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With Lindholm signed, hard work begins now for Ducks

It took longer than what Anaheim Ducks General Manager Bob Murray was originally hoping for, but it got done.

On Thursday it was announced that the Ducks and Hampus Lindholm had agreed to a six-year deal with an annual cap hit of $5.25 million, according to capfriendly.com. It was the culmination of months of negotiating that at times didn’t turn out to be very productive and included Murray having to maneuver around some of his team’s cap space.

Lindholm, who is now the highest paid defenseman on the roster, told the Los Angeles Times on Thursday that he wasn’t expecting contract talks to take this long, but he’s ready to move on play hockey now.

“No, I was hoping to get this done in the summer, of course, but that’s just how it is,” Lindholm said. “I can’t do too much about that. You just have to get to the point where you agree and I think I’m really happy and I think they’re really happy. It was good this way because now I can play and they didn’t have to move anyone, and we still have the same team.”

“Not having to move anyone” is regarding the rumors in recent months that Murray was looking to trade defenseman Cam Fowler in order to free up some cap space for Lindholm. Instead, Murray moved defenseman Simon Despres and his $3.7 million cap hit to the long-term injured reserve list because of his concussion symptoms.

It’s a smart short-term solution for Murray’s salary predicament, but it’s a scenario that will still need to be addressed when Despres is ready to play again, which could be a while, according to the Times.

What Lindholm brings to the table is an instant boost to the Anaheim defense for a team that has big expectations this season and looks like it’s starting to reach its stride.

Through Thursday, the Ducks have played eight games and have posted a 3-3-2 record, which is good for fourth place in the Pacific Division.

They started off the season going 0-3-1, but have won three of their last four and have picked up points in all four of those contests. The Ducks have allowed an average of 2.3 goals-per-game through their first eight games of the year.

The Swedish defenseman, meanwhile, is coming off a season where he played a career-high 80 games and posted 28 points (10-18—28) along with a plus-minus rating of plus-seven and a career-high average ice time of 22:00. Lindholm also had a defensive zone start percentage of 50.1.

The Ducks will be looking to plug Lindholm back into a defensive corps that features another dynamic, young defenseman in Sami Vatanen, the veteran presence of Kevin Bieksa and of course Fowler. Vatanen is the key, though, as both he and Lindholm are seen as the future of the Ducks blueline.

Call it “having a stagnant offseason,” or call it “giving the nucleus another try,” after last year when the Ducks came up short of their expectations, but there was speculation that change was on the horizon in the dressing room. While there was some change, the return of Lindholm to the lineup means that Anaheim’s defensive core — and its roster as a whole — looks an awful lot like how it looked last spring.

But according to Murray, this is actually by design.

“I wanted to give this group another shot,” said Murray to the Los Angeles Times on Thursday. “I’m going to do everything in my power to keep it that way.”

With Lindholm back in the fold, everything has now come together for the Ducks. And now that Murray is done with his hard work of re-signing his Swedish defenseman, the hard work now begins for his on-ice personnel.

Expectations for his Ducks team have not fallen since their early exit from last year’s postseason and Murray has shown faith in his roster by keeping it together for another try. If they’re going to demonstrate to anyone that they’re going to be an elite team, it’s essentially now or never. And Lindholm will likely play a key role in that effort.

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