By Thomas Harrington
After trading Kyle Palmieri to New Jersey on June 26, 2015, the Ducks made two more moves at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
First, the Ducks traded winger Emerson Etem and the 41st overall pick in the draft (acquired in the Palmieri deal) to the New York Rangers for Carl Hagelin, a second round pick (59th overall), and a sixth round pick (179th overall). The Rangers selected left winger Ryan Gropp with their pick; the Ducks took center Julius Nattinen and goaltender Garrett Metcalf.
After that, the Ducks sent defenseman James Wisniewski to Carolina for goaltender Anton Khudobin. Neither of these deals has worked out well for any of the teams involved in the past year, although both the Ducks and Rangers are happy with the prospects they drafted.
Etem was the Ducks’ second first round pick from the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. He was taken after the Ducks had selected Cam Fowler earlier in the first round. After the Ducks drafted him, Etem spent a couple of years in the WHL before turning pro. He made his NHL debut in the 2012-2013 season and recorded three goals and 10 points in 38 games. Despite not scoring a ton in the NHL, Etem’s speed and defensive play were effective and a lot of people were excited for his future. Over the next couple of years, he continued to bounce between the NHL and the AHL. In the AHL, he scored at about a point per game pace, but never was able to translate those offensive skills to the NHL. As the years progressed, he was never able to make a permanent spot for himself in the lineup.
Hagelin was a sixth round pick of the New York Rangers in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. It took a number of years, but he became an effective third line winger in New York and was one of the fastest skaters in the league. He was never a big time goal scorer, but his speed and defensive play made him a valuable player, especially while the team was shorthanded.
When this trade was first announced, I was really excited. Hagelin is essentially the player I was hoping Etem would become at the time of the trade, a very fast player who could score and play great on the penalty kill. The biggest difference between the two is that Etem is more of a physical player than Hagelin.
In New York, Etem simply did not fit in at all. He appeared in only 19 games and was often a healthy scratch. He recorded no goals and three assists. By early January, the Rangers were ready to move on and traded him to Vancouver for Nicklas Jensen and a sixth round pick in 2017. Hagelin fared only a little better in Anaheim. Hagelin bounced around Anaheim’s lineup, but seemed most effective when playing with Ryan Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg. Overall, he appeared in 43 games, but only scored four goals and 12 points. By mid-January, the Ducks were ready to move on from him and traded him to Pittsburgh for winger David Perron and defenseman Adam Clendening.
Despite neither Etem nor Hagelin fitting in, both Gropp and Nattinen had strong seasons last year, while Metcalf had a decent one as well. Gropp is one of New York’s top left wing prospects and put up 70 points in 66 games in the WHL last year. He was the Seattle Thunderbirds’ second leading scorer and is expected to turn pro next season, joining New York’s AHL affiliate. Nattinen is one of Anaheim’s top center prospects and scored 71 points in 52 games in his first season in the OHL last season. He also played for Team Finland and the World Junior Championships and had three points in seven games. He probably has another season in the junior ranks before he turns pro. Nattinen didn’t play great in the playoffs, but was just traded to Windsor and will hopefully get back to putting up points with his new team. Metcalf didn’t have a great season as he split time between the Madison Capitols and Waterloo Black Hawks in the USHL. He will play for UMass-Lowell in the NCAA next season. Overall, both teams can be pretty pleased with the development of their prospects, but not with the play of the NHL players they received. Eventually turning Hagelin into Perron is one other saving grace for the Ducks in this deal.
In the second deal the Ducks made, they shipped off Wisniewski for a backup goaltender, but again, this deal didn’t work out well for either side. The Ducks had acquired Wisniewski from Columbus at the Trade Deadline, but after being a part of Anaheim’s defensive rotation to close out the season, he was scratched for every single playoff game. Khudobin had signed in Carolina as a free agent in the summer of 2013. He appeared in over 60 games with Carolina over the next two seasons, but his numbers saw a decline in his second season with the team.
At the start of last season, Anaheim had two starting goaltenders in John Gibson and Frederik Andersen. The plan was to have Gibson be the starter in San Diego and Andersen be the starter in Anaheim, with Khudobin backing up Andersen. However, Khudobin struggled as Anaheim’s backup, appearing in only 8 games by late November, posting a save percentage below .900 in half of those games and only playing a full game on five occasions. In late November, Andersen got sick and Gibson was called up. He played so well that when Andersen got healthy, the Ducks decided to keep both in Anaheim and placed Khudobin on waivers. He went unclaimed and was assigned to San Diego. Overall, he appeared in 31 games with the Gulls and went 19-8-1 and recorded a .921 save percentage and a goals against average of 2.46. It’s almost a certainty that the Ducks will not bring Khudobin back and a report from earlier in the season said that he was expected to sign in the KHL this summer.
Wisniewski lasted all of 47 seconds for Carolina before suffering a season ending injury in the first game of the season. Wisniewski is a tough competitor, but has had injury issues throughout his career and only played in more than 70 games twice in his career. He’s signed for one more season so Carolina could still get a useful year out of him before he becomes a free agent.
With Khudobin playing poorly in Anaheim and Wisniewski missing essentially the entire season with an injury, neither team can be particularly happy with the return. The best part for Anaheim was clearing cap space for this summer and beyond as they look to extend their restricted free agents.
Bob Murray usually does a pretty good job of getting equal value or better back in the trades he makes, but it’s safe to say that between these two trades and the Palmieri deal, the Ducks didn’t do a great job of trading at the draft last year. I understand why each deal was made at the time: Hagelin was going to fit in and become a great penalty killer, Khudobin was going to be their backup, and Palmieri didn’t fit in with their long term plans, but a year later, none of them have had an impact on the Ducks and the primary player the Ducks received in each deal has since departed the team in some fashion. Still, the Ducks were able to clear contract and cap space with these deals, something that will be very valuable for the Ducks going forward this summer.
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