ANAHEIM, Calif. – General manager Bob Murray is confident the Anaheim Ducks can win a Stanley Cup championship as currently constructed.
He was still “confused” after his deadline attempts to make them even better didn’t pan out.
Anaheim swung no major deals Wednesday despite getting deep into talks on a handful of available players, Murray said before his NHL-leading Ducks faced the Montreal Canadiens.
Murray didn’t name any of those players, but the Ducks were widely known to be interested in Vancouver centre Ryan Kesler, who ultimately stayed with the Canucks.
“I thought we were going down the right track for most of the day,” Murray said. “We were trying to accomplish something. It obviously didn’t get done. It’s funny.”
Although Anaheim is loaded with talented forwards, Kesler would have provided a formidable one-two punch down the middle behind first-line star Ryan Getzlaf. The Ducks have few areas of weakness, but faceoff effectiveness is among them, and Kesler is among the NHL’s best on draws.
Murray was surprised, but not mad.
“I can’t state enough that they’ve already proven they don’t need any help,” Murray said of his Ducks, who were 43-14-5 heading into Wednesday’s game. “They’ve proven they can play, so it’s a lot of good young players in there that are going to have a chance to continue going, and we didn’t bring anybody in there that’s going to upset the apple cart.”
The Ducks made three moves a day earlier, acquiring defenceman Stephane Robidas from Dallas and shipping out forward Dustin Penner and goalie Viktor Fasth. Robidas should be a regular on the blue line when he returns from a broken leg in two weeks, and the departures provided clarity at two crowded roster spots.
Murray was frank about his strategy on deadline day: All of the Ducks’ high-round picks in the upcoming drafts were in play, but the GM wouldn’t offer any player currently on the Anaheim roster in any deal. He thought two first-round picks this summer would be enticing to trade partners, but nobody bit.
“With Robidas coming in, we’ve shored up the defence, and I believe it’s a good hockey team in there with the depth we have,” Murray said. “We were not going to put any players in that dressing room out there, and we didn’t. But pretty much every pick we had was out there.”
Canucks general manager Mike Gillis told reporters in Vancouver that he had received several trade proposals for Kesler, but said none of them were “adequate enough” to land him.
Murray said he even spoke with other teams about using his first-round picks to land players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents this summer, even though Murray generally dislikes the concept of rental players.
So the Ducks will play the final 20 games and the playoffs with the current team, hoping to add post-season success to what’s been the best regular season in franchise history.
“All year long, this group has managed to do things,” Murray said. “So we’ve left it in their hands, and they’ve come through pretty well so far. I have total faith in that group in there.”