Buried at the bottom of the Pacific Division standings a month ago, the Anaheim Ducks climbed to third in the division and within striking distance of a playoff berth. Credit for this improvement belongs to the outstanding performance of rookie goalie John Gibson and the solid play of their defense corps.
Offense, however, remains a problem for the Ducks. Since Dec. 1, they've managed to score three-or-more goals only three times and remain the league's lowest-scoring team. Their offensive production drops significantly beyond first-line forwards Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, who are well below last season's high-scoring pace.
It's anticipated Ducks GM Bob Murray could swing a deal soon to boost his club's anemic scoring. The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reports Murray seeks a scoring forward and could draw upon his blueline depth for trade bait. Garrioch claims several teams are closely following the Ducks.
The Ducks' recent acquisition of goaltender Dustin Tokarski from the Montreal Canadiens prompted SI.com's Allan Muir to speculate backup goalie Frederik Andersen could hit the trade block. Muir suggests the Calgary Flames and Arizona Coyotes could use the 26-year-old Andersen but doubts Murray will deal him to a division rival.
Recent rumors link the Ducks to unhappy Tampa Bay Lightning sophomore winger Jonathan Drouin, who's currently toiling in the minors and has requested a trade. The Lightning could use a right-handed shot to anchor their power play. Blueliner Sami Vatanen, a restricted free agent at season's end, could be a possible trade candidate for the former 2013 first-round pick. The recent call-up of promising Shea Theodore prompted some observers to suggest Vatanen, 24, could become expendable.
Drouin, however, has yet to fully establish himself at the NHL level. While the 20-year-old remains a promising offensive talent, he's probably not yet ready to skate on the Ducks' top-two forward lines. Murray could prefer a more established young winger capable of bolstering Anaheim's offense now and in the coming seasons.
BLUE JACKETS NOT DONE SHOPPING YET
Last week, the Columbus Blue Jackets surprised the hockey world by dealing center Ryan Johansen to the Nashville Predators for defenseman Seth Jones. Despite this blockbuster move, there's speculation the Jackets aren't done shaking up their roster.
The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson reports of rumors veteran Blue Jackets defenseman Fedor Tyutin could be available. Tyutin, 32, is signed through 2017-18 with a $4.5-million annual cap hit and carries a modified no-trade clause.
Winger Cam Atkinson could be an more enticing trade target. SI.com's Allan Muir cites a recent report claiming the New York Rangers were “kicking the tires” on the 26-year-old, who's on pace for a career-high 50-point season. Atkinson, however, is a favorite of Jackets coach John Tortorella, so they could be reluctant to move him.
Teams seeking experienced checking-line depth should put in a call to the Vancouver Canucks. On Sunday, GM Jim Benning released a statement indicating he was shopping left wing Chris Higgins.
Benning indicated the 32-year-old Higgins, who has a partial no-trade clause, hadn't requested a trade. The move is being made as part of what the Canucks GM called his team's ongoing transition toward a younger roster.
Hampered by injuries, Higgins has only three points in 25 games this season. He's also under contract through 2016-17 at an annual cap hit of $2.5 million. TSN's Bob McKenzie claims “a handful of teams” expressed interest in Higgins, but the Canucks know they must retain some of the winger's salary to facilitate a trade. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reports Higgins' agent has permission to speak with other clubs. Meanwhile, it's expected he'll be placed on waivers.
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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