By Mathieu Bernier
The All-Star Game break is behind us. The time has come for the real race for the playoffs. This is also the time when general managers must show their know-how: they have until March 1, 2017, to fill the missing parts of their team.
Despite their big offensive players, the Ducks are currently struggling to score goals. With an average of 2.52 goals per game, they are currently 22nd in the league. Corey Perry’s difficulty to find the back of the net certainly does not help the cause for his team. The natural scorer and winner of the Maurice Richard Trophy in the 2010-2011 season, with 50 goals, only has 11 this season. Murray perfectly knows if his star player does not raise his game a notch by the end of the season and during the playoffs, the chances of the Ducks getting their hands on the Stanley Cup are slim.
The Ducks will have to try to add some offense to their forwards lines. The problem is not at the center because they have great ones (Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Antoine Vermette and Nate Thompson). It’s more of a winger they need. However, to acquire a good forward, they will have to be able to pay for it, which the Ducks can’t do with a cap space of 2.86 million. Murray, therefore, has very few possibilities. The most logical option would be to trade one of his defenders.
Why a defender? The Ducks are facing a special situation, which several teams would like to have: they have too many defenders. Not only do they have too much, but they are young and have a lot of talent. I’m not just talking about players like Fowler (25), Vatanen (25), Lindholm (23), Manson (25), but also Shea Theodore (21), Brandon Montour (22) and Jacob Larsson (19) have promising futures within the organization. But to make the leap in the big league, they need cap space.
Remember that rumors of trades began at the start of the Ducks’ season when they still had not signed two key players to the organization (Rickard Rakell and Hampus Lindholm). In spite of everything, Murray realized the impossible: with a meager budget of $7.5 million, he managed to sign the two Swedes without even getting rid of one of these young defenders. The eyes were then turned to Cam Fowler, that’s much less the case today. With his 31 points in 61 games, he got the best of his best career offensive season and played great hockey in the defensive zone. The targets are now more Sami Vatanen and Josh Manson. Vatanen has not met expectations with only 18 points in 52 games. By trading Vatanen, the Ducks would release nearly $5 million on their payroll, which would give them enough money for a quality forward. Manson would also be a logical option as the Ducks are likely to lose him due to the NHL expansion draft.
Bob Murray has publicly announced that if he makes a move by the trade deadline, it would be for a player who will help the club in the long run:
Now let’s take a look at the players available on the market.
Gabriel Landeskog (COL): With the painful season of the Colorado Avalanche, several trade rumors revolve around their young captain. Landeskog currently has 23 points in 47 games. At just 24 years of age, the Swede may well be part of the young Ducks. Matt Duchene is also on the Avalanche side; a trade involving him wouldn’t be surprising.
James van Riemsdyk (TOR): Van Riemsdyk is also the target of several rumors of exchanges. The 27-year-old striker has a season that matches expectations with 46 points in 58 games. With his 6 feet and 200 pounds, van Riemsdyk is exactly the kind of player that interests the Ducks; a forward able to produce offensively against any opponent.
Jordan Eberle (EDM): The departure of Taylor Hall has been beneficial for the Edmonton Oilers, who, with their 32-19-8 record, are coming off to play in the playoffs for the first time Since the 2005-2006 season. Despite their success, the Oilers seem to want to make further changes to their lineup. Jordan Eberle is one of the names that circulate regarding a possibility of a transaction. The author of 76 points in 2010-2011 quickly proved that he was able to produce offensively. Although it is rare to see two teams from the same division make a trade with each other, Eberle remains a very interesting choice for the Ducks.
Tomas Tatar (DET): The Red Wings have a lot of difficulties defensively. With an average of 2.97, they are ranked 26th in goals per game. The needs of the Ducks and Red Wings are complementary; If the first seeks a winger, the second seeks a defender of quality. A trade between the two teams would not be surprising.
JT Miller (NYR): Just like the Wings, the Rangers and Ducks also have complementary needs: the Rangers have a surplus of forwards, the Ducks have a surplus of defenders. With three solid offensive lines, the opposing teams have to be wary, the Rangers have the luxury of being able to divest one of their forwards to strengthen their defense. J.T. Miller, the points leader with a total of 46 points in 58 games, is a player who would undoubtedly be of interest to the Ducks.
The Ducks can also choose to trade one of their rising stars (Theodore, Montour or Larsson). Finally, if the Ducks choose not to trade their defenders, they still have the possibility to trade their goalkeeper Jonathan Bernier, which would allow them to release $4 million on their cap space.
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February 21th, 2017