Anaheim Ducks Fan Mailbag: 10/27/2014 – 11/02/2014

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Oct 28, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Kesler (17) takes a shot during the first period against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

3. It might be a bit early to talk about making trades at this point, but what should the Ducks look to shore up through trades?

– Daniel

Jason: It is a bit too early to really be talking about trades. This is my personal belief, but I don’t really like talking about events until they’re actually close by. It’s why I keep quiet about playoff performance and expectations: it’s only November. A lot can happen to a team between November and April (namely injuries, coaching and front office changes, hot and cold streaks, and such). Again, I’m not of the mindset that a team should invest all-in to try and win a championship in a small two or three year window. They’re incredibly difficult to win, and it makes what the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings have done over the past five years so incredible: they win, win consistently, and go deep in the playoffs year in and year out.

However, from an organizational standpoint, there are certain things I believe every team needs to be able to compete for a championship each year. Those aspects are a No. 1 centerman, a No. 1 defenseman, the ability to roll four lines, an anchor in net, and a strong group of four dependable defensemen, in that particular order. Having players on cheap contracts is also a boon, but any team looking to contend for a championship needs to have those five categories checked off.

For the Ducks, Ryan Getzlaf is that No. 1 centerman. He’s one of the league’s premier centermen and a dominant 5-on-5 player. His offensive skillset is incredible, and he has the size and tenacity that is rare when coupled with his skill. He’s a terrific captain as well. Bruce Boudreau stresses being able to roll four lines, and the Ducks made sure to upgrade at the center position to make rolling four lines in all situations more feasible. With the emergence of Sami Vatanen and further development of Cam Fowler and Hampus Lindholm, the Ducks have a group of five very dependable blue-liners when including veterans Francois Beauchemin and Ben Lovejoy (when he returns from injury). That depth on defense is nice. The Ducks don’t have one proven anchor in net, but both Andersen and Gibson have been terrific, and neither has shown any reasons to doubt their effectiveness.

If there’s any one area I would want the Ducks to maybe make a move for, it’s for an upgrade at the blue-line for a bona-fide No. 1 defenseman and anchor. That’s arguably the only “franchise position” Anaheim currently lacks. Outside of No. 1 center, the No. 1 defenseman position is the next most important position in hockey. Like top-end centermen, No. 1 defensemen really improve their teams and have their squads in playoff contention almost regularly, so it will be difficult to acquire one.

There aren’t too many true No. 1 defensemen in the league. Shea Weber and the Nashville Predators are having a terrific season, and Weber’s 14 year, $110 million contract is a tad bit too expensive for the likes of Bob Murray (okay, maybe far too expensive). Ryan Suter and the Minnesota Wild are one of the most pleasant surprises of the season as well, and his 13 year, $98 million pact does not fit well into the contract books either. Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks and Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings are untouchable, and their contracts are also a bit on the heftier side for the Ducks, who operate under a budget and not to the salary cap. Marc-Edouard Vlasic is one of San Jose’s core pieces and franchise cornerstones, and he will be there with Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski to lead the Sharks even when Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are finished. Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester have a great situation in St. Louis, and that duo should be helping the Blues contend in the playoffs as their young forwards improve. Ryan McDonagh is a terrific player and arguably the face of the New York Rangers, who should still be in playoff contention with him after their run to the Stanley Cup Finals last season. P.K. Subban and the Montreal Canadiens have been terrific early and are one of the better teams in a much improved Eastern Conference. Oliver Ekman-Larsson is Arizona’s centerpiece in teambuilding: their struggles on offense are centered more on lacking high-end talent at the forward spots.

Those are the players that are probably considered true top-defensemen: anchors that play every situation, including power-play, penalty-kill, and protecting leads late. Not one of those players is available for trade right now, and that probably does not change by the March trade deadline. The Ducks do need a true No. 1 defenseman to emerge to better their chances of winning a Stanley Cup, but they have a better chance of having someone emerge from their current crop of players than acquiring one of those players listed above. Even if a player such as Mark Giordano or Tyler Myers became available for the Ducks, would either of those players make the team that much better and give them a true anchor? That’s not even considering the package going the other way, which would include some combination of draft picks (which is how this team is built) and strong prospects (for a defenseman, it is highly likely that a team asks for Lindholm, Fowler, or Vatanen as a starting point in the negotiation, while the Ducks would probably be hesitant to even include Shea Theodore).

I do believe that Hampus Lindholm can become that No. 1 defenseman and blue-line anchor for the team. However, he’s still only 20. Still, there is no available defenseman out there that can make this team better for the next few years, has a manageable contract, and makes the team better both now and into the future. Lindholm has a lot of similarities in playing style and ability to Pietrangelo and Ekman-Larsson, so as he continues to improve while playing the NHL game, he has a terrific chance of becoming a star player or at the level of those two. He already plays the second most minutes for Anaheim this season, a testament to how much the coaching staff believes in his capabilities.

For trades this season, the Ducks might make minor moves to get more draft picks. They could look to unload a few forwards in their current logjam. If players do not step up and become true top-six players, Bob Murray might look to make a move to upgrade at forward. Coming into the season, three of the four top-six wing spots were in question. If those spots aren’t really solidified by March, the Ducks may look to make an upgrade. Depending on Getzlaf and Corey Perry to carry the team’s scoring load night in and night out is a hard ask, especially against good teams, who can throw good defensive lines and star pairings at that top line to neutralize them. But there shouldn’t be any “blockbuster” moves left for the Ducks to make. The Ryan Kesler deal took care of that. Now, it’s up to the young players to improve.