Anaheim Ducks center Derek Grant is having a breakout season. At age 29, he’s with his sixth NHL team since he broke into the league in 2012-13, but he’s finally found a home in Anaheim… for now. Grant has scored a career-high 14 goals and is five points away from his career-high in that category as well. With only the remainder of this season left on his contract, he may be at the peak of his value to other teams as a rental.
Many feel the Ducks should trade him if another team offers them an appealing enough return. People cite his poor underlying numbers, arguing this will be the best success the well-traveled center can possibly achieve. However, not all of the evidence points to Grant not being able to play this well again, which helps make a case for the Ducks to keep him.
Check the Scoreboard, Not Your Calculator
What’s the old saying? “They don’t ask how; they ask how many?” That applies perfectly to Grant and his numbers. His 14 goals are the most he’s scored in his career. That’s also as many as Tyler Seguin, Alex DeBrincat, Anthony Cirelli, Mats Zuccarello, Johnny Gaudreau and Taylor Hall have scored this season. It’s more than David Krejci, Nico Hischier, Max Domi and teammate Rickard Rakell.
Yes, all of those players have far more assists and thus total points than Grant, but they are also almost exclusively top-six forwards with better linemates to convert passes into goals and more time on the power play.
Yes, “fancy stats” suggest Grant might not be able to replicate his success, but those people who raise their hands, push their glasses further up onto the bridge of their nose and say, “but his Corsi for percentage is only 40.5, and his shooting percentage is 18.4%, which is much higher than his career average shooting percentage, he can’t sustain this success!” I say, “Can’t he?”
There is just as much evidence that he can.
His current shooting percentage of 18.4% this season is not his career high. That would be the 18.5% clip he finished the 2017-18 season with. That was the second-best season in his career, and it also came with the Ducks in 66 games.
I’m sure you haven’t forgotten that defensive-minded Randy Carlyle was at the helm of the Ducks that season. Grant has been productive under two different coaches with two different philosophies in two full seasons with the Ducks.
Underlying Numbers Might Be Lying
Since you are referencing his fancy stats, like his Corsi for percentage of 40.5% or 39.5% depending on what outlet you check, that’s his career-low. His career average of 45%, while not good, isn’t nearly as bad as it’s been this season, to pretty much no effect.
If you want to reference his career shooting percentage, you should also mention his career possession metrics; you can’t have it both ways.
Familiarity is Attractive
Grant’s increased production in his free-agent year suggests that he would ask for a significant raise, but the Ducks can afford it, and it might not be that much of an increase. Grant currently makes the league minimum of $700,000. Looking at comparable contracts, Grant could see his value double or even approach $2 million per season.
With the Ducks’ current salary cap situation and the players like Ryan Miller, Korbinian Holzer and Michael Del Zotto possibly coming off the books, Anaheim can afford to pay Grant more. Who knows, maybe he will be willing to give the Ducks a small hometown discount, not that he is obligated to in any way.
The recent news that the Ducks extended Nicolas Deslauriers means that Grant’s linemates Deslauriers and Carter Rowney (who has one season remaining on his contract) will be on the team until at least the end of next season if they aren’t traded. That should be appealing to the Ducks’ fourth-line center. Maybe appealing enough to forgo a higher average annual value on his new contract to remain where he’s most comfortable.
It’s One More Thing for Fans to Hold on To
This probably carries the lowest weight for general manager Bob Murray when considering a trade, but Grant’s surprise success is one of the few exciting parts of this Ducks’ season. Unfortunately, fan favorites aren’t sacred cows, especially when you’re a fourth liner having a career season on a bad team.
Murray has shown that no one is safe. He traded fan-favorite Andrew Cogliano last season. He bought out Corey Perry, whose number will someday hang in the Honda Center rafters next to Paul Kariya, Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer.
However, there hasn’t been much to cheer about this season in Anaheim and if Grant’s trade value isn’t that high, maybe he’s worth keeping to keep fans somewhat engaged.
Fans would mourn the loss of the man they passionately refer to as “Elite 1C” on Twitter with his exciting short-handed play and his gap-toothed smile. It’s the most exciting thing remaining about this season besides speculating about how many lottery balls Anaheim will end up with this summer.
Grant gives fans a reason to continue to pay attention when there isn’t much left to see.
All things considered; Grant probably will be traded if a team offers Murray something decent in return. However, contrary to popular belief, there is value in keeping Grant. Analytics aren’t the end all, be all when considering a trade and the impact a player has on his team. If the Ducks keep Grant, he can still help the team in the future.
For more Grant discussion, tune into Episode 22 of the Flying V Anaheim Ducks Podcast.
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Anthony Ciardelli grew up in Vermont and New Hampshire but now lives in Los Angeles. Though he was raised a Bruins fan, he quickly came to enjoy the hockey culture in Southern California and the rivalry between the Kings and Ducks. He covered USC Athletics while pursuing his journalism masters there. He also enjoys doing play-by-play for USC Trojan Hockey.