The Anaheim Ducks spent the past three seasons near the bottom of the NHL standings, becoming a frequent subject of trade speculation entering this season. However, their strong start to this season and recent management change could raise some speculation about the course of their rebuilding process.
In September, we observed the Ducks could be a team worth watching in this season's trade market. Core veterans such as forwards Ryan Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell and defensemen Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson are eligible to become unrestricted free agents next summer. Goaltender John Gibson is signed through 2026-27 but he's also become the subject of early-season trade conjecture.
The Ducks are currently flying high in the Western Conference standings despite the recent departure of long-time general manager Bob Murray. However, NBC Sports' James O'Brien believes they should take advantage of Murray's exit to accelerate their rebuild. He suggested selling high on Gibson and peddling Getzlaf, Rakell, Lindholm and Manson at the March 21 trade deadline.
Once those players are off their books. O'Brien suggested the Ducks weaponize their freed-up cap space. He proposed they charge a premium in draft picks or prospects to take on some troublesome contracts from other clubs.
Perhaps the Ducks will heed O'Brien's advice if they tumble down the standings and out of playoff contention over the course of the season. Gibson, Getzlaf, Rakell, Lindholm and Manson would draw plenty of interest from playoff contenders as the trade deadline approaches.
However, the lure of postseason revenue could prove irresistible if they remain in the thick of the chase by deadline day. They could retain their pending UFAs as “own rentals” and perhaps even become buyers to improve their playoff chances.