The Anaheim Ducks re-signed an important member of their defense Saturday.
The team announced it came to terms with 25-year-old restricted free agent defenseman Sami Vatanen on a four-year contract. The deal is reportedly for $19.5 million, which comes to a $4.875 million salary cap hit.
Vatanen was a pending restricted free agent.
Re-signing the swift skating Vatanen at a reasonable price was an important first step for general manager Bob Murray as he tries to refine his team this offseason.
Last season, the 5-foot-10 Vatanen led Ducks' defensemen with 38 points in 71 games played and ranked third on Anaheim, averaging 21:18 of ice-time per-game. Vatanen held a 51.8 5-on-5 score adjusted CF% and was a minus-4.01 CF% Rel according to Naturalstattrick.
But Vatanen did a lot of his damage on the power play. He had 19 power play points last season, which ranked third on the Ducks, and his four power play goals were tied for fourth on the team. Overall he held a 54.05 CF% and plus-3.07 CF% Rel all strengths.
Vatanen’s prior contract was for two years at $2.525 million.
"It’s been my favorite team. We’ve got a good group of guys in here," Vatanen said at the team's breakout day. "I think everybody wants to stay here and play some hockey, and try to win some hockey games. That’s the main thing for me for the contract negotiations that I will stay here."
Murray’s attention will now turn to his other restricted free agents. Forward Rickard Rakell scored 20 goals last season and is coming off his entry-level contract. Hampus Lindholm, who is arguably the team’s best all-around defenseman, is also coming off an entry-level deal.
The biggest question revolves around 25-year-old goaltender Frederik Andersen. He’s coming off a two-year $2.3 million contract that will likely command a large raise.
But the Ducks already have All-Star John Gibson signed in goal for a modest cap hit of $2.3 million per-season over the next three years. Andersen has said he wants to start, and the Ducks have acknowledged that it’s hard for two highly skilled goaltenders such as Gibson and Andersen to share a net.
At the end of the season, Murray noted he was going to have to move some players in order to hit his desired salary structure. According to General Fanager the Ducks have about $57.8 million locked into 33 players for next season.
"To change some things, some people are going to get moved,” Murray said. "You’re going to have to change money around, it what you’re going to do. My budget is my budget. As I’ve said before, I have no problem with that. Our revenues were up a little bit this year, so I get a little bit more. That’s a good thing. I don’t think the [salary] cap is going to move [much], which could be very favorable to us, except we’ve got a bunch of guys to sign. It’s going to take a lot of work and decisions on who to keep and who not to keep."
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