By Thomas Harrington
With the trade deadline rapidly approaching, it’s time to take a look at which Anaheim prospects could be used to upgrade the current roster, and who should be kept. In order to get an impact player, the Ducks will have to move out some quality assets of their own. While Anaheim’s prospect pool isn’t stacked with elite talent, it does have a decent amount of legitimate future NHL talent; even if they aren’t future stars, having players with likely NHL futures will be attractive to other teams.
One thing to keep in mind going into the deadline: Bob Murray is averse to moving high-end prospects and picks for rental players. So the Ducks are unlikely to trade for a player with a contract expiring this summer. However, the Ducks did acquire free-agent-to-be Patrick Eaves last year so it could happen. That was for a conditional pick though, and not a prospect. Just a quick note, I won’t be going over every Anaheim prospect, just some of the bigger names who I feel are either in play at the deadline or those who Anaheim should definitely keep. I’ll be separating the prospects into three categories: untouchable, trade bait, and prospects I’d only trade if the player coming back is a significant player with a number of years left on their contract or will still be a restricted free agent when their current contract expires.
If the Ducks want to go far in the playoffs, I think they will be looking to upgrade at two positions: a scoring winger and a top-four defenseman. However, if Nick Ritchie can continue his strong play through the rest of the season and into the postseason, the need for another winger won’t be as strong. On defense, the Ducks currently have Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, and Josh Manson as their top three. They also have Brandon Montour, and while he’s not a true top-four defenseman yet, he looks to be well on his way to getting there in the years to come. But, Francois Beauchemin and Kevin Bieksa have formed a poor bottom pair, which is why Marcus Pettersson was recently called up to make his NHL debut. If the Ducks can get a defenseman and let Montour skate on that bottom pair, that would be ideal. However, even bringing in a number five guy who is better than Beauchemin or Bieksa would be useful too.
So I believe that the Ducks’ primary target should be a top-four defenseman with at least a year left on his contract. It gives the Ducks two potential playoff runs with the player, and, even if they aren’t re-signed, Montour should be ready by then to step into a true top-four role. Barring that, a solid, bottom pairing player would be useful, as would a winger with scoring potential.
Here are the prospects who I feel are untouchable and Anaheim should not move: Sam Steel, Josh Mahura, Troy Terry, and Maxime Comtois. I believe they are untouchable because I believe all of them could be in Anaheim for a long time to come. Over the last couple of seasons, Steel has become Anaheim’s top forward prospect. While his offensive totals have dropped this season, he had a great tournament at the World Juniors, picking up nine points in seven games. Mahura isn’t close to the NHL, and the Ducks can afford to be patient with him. He’s become an elite point producer from the blueline and is a player the Ducks should keep around for a long time. Terry has become one of Anaheim’s better prospects over the last couple of seasons and even got to play at the Olympics this year. He’s got some amazing hands and we could see him in Anaheim quite soon. The Ducks selected Comtois in the second round this past June. He’s already set a new career high in points and had a great World Junior Tournament. He was a surprise addition to the Canadian roster and scored six points in seven games.
Now, onto the prospects who I think are most likely to be moved and are Anaheim’s trade bait as the deadline nears: Andy Welinski, Keaton Thompson, Marcus Pettersson, Jaycob Megna, Brent Gates, Jr., Julius Nattinen, Alex Dostie, and Deven Sideroff. These are all solid prospects, but I don’t think any of them are necessarily a part of Anaheim’s long-term plans. That doesn’t mean they won’t be, just that right now, I don’t think they will be with the Ducks for several years. Also, I don’t think that all of them should be moved, but trading a couple of them could work out in Anaheim’s favor. None of these players are enough to bring in an impact player on their own, but when paired with a pick or another player or prospect, the Ducks could have the start of a deal.
Welinski, Thompson, Pettersson, and Megna represent four of San Diego’s defensemen, with Pettersson, Welinski, and Megna all having NHL experience. Given their time in Anaheim this season, they are the exact type of player other teams could be looking for, young players with NHL experience and who could be in the NHL on a full-time basis in the relatively near future. Thompson isn’t quite as valuable, but could still be useful in the right deal. Gates has already set a new career high in points in his junior season. He could be in the AHL as soon as next season and is turning into a solid player at the University of Minnesota. Nattinen, Dostie, and Sideroff are rookies in the AHL this year. They’ve played good, but not great. Given the number of forward prospects who could join the Gulls this season, Murray may want to free up some roster space in San Diego. As a center and former second-round pick, Nattinen especially could be coveted by other teams. Sideroff had a great final year of juniors, but may not crack the 10 point mark in his first professional season. Dostie has spent some time in the ECHL this year and has a point per game in Utah, but he’s another player who may fail to crack 10 points in his first AHL season. Again, these players are all still young and getting better so I wouldn’t write them off as lost prospects, but right now, they don’t look like long-term pieces of Anaheim’s future, and the Ducks will be okay if they trade them.
Trading For An Impact Player
Finally, here are the group of players who I would only consider trading if the player coming back is a true impact player and signed for at least a year or more: Nicolas Kerdiles, Jacob Larsson, Max Jones, Kevin Roy, Kalle Kossila, and Giovanni Fiore. These are also all players who are more likely to be a part of Anaheim’s future in the long term. To be clear, I don’t think Anaheim should trade these players, but if they are needed to complete a deal, Anaheim can afford to trade some of them. Kerdiles is already 24 and injuries have severely hampered his career. He’s been one of San Diego’s better forwards this season and has seen a lot of penalty kill time. Given his skill set, he could be a valuable trade chip at the deadline. If Montour can become a true top-four defenseman, Anaheim’s top four will be set for the next few years. Larsson could certainly play on the bottom pair, but Fowler, Manson, Lindholm, and Montour mean that the Ducks could afford to trade Larsson, especially if they trade for another defenseman at the deadline and keep Mahura around.
Since being drafted by Anaheim, Jones has had a bit of a rough time. He’s been suspended, he’s been injured, and he’s been traded from one junior team to another. As a result, his numbers over the last couple of seasons haven’t been great. I still think he could become a solid power forward, but his size and skill could make him a desirable asset that other teams covet. Roy, Kossila, and Fiore are three of San Diego’s higher skilled players, and all have played in Anaheim this season. Kossila is leading the Gulls in points, Roy has the most NHL experience of these three, and Fiore is the youngest, so all would be attractive players for other teams.
Given Murray’s recent comments, the Ducks may very well stand pat at the deadline. However, if Anaheim does decide to upgrade their roster with a long playoff run in mind, they do have the prospects to make it happen. As long as the Ducks don’t trade away too many of the above players, they can afford to part with some of these pieces and make another run at the Cup.
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February 20th, 2017