Rebuilding Ducks are already trade deadline winners

Rebuilding Ducks are already trade deadline winners
Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images

The 2022 NHL Trade Deadline hasn’t passed, yet it’s already safe to call the Anaheim Ducks one of its biggest winners.

Where the Flyers and Sharks remain in rebuild denial, the Ducks pulled off the Band-Aid. Painful or not, they traded players who are unlikely to be part of potential future successes, and have already squeezed out a ton of value.

As with any rebuild, the Ducks need to “win” more than just a trade deadline move or three. They’ll need to draft the right players, develop them, sign value contracts, and do all the other things that propel a team to success.

The point is to stack up wise decisions until that process adds up to wins — and ideally, championships.

With the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline on Monday, the Ducks have time to stack up a few more of those wins, too.

Ducks pile up picks and prospects before NHL trade deadline

No doubt, the Hampus Lindholm trade is the headliner of the Ducks’ deadline haul. The Ducks also traded Josh Manson and Nicolas Deslauriers, though. Combine those trades and the Ducks’ work looks that much more impressive:

While some prospect-watchers have higher or lower hopes about Drew Helleson and Urho Vaakanainen, both young defensemen have a shot at helping the Ducks. That’s promising, especially considering that the draft picks are the most exciting parts of those deals.

(Some of that is the power of daydreaming about “potential.” A vague pick could turn out to be almost anything.)

Overall, these moves add more fuel to the fire for a Ducks farm system that was already consistently rated in the league’s top five.

The moves look even better if red flags about Josh Manson and Hampus Lindholm end up justified.

Could Lindholm work out for the Bruins? Sure. The Ducks and Bruins are in wildly different situations, though, with one window opening and the other closing.

(Besides, while it’s not Lindholm’s sole fault, the Ducks are on their way to missing the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year. Maybe it’s just time to identify a new core.)

What could be next for Ducks at trade deadline?

Again, the Ducks can make more moves before the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline expires on Monday afternoon.

  • Rickard Rakell — Perhaps an upper-body injury might scare suitors off, or lower demand. Yet, with Claude Giroux traded and forwards like Joe Pavelski off the market, forwards like Rakell are in low supply. At 28, Rakell’s timeline might not match up with the Ducks rebuild.
  • Ryan Getzlaf — Truly, Getzlaf’s name hasn’t come up much lately. He’s currently on IR, has a no-movement clause, and may not want to leave the only team he’s ever played for. With all of this trade deadline selling, Ducks fans might just need Getzlaf to stick around.

But he’s at least worth mentioning. Contenders crave players like Getzlaf come playoff time. He can be nasty, has size, experience, and at least some remaining skill to bring to the table.

If Getzlaf decided he wanted to chase a Stanley Cup, and there were suitors, the Ducks would at least have to consider such a trade. Right?

Take a run at Chychrun?

Let me drum up an abstract idea I floated in early February. What if the Ducks used some of the proceeds of a Hampus Lindholm trade to go after Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun?

Lindholm, 28, needs a new contract, and that could mean a risky money bet. Chychrun, meanwhile, is just 23 and carries a team-friendly $4.6M cap hit for three more seasons (through 2024-25). Age-wise, Chychrun lines up nicely with the likes of Troy Terry (24), Trevor Zegras (20), and Jamie Drysdale (19).

It would be crucial for the Ducks to realize that Chychrun wouldn’t necessarily be a cure-all for their defense. Instead, they’d likely be better off viewing him as a cheap, younger replacement for Lindholm, with some upside.

Eventually, the Ducks need to find defense, and they might want to speed things up. Theoretically, they’d likely still have some decent draft capital left over even if they landed Chychrun.

Really, Chychrun is an especially intriguing example of a larger thought. By trading for high draft picks like first-rounders, you’re not just attaining draft capital. You’re giving yourself options. First-round picks are often a key part of trades — deadline or otherwise — so the Ducks could speed up their rebuild by moving those assets for more immediate help.

Because, even with a promising prospect pool that’s likely to get deeper, the Ducks definitely need help on defense.

Zegras, Terry, Drysdale need to get paid soon, too

One factor that’s also important when pondering the Lindholm trade: the Ducks aren’t far from some big spending on young players.

All three of Trevor Zegras, Troy Terry, and Jamie Drysdale will see their current contracts end after next season (2022-23). It’s anyone’s guess how much that trio will cost from 2023-24 and on.

A less disciplined team would panic and hand Lindholm the sort of contract extension that could paint a team into a corner. If Drysdale makes multiple strides and ends up clearly superior to Lindholm, why wouldn’t he note Lindholm’s deal? Even as RFAs, all three of Drysdale, Terry, and Zegras could command big raises.

With that in mind, the Ducks should try to surround them with not just quality talent, but worthy value. That’s why Jakob Chychrun shines as a player to target: a good player (with a chance to be great) on a tremendous contract for multiple years.

Ultimately, a lot needs to go right for the Ducks to ace their rebuild. Looking back at Anaheim settling for Bobby Ryan after Sidney Crosby thanks to a draft lottery bounce, there could be an element of luck. But if you believe that “you make your own luck,” then you’d likely agree that the Ducks are doing just that at the trade deadline.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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