Jiri Sekac never played big minutes in Anaheim. In fact, he’s been a healthy scratch more often than not in 2015-16, while also suffering from an ankle sprain. Despite his limited action, he’s been a point of contention among Ducks’ observers.
The debate goes something like this: one camp brings up how Sekac is a phenomenal possession player and essentially helps the team whenever he’s on the ice, to which the other camp fitfully points to his disappointing box-score stats.
That debate may be finally settled as Ducks’ general manager Bob Murray shipped out Sekac to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Ryan Garbutt. The move comes as a bit of a surprise considering that Sekac put on a strong showing against the Minnesota Wild less than 14 hours before the trade.
So why trade a promising 23-year old on an affordable deal for a 30-year old who’s had one decent NHL season?
Dollars and Cents Deal
Let’s start with the dollars and cents because it seems that may be the crux of this deal.
Sekac, whose $925,000 contract is set to expire at the end of the year, happens to be represented by Allan Walsh, the same agent who’s currently trying to manhandle the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. Could Sekac have gotten a slight raise? Possibly, especially considering his gun-strapped agent. That possibility may have played a part in trading him.
Garbutt, though making $1.8 million a year, is only owed $900,000 by the Ducks thanks to the Dallas Stars retaining half of his salary in the original deal that sent him to Chicago.
Murray is playing salary cap gymnastics here.
Core pieces Sami Vatanen, Hampus Lindholm, Rickard Rakell, are all set to hit restricted free agency this summer, and all should expect considerable raises from their current deals. It’s imperative for Murray to open up as much cap space on the fringes to accommodate all three, and it appears that’s what he’s doing by shipping out Sekac.
Garbutt has two years left on his deal, but he’ll be one less extension to worry about this summer and at a lower cap hit.
Did Sekac Have To Leave Ducks?
Anaheim’s front office is understandably trying to prepare for its slew of RFAs this summer, especially as a lower payroll team.
How much would it really have cost to keep Sekac around though, and how much would it have actually hampered signing other key pieces? It’s not as if Sekac was going to break the bank given his current production.
Both the eye test and the numbers color Sekac as a talented and effective player . The scoring touch may not be there quite yet, but the way Sekac is able to create opportunities for himself and his linemates indicates that the offensive production will surely come, especially on a highly skilled possession team like Chicago.
Meanwhile, Garbutt is a player who will soon be on the wrong side of 30 and realistically won’t do much to help address Anaheim’s scoring woes. His relative impact on possession on a strong Blackhawks team was considerably lower than Sekac’s, who was playing for an Anaheim team that’s been superior to Chicago at puck possession for the vast majority of the season.
If the Ducks are looking at Garbutt’s 17-goal year in Dallas and thinking that he’ll be able to help them score in 2016, then they may have forgotten to look at the whopping two goals he has in 43 games this season. Given their well-documented cap situation, it’s unlikely they acquired him for hockey-driven purposes. Anaheim may have saved some change today, but they may one day regret shipping out a player like Sekac.