The market for John Klingberg this offseason never did materialize as he had hoped, so he will try again next summer after signing a one-year, $7MM contract with the Anaheim Ducks. GM Pat Verbeek released the following statement about the signing:
We are extremely excited to add John to our group. John is a gifted player who can quarterback a power play and give us needed scoring from the blueline. He also adds veteran leadership and character to our team.
It didn’t take long for Klingberg’s new agency to get a deal worked out, after he switched to Newport Sports Management earlier this week. The 29-year-old defenseman had been looking for a seven-year deal on the open market but after two weeks of waiting, he’ll have to settle for a one-year, high-money contract to set himself up for next season.
There’s little doubt that Klingberg can be a difference-making offensive weapon but with a history of inconsistent defensive play and a tough season results-wise (he finished a -28, the worst of his career), there may have been hesitation from teams willing to hand out long-term deals. Players like Ben Chiarot and Erik Gudbranson, two heavy, physical defensemen, were able to secure multi-year contracts at a hefty price but the offensive-minded Klingberg will have to settle for the one-year deal and try to prove he can still be a top-pairing option.
Heading to Anaheim is an interesting choice, given what the team already has in place. Kevin Shattenkirk and Jamie Drysdale are already good puck-moving options on the right side, and Cam Fowler was the team’s leader on the powerplay in 2021-22. While Shattenkirk has just one year remaining on his deal and Drysdale is still just 20 years old, one has to wonder how the team will fit Klingberg into the mix, at least in terms of deployment.
In terms of potential upside? The Ducks are certainly that, with plenty of young talent buzzing all over the ice and a need for some veteran playmakers to add to the mix. The team already brought in Ryan Strome and Frank Vatrano in free agency, showing that they’re ready to start competing again after adding some top prospects to the mix.
Most notably for Anaheim, perhaps, is that Klingberg could potentially be a top trade chip at the deadline, should the team not be quite ready to make the playoffs this season. Adding that kind of chip–a trade with retained salary would likely net at least a first-round pick–for nothing but a little offseason cap space is a savvy move from Verbeek. It’s worth noting that the deal only contains a no-trade clause until January 1st, PuckPedia reports. After that, it turns into a 10-team no-trade clause. The team wasn’t in any danger of putting themselves in a tricky cap situation, as before signing Klingberg they had nearly $26MM in space. It makes perfect sense for the team to spend some of it to add an asset to the organization, even if it will be for only a few months.
There is also the chance that Klingberg could sign an extension in Anaheim, though that would have to wait until January 2023 now.
Overall, this seems like a player who is trying to make the best out of a disappointing free agent result, and a team capitalizing on having cap space in a market that is so tight.
ESPN’s Kevin Weekes was the first to report the deal.
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