The big, mobile defenseman came over to California in a trade from Pittsburgh that Pens GM Jim Rutherford almost immediately regretted. Now the Ducks have ensured they won’t lose Despres themselves.
When Pittsburgh GM Jim Rutherford traded Simon Despres to Anaheim for Ben Lovejoy, he had his reasons. But his gambit quickly failed as the young defenseman thrived with the Ducks and Rutherford even admitted shortly thereafter that he wouldn’t have made the trade with the benefit of hindsight.
Now, the Ducks have signed Despres to a five-year contract extension with an average value of $3.7 million per season. Anaheim, pardon the pun, is lining all its Ducks up in a row.
Despres has many of the elements you want in a young defenseman: he’s big, mobile and plays a two-way game. There had been worries in Pittsburgh that he was not suited for high-pressure situations and that’s where Rutherford misread the youngster. Despres put up seven points in 16 playoff games for Anaheim, logging nearly 21 minutes of ice time as the Ducks went all the way to the Western Conference final.
He’s probably never going to be a No. 1 blueliner, but in Anaheim he doesn’t have to be; Despres is part of an excellent young collective that also includes Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen.
Despres’ deal also sets an interesting bar for Lindholm and Vatanen, both of whom are restricted free agents this summer. Fowler and veteran Kevin Bieksa will be the highest-paid Ducks defenders next season, both earning $4 million per season.
More importantly for fans, locking up Despres provides a matter of stability and one less distraction this season for a franchise chasing its second Stanley Cup title.