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Examining the Ducks’ trade deadline options

February 20, 2024, 6:49 PM ET [9 Comments]
Ben Shelley
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The NHL trade deadline is coming up in a little under three weeks, and given the Anaheim Ducks’ position, this is another year where we can expect the team to sell.

The Ducks already made a huge splash last month, sending defenseman Jamie Drysdale and a second-round pick to the Philadelphia Flyers, in exchange for top prospect Cutter Gauthier. However, we can be pretty sure the team isn't done.

Trevor Zegras' name has been out there, according to Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli. At the same time, even with the Drysdale trade fresh in the rearview mirror, it’s tough to believe the Ducks would actually ship out Zegras. There are certainly factors that make the forward’s fit complicated, including Zegras being pushed to the wing for much of the year. But despite his difficult season, a young, skilled forward is exactly what the Ducks need, and it’s tough to see any sort of trade involving Zegras making much sense for the team right now.

But right off the bat, there are two pretty clear deadline trades we can expect Anaheim to make, involving Adam Henrique and Ilya Lyubushkin. Both players are pending unrestricted free agents, and if they aren’t going to be brought back, the team will take the opportunity to acquire future assets.

Of the two, Henrique certainly carries the most value, with 16 goals and 36 points in 54 games (a pace of 24 goals and 55 points per 82). He can be a versatile option for any team looking to add some middle-six scoring, with the ability to slot in either down the middle, or on the wing. Only a few years ago, Henrique found himself going unclaimed on waivers, and his bounce-back over the past couple years has been a nice story.

Considering it’s arguably now a fairly thin rental market for forwards and the Sean Monahan trade brought the Montreal Canadiens a first-round pick and more, it’s not unrealistic that Henrique could bring back a first-round pick as well. Even if Anaheim can’t manage to swing a first-round pick, a second-round pick along with a decent prospect (or another good pick) is likely.

In Lyubushkin’s case, the Ducks would be looking at a smaller, but still worthwhile return. The defenseman has been one of the team’s veteran blue liners in a year featuring a lot of young talent on the back end. Lyubushkin could be a great add for a team looking for a physical, defense-first blue liner for a bottom-pairing. While he’s been a good piece for the Ducks this season, his absence would also allow all of Jackson LaCombe, Urho Vaakanainen and Gustav Lindstrom to retain spots in the lineup for the remainder of the year.

Anaheim only paid a fourth-round pick to acquire Lyubushkin, and we could bet the Ducks could get at least that value, if not a slightly better pick.

After Henrique and Lyubushkin, things get a little less clear. On one hand, John Gibson’s name has been mentioned as a trade candidate for years now. Despite the rumours though, along with the reported trade request this summer, it still seems like if a Gibson trade were to happen, it would likely come about in the offseason. The netminder still has three more years on his contract at a $6.4 million cap hit, and few teams would be able to make that work cap-wise right now. While his stats over the last few years are a far cry from where they were at his prime, we can expect Gibson’s name to remain in trade rumblings for the foreseeable future.

However, perhaps the more interesting trade bait would be Frank Vatrano. The winger has been possibly the team’s largest success story this season, with Vatrano making the NHL All-Star Game. He has another year on his contract, but considering how great the winger has been this season, his value may never be higher.

Vatrano turns 30 years old next month and may not be a long-term piece, given his age and contract status. As much as it would hurt the Ducks short-term, if they could pull a good return for the forward, a trade should at least be on the table.

So it’s not as much a matter of whether the Ducks will make trades ahead of the deadline, but more so how big the team goes with their moves. Pat Verbeek has shown he’s willing to make major deals, and with a couple weeks to go before the deadline, we can expect the team to be fairly active.

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