By Thomas Harrington
One year ago today, the Anaheim Ducks acquired Patrick Eaves from the Dallas Stars for a 2017 conditional second-round pick. The conditions on the pick were if the Ducks made the Western Conference Finals and Eaves played in at least 50% of Anaheim’s playoff games up to that point, the pick would become a 2017 first round pick. Anaheim figured if they had one of the last four picks of the first round, it was worth a gamble. Eaves played in seven playoff games for Anaheim, as they advanced to the Western Conference Final for the second time in three seasons, and it took just 11 games. So Dallas ended up getting a first-round pick out of the deal and the Ducks were left without one. One year later, because of circumstances beyond anyone’s control, this deal is a loss for the Ducks so far.
Eaves joined Dallas as a free agent in the summer of 2014. His first couple of seasons were largely forgettable, as he played 47 games the first season there and 54 games in his second, scoring 14 and 11 goals respectively. However, in his third season, he was put on a line with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, and absolutely exploded. In only 59 games, he scored 21 goals, a new career high. However, Dallas was going to miss the playoffs and the Stars wanted to get something for the pending free agent. The Ducks were looking to bring in another scoring winger and go deep in the playoffs.
With the Ducks, Eaves’ production improved, as he netted 11 goals in just 20 games. He and Ryan Getzlaf formed instant chemistry. In the playoffs, he played in all four games against Calgary, as well as the first three games against Edmonton, and scored two goals and four points in those seven games. Unfortunately, he was injured in game three against Edmonton and missed the rest of the postseason.
Losing a first round pick for a rental is rarely something that Bob Murray does. In order to make the loss of the first round pick more palpable, the Ducks decided to re-sign Eaves. That decision was made easier by how well Eaves and Getzlaf played together. Signing a 33-year-old veteran with a lengthy list of injuries was a risk, but given how good he and Getzlaf were and the relatively cheap price of just over $3 million a season, most people were relatively happy with the deal. However, even for a player with an injury history as extensive as Eaves’, no one could have guessed what would happen this season. Most people expected Eaves to miss anywhere from 10 to 20 games this season. Certainly not ideal, but if he could produce anywhere close to what he did the season before with Getzlaf, he’d still put up a decent number of points.
So far this season, Eaves has only played in two games, and his future is uncertain. On October 23rd, he was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, an autoimmune disorder. He’s expected to recover, but it’s unclear when and if he’ll be able to resume his playing career. As a result, right now, it looks like the Ducks lost a first round pick for essentially a rental player. There is some good news though, as Eaves was recently seen skating. He has been doing individual workouts and is pushing hard to get back to the ice in order to help the Ducks especially if they make the playoffs. It’s still unclear what his future in hockey will be, but hopefully, this is a major step in his road to getting back into a game.
The pick that the Ducks gave up ended up being 29th overall. The Stars traded this pick, along with the 70th overall pick, to Chicago so they could move up a few spots to the 26th overall pick. With that pick, Dallas selected goaltender Jake Oettinger. Goalies are notoriously hard to predict, so it’s hard to say what kind of player he will be. Oettinger is one of several goalie prospects that the Stars have. He’s currently a sophomore at Boston University. Oettinger had some great numbers as a freshman, leading to Dallas trading up to grab him, but hasn’t been quite as good this year. Still, he looks like a solid prospect, and Dallas can afford to be patient with him. They currently have Ben Bishop signed for several more seasons, so they have time to wait and let Oettinger develop in the NCAA.
If Eaves was healthy for this season, both teams would be relatively happy with this deal. Dallas got a late first round pick, which they used to move up at the draft and improve their goalie prospect depth, and the Ducks got a veteran forward who had some great chemistry with their franchise center. However, because of circumstances that no one could predict, a year later, this is a deal that the Ducks lost. Every move that they made in regards to the Eaves deal made sense. From the conditions on the pick to re-signing him for three years, the Ducks looked like they were playing things pretty smart, but Eaves’ diagnosis changed all that. If Eaves ever does return, then this deal won’t be as bad. Not having a first-round pick last year was not part of Anaheim’s plan, but one thing that helped lessen the blow was the fact that they had two second-round picks, and came away with two solid prospects in Maxime Comtois and Antoine Morand. While it doesn’t make up for no first round pick, the Ducks were able to get a couple of nice prospects to help reinforce their forward ranks.
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February 24th, 2018