With the calendar about to flip to March the Anaheim Ducks are not comfortably in a playoff spot but they are absolutely in the mix and have a very real chance of getting in. However numerous tough decisions for this season and the future need to be made. And could a rival franchise be the key to helping the Ducks with both?
One of the biggest criticisms of former Ducks GM Bob Murray (with respect to on ice personal decisions) was he seldom went for the big splash. Whether that be in free agency or trade Murray never wanted to “lose” a trade and as such during his tenure there were a lot of “hockey trades”. Move a depreciated asset for a depreciated asset and see if a change of scenery unlocked something. Or trade for a rental while not giving much of anything away, knowing you weren’t going to sign the rental. The one big trade he did make in acquiring Ryan Kesler you could argue the Ducks didn’t lose much to Vancouver. However, that was then, and this is now. The winds are changing in Anaheim. New GM Pat Verbeek clearly wants to make his mark on a franchise he is admittedly piloting through the rest of their rebuild and into a contender. It is clear he was an integral part to the resurgence of the Tampa Bay Lighting and what the Detroit Red Wings are building, but he wants to show he can be the guy to construct a Stanley Cup Champion. Making a trade with a recent rival could expedite that process.
A lot has been made of the Ducks 3 UFA’s this coming summer (Hampus Lindholm, Rickard Rakell, and Josh Manson). Rightfully so as they have been core members of the Ducks and fan favorites for some time. But hockey at the end of the day is a business and you never want to lose someone for nothing. It is clear that Lindholm presents the best player on the list and one you would like to re-sign as the Ducks become contenders again. However, if you believe the rumor mill reports suggest he wants to test free agency. And if that is the case then the Ducks would be smart to move him ahead of the March 21st deadline. The issue with trading a player who appears to want to test FA is it could scare teams off. Most teams are not willing to part with much in the way of assets for a player they may only have for a post-season run. So, what do you do? How about trade for another player who reportedly will test FA or potentially wants out of their current situation.
Bally Sports Midwest Reporter Andy Strickland reported just a couple days ago that the Nashville Predators are actively shopping forward Filip Forsberg. Forsberg is in the last year of his deal that currently pays him 6 million per and he will be looking for a sizable bump. Forsberg is a consistent 50-60 point per season player and has shown he can produce in the post-season as well. Per Robby Stanley of ESPN 102.5 The Game in Nashville, Forsberg has not told management he wants out, but he has not expressed a desire to remain in Nashville either. The Preds are in pretty good shape cap wise however they need to consider where they will be by giving Forsberg a bump. Just to make numbers easy let’s say they up him to 8 million a year. This means they have a little more than 31 million tied up in Forsberg, Matt Duchene, Ryan Johansen, and Roman Josi. They also have defenseman Mattias Ekholm getting a raise from 3.75 million to 6.25 million starting next season.
So, Nashville GM David Poile could find himself in a similar conundrum as Verbeek and the Ducks. Could the two make a little magic and ship one star on an expiring deal for another? It all comes down to how you spin it. From the Ducks side of it the number being thrown around for Lindholm is 8 million per. So, the question is do you trade Lindholm feeling as though with the current D corps and the arrival of Olen Zellweger most likely next season you have enough on the backend and add a sniper up front? A sniper that is a little older than your next wave but would pair nicely on a wing with budding superstar Trevor Zegras. Or see if Ryan Getzlaf wants one more go next season while taking another salary reduction and can put that signature passing on display as the pivot between Forsberg and most likely Troy Terry. Elliotte Friedman said in his most recent 32 thoughts the Ducks were willing to go higher in money for shorter term, so could a sign and trade occur with 8 million per for Forsberg but maybe only 3-4 years in length?
On the Nashville end of things, they would be losing a big component to their offensive game but a top 3 on the blue line of Josi, Ekholm, and Hampus Lindholm is a pretty stout and up there with the best D-corps in the league. They would need to find some increased offense from other parts of the lineup but building from the blue line forward could pay big dividends for them. The trickier side here is that Lindholm may not want a shorter deal. But with Josi and Ekholm a little older than Lindholm and most likely hanging them up at the end of their current deals 27-28′ and 26-27′ respectively, he may want the ability to go elsewhere if the Preds will be in more of a rebuild a few years from now.
If Forsberg is truly available all 31 teams would at least be calling to kick the tires on him. And what is proposed here almost never happens in the hockey world especially with two teams in the same conference, especially with two teams potentially fighting against each other to clinch a playoff berth. But stranger things have absolutely happened.
Trading Lindholm would be quite the statement from Verbeek and would be a major splash and huge first stamp on his tenure with the team. We’ll find out in just a few weeks’ time.