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Free Agent Defensemen & the Devils: Francois Beauchemin

I continue taking looks at the unrestricted free agent defensemen available this summer with Francois Beauchemin.   Yes, Scott Niedermeyer isn't the only Duck of Anaheim that the Devils could offer a deal to play on defense.  And it's a pretty big omission, as Beauchemin played an important role on Anaheim's blueline.   Yeah, I suppose it's daft I did one of these for Christian Backman before Beauchemin.  So let's correct that this evening.

Francois Beauchemin

#23 / Defenseman / Anaheim Ducks



Jun 04, 1980

2008-09 Salary: $1.65 million

2008 - Francois Beauchemin 20 4 1 5 -3 12 0 0 2 0 45 8.9

The first thing I want to point out is that while he did only play 20 games this past season, he was definitely not a marginal player.  He averaged a massive 24:54 per game last season.   That's even more than Paul Martin's average of 24:22.  Also remember that Anaheim's blueline features two #1 defensemen: Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger.  Even with those two on the roster, Beauchemin was given a lot of work against quality opposition.   According to Behind the Net's even strength numbers, Beauchemin's quality of opposition was 0.05, the highest on the team tied with Niedermayer; and Beauchemin worked with a lower quality of teammates in the process.

Unfortunately, Beauchemin's season was drastically cut short in November when he tore an ACL in his left knee in a game against Nashville.  On it's own, that would be a definite cause for concern.  After all, the initial reaction was that he was out for the season, Mirtle's post on the event is a good example. However, I don't think it should be a big concern. Beauchemin was able to return for the Ducks' last two games of the season, and he played an average of 21:24 per game in the playoffs.  You don't get those kind of minutes in the playoffs unless you're deserving of them - I wouldn't worry that he lost his step.  It warrants a little investigation to make sure everything is OK, but it's not something that I feel should reject Beauchemin right away.

Based on this past season alone, it's easy to think Beauchemin as solely as a defensive defenseman.  However, his career numbers says otherwise. Prior to this past season, Beauchemin put up at least 20 points and 120 shots on net in his last three full seasons.  He has some more offensive capability than what this season would suggest based on his previous production. So that's a plus for him - perhaps a full season after the ACL

Another positive for Beauchemin is his physical style of play.  OK, 6'0" and 213 lbs. isn't huge but he definitely uses his strength and body for full effect. Even in the 20 games he played, he threw 26 hits and 25 blocked shots.  In the 2007-08 season, where Beauchemin did play 82 games, he led the team with 97 hits and 76 blocked shots.  I don't think his injury has changed this style; in the playoffs, he had 31 hits and 22 blocked shots in 13 games. 

The flaws at his player page do cause some concern with respect to his overall game.  I'm not bothered by size at all; and with respect to decision making and one-on-one play, I feel those are issues that are lessened by experience.  Beauchemin has only played 246 games across four full seasons (he had one brief call up in Monteal in 2003) and with more games, he'll get better at it.  Kind of like how Colin White's decision making has improved over the years.

That said, Behind the Net's even strength numbers on Beauchemin aren't inspiring.  Again, he faced quality competition with less-than-quality teammates. Yet, when Beauchemin stepped on the ice, both the goals for and goals against per 60 minutes jumped: 2.66 to 2.85 in terms of goals for (good) and 2.00 to 3.03 for goals against (awful!).   The shots must have been killer as when Beauchemin is out there, the shots against per 60 minutes don't really shoot up from when he isn't on the ice: 28.5 to 28.9.  Lastly, Anaheim tends to be shooting less when he is out there: the shots for per 60 minutes value drops from 27.4 to 25.5 when Beauchemin is on the ice.  Yet, if this all occurred against weaker competition, then this would be cause for alarm.  Instead, I think the numbers would be better otherwise.

I'm not quite sure how the money could turn out for Beauchemin.   He definitely was paid a modest $1.65 million according to NHL Numbers and will likely get a raise.  But how much will that be?  His value could be kept low because of the ACL injury, but I could see it rise due his prior history and the fact that he was still able to defend in the post season.  Even then, I don't think he'll command a whole lot, like more than $3.5 million.

Simply put,  there's plenty to like with Beauchemin.  He had a major injury, but responded from it to play significant minutes in the postseason.  If Beauchemin can continue shooting like he had done before the 2008-09 season, then I think his previous production will return.   Beauchemin is relatively affordable, he has put up points in the past, he can handle a ton of minutes, and it's not as if he's not at all a liability on defense.   I think he's better than Mottau and that he could even challenge for a spot on the top pairing given his past workload in Anaheim.

Frankly, I really like the idea of Beauchemin as a Devil and I think he would make a great signing. Especially in conjunction with the retainment of Oduya.  Have your say in the comments on whether you agree or not.