The NHL’s trade deadline is coming up. Well to be fair, it isn’t a pressing concern for most GM’s given it isn’t scheduled until the 12th of April. However, the Anaheim Ducks General Manager, Bob Murray typically likes to do his business earlier and with rumors circulating that the Ducks might be interested in the Vancouver Canucks Jake Virtanen it seems plausible that Bargain Bob may, once again, strike early.
This trade deadline, however, is a little different from most. The Seattle Kraken expansion draft looms at the end of the year, and thus, this deadline may be the last chance the Anaheim Ducks get to move some players around. That isn’t to say trades won’t be made at the end of the season and before the draft itself, but that Murray does his “best” work when he has time to burn.
Considering the Expansion Draft During the Trade Deadline
With that said, who might the Anaheim Ducks protect? Under the current rules, the Ducks will have one of two choices: Protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goaltender, or, protect eight skaters and one netminder.
That potential choice will determine what moves Murray (and other GMs) may be willing to make at the trade deadline this season. It should telegraph to the fans which players the Ducks themselves deem most important to climbing back towards the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs in the future.
Without venturing too far down that rabbit hole, I’m imagining that the Ducks will opt to protect eight skaters and thus ensure a defensive corp of Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson, and Kevin Shattenkirk, is a base they are able to build around in future seasons. This then means that only four forwards would be under protection from the thieving fingers of the NHL’s new team.
Choosing those four players is a tough ask today, but to me, I suspect that the 27-year-old Rickard Rakell would be one. He still has time to bounce back to his 40-50 point seasons even if his 30 goal years are behind him. Jakob Silfverberg is another who I think the Ducks may try to protect. He’s a little older but is a solid two-way player in the profile of player that Bob Murray’s Ducks love to have.
Of the young players, the question is a little trickier. Isac Lundestrom is the youngest of the younger group who are eligible for the draft and has come on strong in the past couple of weeks. I would suggest he’s one the Ducks would like to keep.
The final slot is a little more complicated. Sam Steel is really struggling this season in almost every facet of the game, yet the Ducks have tried to stick with him as much as possible, and they will love that his ability in the faceoff circle has improved each season.
Max Jones is a young player that the Ducks maybe didn’t give enough opportunities to early in his career, yet has shown an improved work ethic as a grinder on the top line. His scoring touch eludes him yet, though it doesn’t take much for his on-ice play to remind of Washington’s Tom Wilson.
I believe that one of these two will be the chosen one, depending on what offers the Anaheim Ducks receive in trade talks from here on in. My preference leans towards Jones, however, should the Ducks be successful in acquiring Virtanen from the Canucks, one would wonder how many low-scoring power forwards they need on the team at any one time.
Maxime Comtois, who isn’t eligible for the expansion draft, looks to be a lock moving forward given his play this season. So would the Ducks need to ice Comtois, Jones, and Virtanen? Should they? It’s plausible and could work, but it’s a position that would be a luxury of sorts if the Ducks believed they were short in other areas.
Which of the Anaheim Ducks are Available?
Thus Ducks are left in a position where they really do need to put a concerted effort into a rebuild. This season Kevin Shattenkirk mentioned that he signed, at least in part, due to Bob Murray’s desire to bounce back to the post-season as quickly as possible.
At the time of writing, the Ducks have the third-worst points percentage in the league and according to Tankathon.com own a 9.5% chance at the first overall draft selection in the 2021 draft. In terms of playoff positioning, it’s a worse placing than last season.
Bob Murray may not like the idea of rebuilding in earnest and may believe he’s already done so these past few years. However, he can no longer afford to sit back and watch. The time is coming that he will need to be aggressive if he’s to put in a framework that will allow the Anaheim Ducks’ current prospects to flourish as they move into the team. Yet, he will also need to tread a careful path in which he is able to keep the Ducks’ current prospects in the AHL (or junior hockey) until they are absolutely ripe for the big show.
Thus the Ducks can look towards what they have sitting on the bench at present. Danton Heinen is the obvious one given he’s apparently been discussed in talks with the Canucks. As a former 47-point scorer, and at only 25-years-of-age, it would stand to reason that the Ducks could get some value back in any trade.
There are certainly some disgruntled fans about the Ducks sphere who would like to see Heinen on the Ducks themselves given his solid, if not unspectacular play, however, it may be that the Ducks have come to the same conclusion as the Boston Bruins have previously. If a player isn’t scoring they need to excel in another aspect of the game in order to hold down a roster spot. Heinen is an all-rounder who can contribute, but he simply won’t carry the Ducks in the way they need players to carry them.
Troy Terry is another who has seen regular time on the bench leading way back to last year’s trade deadline and is another player certain segments of the fan base would like to see play more. Like Heinen above, Terry presents some interesting on-ice shot metric data, which doesn’t seem to result in scoring.
