NHL - US Sports: Klingberg to make the most of Ducks opportunity
John Klingberg was one of the most high-profile players and arguably the best defenceman available in free agency before he opted to join the Anaheim Ducks.
Expected to sign a long-term, big-money deal this off-season, it came as a surprise to many when the Ducks announced the 29-year-old's arrival on a one-year, $7million deal.
The deal, though, may work out for player and team and here's why:
Ducks wish to be competitive
The signing of Kilngberg is unlikely to turn the Ducks into serious contenders for the Pacific Division title or the Stanley Cup.
However, their aim this summer under new GM Pat Verbeek was to become more competitive and Kilngberg's addition is another leap towards that goal.
Kilndberg joins productive forwards Ryan Strome and Frank Vatran in signing for the Ducks and they will enjoy playing alongside and helping to develop a group of exciting youngsters which includes Jamie Drysdale, Mason McTavish, Troy Terry and Trevor Zegras.
Less than ideal off-season
Klingberg's off-season has been a complicated one, with the Swede moving on from the Dallas Stars, who drafted him in 2010 and where he spent eight straight years.
An associate Captain of the Stars, Klingberg was seeking significant term to remain with the team, but they weren't prepared to offer the length of contract requested.
Nor it seems were other NHL teams, at a higher annual wage than the $4.25m which he continually outperformed with the Stars.
The lack of significant interest clearly frustrated the talented blue-liner, who fired long-time agent Peter Wallen, instead turning to Newport Sports Management.
Klingberg has averaged 10 goals and 45 assists for every 82 games played in the NHL, but turning 30 in just a few days, there is concern that that level production will slowly dwindle over the length of a long-term deal.
For Klingberg, his offensive contribution is key to his value, as what he brings going forwards often compensates for several defensive deficiencies which put him in the bottom-two percentile in even-strength defence last season.
A career-worst minus-28 last season would most certainly have put suitors off as well, something he will be determined to put right with the Ducks.
Point to prove
In changing his tactics and accepting a one-year deal with the Ducks, Klingberg is betting on himself to bounce back to his best and gain what he wants next summer.
Anaheim will give the offensive defenceman every opportunity to showcase his value in all situations and he will hope to be able to rack up performances and numbers that make it difficult for General Managers to say no when he hits the market again in a year's time.
The Ducks got off to a flyer last season and looked like they may challenge for a playoff spot, but their form drastically declined in the second half of the year and they finished seventh in the Pacific Division with a 31-37-14 record.
After having the NHL's worst powerplay the season previous (8.9%), Anaheim improved to a 21.9% conversion rate which ranked 14th in the league last season.
With a highly-valued right-shot, 148 of Klinberg's 374 total NHL points (19 goals, 129 assists) have come on the man advantage, and he will help to continue that progression while also offering a level of calm and experience to deliver at the most crucial of times.
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If Klingberg performs to the level he and the Ducks hope, the California-based franchise may well find themselves in playoff contention.
But if not, the defenceman will still remain valuable as an attractive trade-deadline piece for contenders, and opportunity for the Ducks to add a valuable draft asset.
The one-year deal means such a move should be relatively straightforward, especially since the Ducks have room to retain part of his salary too if necessary.
Motivated to succeed
Klingberg has a lot to play for this season and admits to being highly motivated to prove those who overlooked him wrong.
Essentially playing for the much-desired long-term contract, Klingberg has a year to season his worth to both the Ducks and any other potential suitors.
That's good news for Anaheim, who, whether they decide to keep him or sell him for an asset, are in a no-lose situation.