Entering 2017-18, the Anaheim Ducks were projected to once again rank among the dominant club in the Western Conference. But with 17 points in as many games, they began this week sitting just outside the Western Conference playoff picture.
Injuries to key players contributed to their slow start. Defensemen Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen missed much of October recovering from off-season shoulder surgeries. Hip surgery waylaid center Ryan Kesler until late-December. Meanwhile, injury and illness have sidelined Ryan Getzlaf, Cam Fowler and Patrick Eaves.
With so many players out of the lineup, GM Bob Murray is reportedly sniffing around the trade market.
Last week, TSN's Pierre LeBrun reported the Ducks seek a top-six forward, preferably a left winger with a left-handed shot. He added they've been in the market since the summer and were monitoring center Matt Duchene's status prior to the Colorado Avalanche shipping him to the Ottawa Senators. Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports Murray isn't ruling out pursuing help via trade. Stephens also cites Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reporting the Ducks attempted to acquire unhappy center Vadim Shipachyov from the Vegas Golden Knights before he returned to the KHL.
Montreal Canadiens forward Alex Galchenyuk could be a trade target for the Ducks. Matt Larkin notes the 23-year-old, who has a 30-goal season on his resume, is signed through 2020 and can skate at center or left wing. Larkin suggests the cost could be Vatanen, whose $4.8-million salary-cap hit is close to Galchenyuk's $4.9 million.
Another option could be Buffalo Sabres left winger Evander Kane. Trade rumors stretching back to June 2016 link Kane to the Ducks. Considering the Sabres' blueline woes, they could certainly use someone such as Vatanen, Brandon Montour or Josh Manson.
Kane, 26, is eligible in July for unrestricted free agency. With a $5.25-million cap hit and earning $6 million in actual salary this season, he could prove an expensive re-signing for the Sabres. With Duchene finally off the market, Kane is considered the player most likely to be dealt this season. However, Murray could be reluctant to trade away one of his defenseman for a possible rental player.
Toronto Maple Leafs left winger James van Riemsdyk could be a perfect fit with the Ducks. Like Kane, he's slated for UFA status next July. Coming off a 62-point performance in 2016-17 and on pace for over 60 points this season, van Riemsdyk will be in line for a significant raise. With talented youngsters Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner due for new contracts before 2019, re-signing van Riemsdyk could prove too expensive for the Leafs. They could put him on the block before the Feb. 26 trade deadline but they're currently not in any hurry to move him.
A more affordable option for the Ducks could be Calgary Flames forward Sam Bennett. Like Galchenyuk, the 21-year-old Bennett can skate at center or on the wing. His offensive struggles this season have some pundits proposing a change of scenery could snap him out of his doldrums. So far, the Flames are resisting the temptation to move him.
This isn't the first time a bad start by the Ducks made them the subject of trade chatter. Two year ago, they were near the bottom of the Western Conference standings with a 12-15-16 record and there was considerable conjecture over what moves Murray might make. To his credit, Murray remained patient with his players, who stormed back over the second half to finish atop the Pacific Division by season's end. He made only several minor roster moves before the trade deadline.
Murray may be monitoring the trade market but he won't part with a quality asset for a quick fix. Barring a substantial offer, he could be forced to wait for his sidelined stars to return.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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