The trade deadline for the 2015-16 NHL regular season is a little more than two weeks away. As it grows nearer, we will begin to notice which teams are this year’s buyers looking for that missing piece to contend for the Stanley Cup, and which teams are sellers who already have their eyes set on improving for next season.
If you asked me two months ago, I would confidently state that Bob Murray and the Anaheim Ducks will surely be buyers as the trade deadline gets closer. However, my tune is beginning to change due to Anaheim’s recent success. The Ducks are on a hot-streak (minus the hiccup in Pittsburgh) and are finally back in the playoff picture with a 26-19-7 record. Separation is also beginning to occur as the 4th place Coyotes find themselves five points behind Anaheim.
Murray has already gone out and made deals for David Perron from Pittsburgh and Ryan Garbutt from Chicago, which have both turned into surprisingly splendid acquisitions. The question is whether or not the Ducks need to make another deal for some more offensive improvements.
The Offense is Producing
The reality is that Anaheim’s offense is no longer the anemic disappointment it was throughout the first few months of the season. The team has still scored the fewest goals in the entire league but is starting to climb up the rankings in goals per game (yes, I know they rank second to last but they are making their climb). Gone are the games where the Ducks were lucky to score one goal and had to rely solely on strong defense and goaltending. Anaheim is finally starting to produce the way many expected them to at the beginning of the season.
Depth is a Luxury
Of course, there is always room for improvement on any team; but at what cost? The Ducks have a plethora of blue-liners but I would make the argument that it is in the team’s best interest to hold onto all of these assets for the duration of the season. Sami Vatanen’s name is the one that keeps coming up in trade speculation as the d-man most likely to be traded away. The fact of the matter is he has been one of the best blue-liners on the roster and ranks fifth on the team in points recorded. If scoring is what Murray is looking for, would it be smart to trade away your best scoring defenseman? In addition, the Ducks are well aware of what the injury bug can do to a franchise. The depth the team has at the back end can provide Murray with a little comfort knowing that he has other NHL-caliber defenders ready to step in when necessary.
Another position Anaheim has some depth in is at goaltender. The Ducks arguably have four NHL-caliber netminders at their disposal in John Gibson, Frederik Andersen, Anton Khudobin, and Dustin Tokarski. Both Gibson and Andersen are more than qualified to be starting goaltenders for an organization which may bring up the debate as to whether Murray should look to deal one away. Every team in the National Hockey League would love to have two goalies they could count on to put forth a solid effort on a nightly basis. The Ducks would be crazy to trade Andersen away before season’s end (we know Gibson’s not going anywhere). He provides Anaheim with two reliable options in net, giving Gibson more rest for when the postseason arrives. The idea behind depth in case of injury also applies to goalie personnel. No team can ever have enough reliable options when the chance of a key player suffering a major injury is a possibility.
Defense Wins Championships
Call me bold but the Anaheim Ducks are going to be participating in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. In addition, they have the build of a team destined to go deep into the postseason. Very rarely do we see many high scoring affairs in the playoffs as teams tighten up on defense and become more disciplined. The Ducks have one of the best defenses in the game, allowing the third-fewest amount of goals so far this season. In addition, they have the seventh best goals against average with 2.35. The cast on the blue-line isn’t going to change drastically which means Anaheim should be just as strong defensively come spring time. As I mentioned before, the team is also equipped with two starter-caliber netminders in Andersen and Gibson.
If my answer wasn’t obvious already, I think Murray and the Ducks need to feel satisfied with the roster they have now and stay away from making any other trades before the deadline. The team is finally playing the way many people expected them to in October, and to chance messing with the mojo that has overtaken the Ducks is just too risky. Anaheim has players on the roster that can score goals and Murray needs to bank on them continuing to do so. I predict a few interesting deals to be made before and during the 2016 NHL Entry Draft; but as for the trade deadline, the Ducks would be smart to keep this group of talent together and see how far they can go.
John Gove is an experienced hockey writer who admires the game at all levels. Currently, John is a contributor for The Hockey Writers, covering the Philadelphia Flyers.