While the Anaheim Ducks escaped the Expansion Draft with a relatively unscathed blue line, considering they could have lost a top-four defenseman in either Sami Vatanen or Josh Manson, the fact remains that they lost depth to the Vegas Golden Knights in young Shea Theodore and veteran Clayton Stoner. They also bought out the contract of Simon Despres recently as well. While Vatanen, Manson, Hampus Lindholm, Cam Fowler, Brandon Montour, Kevin Bieksa, and prospect Jacob Larsson still represent one of the strongest and deepest defensive groups in the NHL, it never hurts to have back-up.
As such, the Ducks today re-signed serviceable defenseman Korbinian Holzer to a two-year, $1.8MM deal. TVA’s Renaud Lavoie reported the extension that, while sensible, is somewhat of a surprise. Rumors earlier this off-season indicated that teams in the DEL, the highest level of hockey in Holzer’s home country of Germany, were trying to woo the blue liner back across the Atlantic. It was never an overly-convincing rumor, as the DEL is not one of the better pro leagues in Europe and counts over-aged NHL castoffs Steven Reinprecht and Keith Aucoin as two of it’s better players. However, given the 28-year-old Holzer’s limited usage in the NHL, having never played more than 34 games in his four NHL seasons, it seemed possible that Holzer had resigned to the possibility that he could simply return to Germany and be a star instead of watching games from the press box for much of each season in the NHL.
However, Holzer has seemingly decided to push on with his NHL aspirations. The Ducks see value in the stay-at-home defender and he appears to be comfortable with his role on the team going forward. Holzer had a career-high seven points in 2016-17 and registered more than two hits per game in a shutdown role when called upon. It seems unlikely that Holzer’s game will change much in Anaheim – he’s no longer the up-and-coming defenseman he was in Toronto – but at $900K per year, the Ducks can enjoy a player that is able to step in and play a competent defensive game when called upon without needing to play much to stay fresh. When injury strikes, Holzer has been a dependable spot starter and Anaheim hopes he will remain so for the next two years. Holzer may not bring much offense or puck movement, but mistake-free defensive hockey still counts for something in the NHL.