Ducks Make Smart Moves to Gear Up for Playoffs

Anaheim Ducks general manager Bob Murray knew it had to be done. He needed to add to acquire at least one blue liner to help the struggling Ducks defense. Along the way, Murray would skim the market and if the right deal presented itself, he would try to acquire some offensive help. As deadline day approached, Murray made smaller moves to help Anaheim, staying patient while not overpaying for anybody and then when the day came, he dropped the hammer and made the big move and the unexpected moves.


In with the new:

The Ducks first move was to ship out winger Devante Smith-Pelly to the Canadiens. In return, Anaheim acquired Czech winger Jiri Sekac. Sekac had fallen out of favor in Montreal but has offensive potential. Sekac scored 16 points in 50 games with Montreal and has already made in an impression with the Ducks. In his second game with Anaheim on Sunday night against Dallas, Sekac made a beautiful pass to Corey Perry to give Anaheim a 1-0 lead.

On Saturday, Murray made another smart move acquiring Tomas Fleischmann from the Panthers, reuniting him with his former coach in Washington Bruce Boudreau. Fleischmann had 21 points in 52 games with the Panthers this season. He was also acquired at low-cost as the Ducks gave up just Dany Heatley and a third-round pick in this year’s draft. If Fleischmann can contribute some offense in Anaheim he could really give the Ducks extra depth on the left-wing. If not, his contract will expire and the two can cut ties.

The first move for Anaheim on deadline day, was trading Ben Lovejoy to the Penguins for Simon Despres. Despres, a blue liner picked in the first-round of the 2009 NHL Draft, was playing on Pittsburgh’s third defensive pair but had two goals and 15 assists this year. He is an offensive minded player and could still develop into a nice player. Just last year, Despres put up 22 points in 36 AHL games.

The biggest move the Ducks made was to acquire James Wisniewski from the Blue Jackets. Murray did it while only giving up William Karlsson, Rene Bourque and second-round draft pick in this year’s draft. Wisniewski was probably the second-best defenseman that was traded during the deadline behind Keith Yandle. Wisniewski, who was in Anaheim from 2008-10, will be a top-4 defensive player and will bring the Ducks a steady power play quarterback. In 56 games with Columbus, he had registered eight goals and 29 points. He is under contract until the 2017-18 season but does carry a $5.5 million salary cap hit.

The other two players Anaheim acquired were Korbinian Holzer from the Maple Leafs and Michael Sgarbossa from the Avalanche. Holzer, a German defenseman, was acquired for fellow d-man Eric Brewer and fifth-round draft pick in the 2016 draft. Holzer has played in just 58 NHL games but will provide Anaheim with depth. Sgarbossa, a 22-year old center, was acquired for defenseman Mat Clark. Sgarbossa has played in only nine NHL games with the did score 44 points in 2012-13, his first year in the AHL.

Out with the old: Of course while the new acquisitions should help the team, Anaheim did have to part with some useful items. Smith-Pelly was still young (22) and contributed five goals in the playoffs last year. He was once thought of as a pretty useful prospect in the Anaheim system and did score 27 goals in the AHL last year. But, in 129 games with the Ducks he struggled offensively and only registered 14 goals and 26 assists in that time. He will provide the Canadiens with some grit and could still develop into a nice power forward.

One of the best moves Murray made was getting rid of Heatley. Even though it was a low-risk move, it wasn’t panning out. In his six games with Anaheim Heatley did not register a single point and was playing in the AHL. Even in the AHL, he only had seven points in 25 games played. The 34-year old forward that once scored 50 goals in consecutive seasons is clearly a shell of his former self.

Probably the most surprising move the Ducks made was shipping Lovejoy back to Pittsburgh. The 31-year old defenseman really emerged for the Ducks last year scoring 18 points in 78 games and playing on Anaheim’s top defensive pair with Cam Fowler. He seemed to regress a little this year but was still pretty useful.

Besides Smith-Pelly, the only youngster the Ducks gave up was Karlsson to Columbus. The Swede was playing in his first full year in America and made his NHL debut earlier this year.  He showed potential in the AHL this year registering seven goals and 14 assists in 21 games. Karlsson played in 18 games with Anaheim and had two goals and an assist. If he continues to develop, the Ducks could wish they kept him.

The other three players the Ducks gave up were Brewer, Bourque and Clark. Brewer was acquired for blue line depth from the Lightning earlier this season when the Ducks were struggling with injuries. He played in nine games for Anaheim and registered a goal and an assist. Bourque was acquired early in the season from Montreal for defenseman Bryan Allen. Like Heatley, the Ducks acquired him hoping he could regain his scoring touch of days past. He had two goals and six assists in the 30 games with Anaheim. He will report to Columbus’ AHL affiliate, the Springfield Falcons. Clark served as a depth blue liner for Anaheim but did play in seven NHL games this year. He registered one point in those games.

The verdict:

While the Ducks did not get the best defenseman on the market, they did get Wisniewski, who will do just fine in Anaheim. He will be big for their power play and play on one of the Ducks top defensive pairings. Murray also added Despres, a young defenseman who could develop into a nice asset for the club. They also added Sekac and Fleischmann, both of whom will help with the Ducks left-wing depth. This was all done while not giving up anyone of the teams bigger prospects or this year’s first-round pick.