Rebuilding Ducks are already trade deadline winners

Rebuilding Ducks are already trade deadline winners
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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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    Sabres agree with Dylan Cozens on 7-year, $49.7M extension

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    BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with forward Dylan Cozens on a seven-year extension worth $49.7 million.

    The team announced the contract. Cozens will count $7.1 million against the salary cap through the 2029-30 season.

    Cozens, who turns 22, is the latest core player the Sabres have extended over the past six months. Buffalo signed All-Star forward Tage Thompson for $50 million over seven seasons in August and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million deal in October.

    Rasmus Dahlin, the top pick in 2020 who’s a Norris Trophy candidate and filled in for Thompson at NHL All-Star weekend, figures to be next for a big contract. He’s signed through next season and can begin talking about an extension this summer.

    Cozens, who was set to be a restricted free agent, has already set career highs with 17 goals, 26 assists and 43 points – with 30 games left in the season. The seventh pick in 2019, Cozens has 34 goals and 60 assists in 169 regular-season NHL games, all with Buffalo.

    The Sabres, led by Dahlin, Thompson, Cozens and 2021 No. 1 pick Owen Power, are contending to make the playoffs. The organization’s 11-year playoff drought dating to 2011 is by far the longest in the league.

    Stanley Cup champion Avalanche steadily returning to health

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    ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had his coach been watching, this might have made for an anxious moment: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar catching an edge and falling in the fastest skater contest.

    Jared Bednar wasn’t tuned in, though, and had no idea what happened in the skills contest over All-Star weekend. Only that Makar emerged from his crash into the boards just fine.

    These days, things are definitely looking up for the Stanley Cup champions on the injury front. Defenseman Bowen Byram returns to the lineup, along with forward Valeri Nichushkin. Defenseman Josh Manson is creeping closer to a return. Same for captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s yet to play this season. Forward Darren Helm is progressing, too.

    In spite of all their bumps and bruises, the Avalanche entered the All-Star break in a playoff spot. To weather the injury storm, Colorado has relied on 39 different skaters this season, a mark that’s tied for the most in a single season since the team relocated to Denver in 1995.

    “Anybody we can get back right now is huge,” said Makar, whose team kicks off a three-game trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

    Byram returns after being sidelined with a lower-body injury since early November. He was an integral part of their Stanley Cup run a season ago, when he led all rookies with nine assists in the postseason. Byram was off to a fast start this season – two goals and three assists in 10 games – before his injury.

    “He’s looking great. He’s buzzing out there,” Makar said of his fellow blue liner. “Hopefully it doesn’t take him too long to get back into game mode. But I think he’s a guy that can turn it on pretty quickly.”

    Byram missed a chunk of games last season as he dealt with concussion symptoms. This time, he was able to be around the team as he worked his way back.

    “I was just happy it wasn’t my head,” Byram said. “It was a lot easier to be out when you’re still feeling good and feel like yourself. … I’m just excited to get going again.”

    Count on Byram for as many minutes as necessary, too.

    “I’m 100%, so no reason to ease into it,” Byram said. “I’m confident with jumping back in.”

    Manson will join the Avalanche on the trip so he can skate with the squad. He’s been out with a lower-body injury since the start of December.

    “I do think it helps to get on the road, be around the guys,” Bednar said.

    Landeskog could be back “fairly soon,” Bednar said, but didn’t have a definitive timeline quite yet. The longtime Avalanche captain has been sidelined since knee surgery in October.

    The Avalanche entered the All-Star break on quite a roll, winning seven of their last eight. They’ve amassed 57 points, which trails Dallas (66 points at the All-Star break), Winnipeg (65) and Minnesota (58) in the Central Division.

    One thing the Avalanche are guarding against is another slow start out off the break. It happened over Christmas when the team had a few days off and promptly went 0-4-1 upon their return.

    “It’s just shifting the mentality back to game mode. No more vacation,” Makar said. “We still have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be right now. But there’s a lot of time left.”

    Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

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    SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

    Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

    “Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

    The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

    Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

    Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

    Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

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    The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

    The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

    General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

    The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

    Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

    Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

    “I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

    Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

    “Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

    After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.