, as will versatile blueliner Luca Sbisa, who took a major step forward in his contributions and maturity in 2011-12. But considering the off-year weathered by Toni Lydman and the consistent growing pains experienced by a mistake-prone Cam Fowler, serious reinforcements need to be added to Anaheim’s blueline via trades and free agency if Jonas Hiller expects to see less rubber in 2012-13.
As for Lindholm, the 6-foot-3, 195-pound defenseman took a major step forward for the under-18, under-20 and senior teams for Rogle BK, helping the big club achieve a promotion to the Swedish Elitserien for the first time since the 2009-10 season. In 10 playoff games for the senior Rogle club, the 18-year old recorded five points and a plus-five rating.
“All throughout the season he kept improving and towards the end when they were trying to qualify for the elite league he was – the way I see it and the way we see it – I think pretty much every game I saw he was the best defenseman on the ice, even playing with the older guys and against more experienced players that have played many years in the NHL and in the top league in Sweden,” Ducks scout Jan-Ake Danielson said.
“He plays like a much older guy than the 18 year old that he is,” Danielson continued. “He’s 6-foot-3, he’s almost 200 pounds already, and I think what he needs to do to be able to play and play 80 games is get stronger. Otherwise, he just needs to play games and mature and he’ll come along. Next year at this time, I think he’s pretty close.”
Lindholm, the fourth-ranked European skater by NHL Central Scouting, was chosen ahead of the top-three ranked European skaters and a handful of intriguing Western Hockey League-based defensemen, including Mathew Dumba, who went seventh overall to Minnesota, and Derrick Pouliot, who went eighth to Pittsburgh.
“I don’t think so much about it,” Lindholm said of the pressure associated with being selected sixth overall. “They picked me because they think I am a good player, and I’ll just keep playing. I don’t think so much of pressure. Of course I have some pressure on me, but my pressure on myself is much bigger than the pressure on the outside.”
Lindholm is still under contract for another season with Rogle, and considering their ascension to the SEL, it would be unlikely that the Ducks would try to pull strings to facilitate a move a year early to a CHL team in an effort to get him acclimated to the North American game.
“I think that’s pretty much up to our general manager Bob Murray to decide,” Danielson said.
While reports surfaced last week of Teemu Selanne’s likely return to Anaheim for his 42-year old season, such reports were likely speculative and perhaps based on the team’s efforts to bolster their depth and skill in attempting to return to the playoffs after an early off-season in 2012.
Taking into account Ryan’s quotes, and the many question marks defensively heading into the season after having traded a plus-seven defenseman on a losing team who logged over 20 minutes of ice time per game for a future draft pick, today’s events would not fall in the category of being conducive towards a Selanne swan song in Orange County.
“I’m disappointed at this time at [Ryan’s] comments,” Murray said via a conference call. “I’ll talk to Bobby personally before we get back from the draft and clear the air a little bit.”
Considering the number of times Murray and Ryan have had opportunities to “clear the air” during a season in which star forward’s name was often brandished in trade discussions, don’t expect much of a budge from Ryan.
And speaking of the air around Honda Center, there certainly appear to be winds of change swirling through the Ducks lineup.