Jiri Sekac is one former Duck who suffered from a similar “illness” and was let go to never make it in the NHL. However, Terry, unlike Sekac, still has some aura about him from his Olympic success with team America, and as the league slowly turns to become more analytically driven, could find himself bringing back a small return to the Ducks.
Sonny Milano is a young player with some pedigree, currently staying at his second stop in the NHL. He hasn’t really lit the house on fire in his stint with the Ducks as evident by him not troubling the scorers this season to date. However, as a former high draft pick and at 24-years-old, he should garner some attention for a team looking for a little bit of speed in their middle-six forward group.
The conventional wisdom would be that a contending team would be the one to bring him in but like the two players above Milano is young enough that he could conceivably contribute to a team on the rebuild should they see a fit.
Veterans Worth Considering as Trade Pieces
Of the players a little older, Adam Henrique is one the Anaheim Ducks may like to move on from. He was passed through waivers only recently and while no one took a chance then, it could be due to his hefty contract. Would the scenario change if the Ducks retained half of his salary going forward?
It would be easy to suggest that this would be the case, as a veteran player with a recent 40-point season to his name for under $3 million seems like a far better deal than his current ~$5.8 million dollar deal. Particularly given that there are three more years on the back end still to come. The Ducks won’t really need the money over the next few years should they really embark upon a rebuild, but draft capital could go a long way to speeding up the process.
David Backes could possibly be shifted with further salary retained. He’s an old veteran and well past his prime, but could a team use a savvy veteran on their 4th line leading into the post-season? It would seem certainly likely to be the case, and should the Ducks keep some of his salary for the remainder of this season, they could at least walk away with a third-round pick or an asset of a similar nature.
What is certain in Backes case is that he is not part of the Anaheim Ducks’ future and thus the Ducks should attempt to move him with this opportunity. If the Ducks need to add assets to the mix in order to move up in the draft or to acquire a prospect (not eligible for the expansion draft) that they desire, then they should absolutely consider that as well.
Players the Anaheim Ducks Might be Reluctant to Trade
Naturally, there are other players in the mix who could be moved, but perhaps the Ducks would be more reluctant to trade. Jacob Larsson has been somewhat vilified by the fan base, and should the Anaheim Ducks decide to protect four defensemen, they may be open to taking calls on him. This would also be true of Josh Mahura, Axel Andersson, and Simon Benoit.
It may be too early to consider calling time on Brayden Tracey, yet he hasn’t looked like the strong player he did when he was drafted. The Ducks, if they are going the aggressive route, could consider flipping him in addition to other assets to climb high in the draft. I’m not sure what Tracey and Henrique with half his salary retained would get you, but I imagine teams would certainly pick up the phone for a deal that could help now and in their future.
Even some of the players listed above as players to keep could be on the cards. Rakell is a cheap former 30-goal scorer. Hampus Lindholm is a bit of a stud and, as a young player coming up for free agency, could be outside of the Ducks’ means to keep. While I don’t suspect these players are ones the Ducks would trade, what if a team threw some serious assets at the Ducks to consider it?
As a former early pick who has lived up to the billing, what kind of asset would make Bob Murray consider moving Lindholm? Lindholm is young enough to be part of any rebuild the Ducks aggressively pursue, yet if a team threw their next three first-round picks at the problem could the Ducks walk away from that?
So, What Now?
With all of that said, what Murray might try to do is harder to pick than a broken nose. He hasn’t been in this situation before, so we don’t have a lot of information to fall back on. Typically speaking, Murray would acquire some guy whose name was made up on the EA sports NHL games 2032 draft season and we would all rush to justify why it was a half-decent move, all the while knowing that Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry were there to save us.
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But Perry is no longer here, and Getzlaf is no longer young enough to continually carry the 4th liners the Anaheim Ducks keep throwing on his wings. Thank goodness they’ve seemingly moved on from Terry, but would it kill them to give Getz at least one relevant hockey player to zoom-zoom about with before he retires into his dotage?
Nonetheless, over the next month, there won’t be anywhere for Bob Murray and the Ducks to hide. It’s the third year the team has broken down on struggle street and the team can no longer really blame it on injuries. the Ducks prospect pool jumped last year on the back of the Jamie Drysdale draft, yet the marquee player in their system, Trevor Zegras, has shown us that he can’t single-handedly turn all the Ducks problems around. The Ducks simply need a lot more talent than they have even back in San Diego.
Many fans have called for Murray’s head this season, and while I personally don’t think he’s put many steps wrong in this rebuilding year (let’s all lol at the playoff predictions) the time has come for him to show his mettle as a General Manager. All men wish for the day that they can show themselves to be the hero, and this day might be that one for Murray. He has no choice but to show us the thoughts of the franchise. The only question is, is how bold do they envision that future?
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