This is a weekly column that aims to be your one-stop shop for all the notable Anaheim Ducks news that occurred over the course of a given week. Rather than just regurgitate facts and figures (although, I’ll do a bit of that, too), I’ll attempt to offer insight and analysis, especially as it pertains to various subject areas like prospect development, team chemistry, and what it all means going forward. Enjoy!
The Week That Was: Anaheim Ducks News (June 17th – 23rd)
*Note: I’ll be writing a few separate pieces exclusively covering the selections the Ducks made at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
In a week that saw star players like Jordan Staal and Mike Ribeiro change teams, the perpetuation of trade rumors featuring names like Roberto Luongo and Rick Nash, and a whole new crop of baby-faced 17 and 18-year-olds drafted into the League, the Anaheim Ducks may have been one of the NHL’s most newsworthy teams. That is, if you define newsworthy as trading away an offensively-minded defenseman only a season removed from a league leading (amongst d-men) 68 points, and having one of your star players come out and publicly say that he would welcome a trade.
Quite the week for the Ducks, indeed.
Ducks Trade Visnovsky to Islanders
Lubomir Visnovsky will be 36 in August, and is coming off a miserable, injury-plagued 2011-12 campaign that saw him play 68 games and only score 6 goals and 21 assists, for 27 points. Those stats would be considered a solid, even above-average season for most NHL defensemen. But Lubomir Visnovsky is not most NHL defensemen – not when his cap hit chews up $5.6 million off the books ($3 million in actual salary for 2012-13).
That salary is no longer a concern for the Anaheim Ducks. In the opening moments of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, they traded Visnovsky to the New York Islanders for a 2nd round pick in the 2013 draft. On the face of it, the loss of his potential for offensive output may hurt the Ducks in the short term, but this is a wise move for the future, as Visnovsky wasn’t getting any younger. With his already injury-spotted history, the likelihood of him returning to form as a dynamic, high impact player was diminishing. With his large cap hit off the books, the Ducks should be able to go out and reel in a big fish via free agency.
He will be missed. Visnovsky has long been one of the most underrated premiere offensive defensemen in the NHL. In the 2010-11 season, there was no other defenseman better than the man his teammates affectionally called, ‘Lubo.’ With his fluid skating, great first pass, and howitzer of a shot, Visnovsky lit up the NHL two years ago, skating to a 68 point season (18g, 50a), which led all defensemen in scoring. In a bigger market like Ottawa (hello, Erik Karlsson), Visnovsky would have been a lock for at least a Norris trophy nomination; but accomplishments like his tend to go overlooked in a small market like Anaheim.
This trade looks like little more than a salary dump (the Islanders will, once again, need all the help they can get just to reach the salary floor), but several things must be kept in mind. First, Cam Fowler is coming into his third year as a pro, and now is the time for him to take a major step forward – stepping out from under the offensive shadow of Visnovsky is a pivotal part of that for the young rearguard. Second, the Ducks need to be mindful of the big paydays coming for Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and yes, Cam Fowler in the next off-season. All three will be free agents (Fowler, restricted). Murray was likely just as loath to take on additional salary as Islander GM Garth Snow must have been to part with it. Lastly, the 2nd round pick the Ducks got in exchange for Visnovsky could turn out to be huge, as the 2013 draft is said by most scouts to be exceptionally deep.
The main question surrounding Visnovsky’s departure is the Ducks’ powerplay. It was awful last season, clicking at only 16.6%. Now that their powerplay quarterback is gone, how will Anaheim respond? Will Cam Fowler step up? Will the Ducks need to bring in another (hopefully younger) offensive defenseman to replace Visnovsky’s offense? Whatever the answer, it’ll be a key question for the Ducks in 2012-13.
It should be noted that, as reported by Puck Daddy, Visnovsky is now considering snubbing the Islanders and signing a contract in the KHL. No word on how, if at all, this will affect the 2nd round pick Anaheim acquired in the deal.
Bobby Ryan Would Welcome a Trade
Summer wouldn’t officially be underway if there wasn’t yet another Bobby Ryan trade rumor. Sure enough, the first shot has been fired – only this time, it’s Ryan himself with the gun. The draft had just gotten under way on Friday when Randy Miller of the Philadelphia-based Courier Post dropped a bomb on the hockey world with an exclusive interview with Ryan, in which the star 25-year-old is quoted as saying, “I gotta be honest with you. At this point, I don’t care. Move me.”
Over the last several seasons, Ryan has become the subject of constant trade rumors, which have surely grown tiresome, and now, it appears, things have reached their breaking point. This has been a long time in the making. Fair or not, Bobby Ryan has more often than not been treated rather poorly by the Anaheim organization: the constant trade rumors, consistent lack of quality powerplay time, contract squabbles, and the one-day demotions to Bakersfield of the ECHL when the Ducks were in the midst of some serious cap trouble (hey, at least he got sent to Bako in a limo). It’s easy to see why Ryan has tired of Anaheim.
Miller also has him saying:
“Anaheim to me has been a team over the past year that really has shown me nothing to prove that they want me here, unfortunately.”
Here are the facts: In the four seasons in which he’s played at least over 50 games, Bobby Ryan has four times scored over 30 goals – and that’s with peanuts for powerplay time. In 332 NHL games, he racked up 136 goals and 123 assists for 259 points. He missed exactly one game in the last three seasons. Although he doesn’t use his big frame the way his coaches would often like him to, and has defensive deficiencies in his game, he’s undeniably got one of the sickest pair of hands in the League.
There isn’t a team in the NHL that wouldn’t at least kick the tires on Ryan just to see how he could be had. The Miller piece quotes Ryan, saying that he’d love to play in Philadelphia. Early speculation had James Van Riemsdyk as an essential part of that deal until Philadelphia GM Paul Holmgren up and turned JVR into Luke Schenn. Philadelphia may still be a possible destination for Bobby Ryan should the Ducks choose to move him (Bob Murray was reportedly not happy with the situation and has said that he’ll meet with Ryan face-to-face in the next week), but you’ve got to think that the return on a player of Ryan’s caliber will have to be substantial and would likely have to include a young, puck moving defenseman.
Regardless of what the Ducks get back in any potential deal, trading Ryan is a move that will not be popular among Anaheim’s fan base. He’s become one of the franchise’s most popular players, and for good reason – he’s intelligent, articulate, and social media savvy, and has always been generous with fans. Anaheim’s mismanagement of Ryan, however, has led the team down a path where trading him might be their only option.
As reported by Eric Stephens of the OC Register:
Finally, the Ducks announced a new multiyear AHL affiliation deal with the Calder Cup winning Norfolk Admirals. Trent Yawney will continue on as Anaheim’s AHL coach. This is especially welcome news for the Ducks and their prospects, as they’ve had their share of affiliate difficulties over the last few years.