Did the Anaheim Ducks get better or worse given what they did at the trade deadline? In case you didn’t hear, that was to trade away Dmitry Kulikov and John Klingberg, both of whom were sat earlier in the week to protect them from injury. So it was no surprise, and perhaps it shouldn’t have been much of a surprise that newish GM Pat Verbeek was relatively inactive on trade deadline day. Wait—that’s not right, is it?
Well, it was hardly his opportunity to make a splash. What would be the point when you’re one of the worst teams in the league? This moment in Ducks’ history is all about being better later, not now. The worse they are, the more likely they’re going to be Connor Bedard’s new team, anyway, though they’re not likely to drop below thirty-second in the league. Wait—there are only thirty-two teams in the league. I meant not likely to sit right at the bottom of the league. They keep putting on little pushes that nudge them a few teams up the standings, like winning three consecutive games last week, then gaining a point in an OT loss Wednesday. Friday, with Montreal in on the back side of two games in two nights (they played the Kings on Thursday), the Ducks came from behind a goal early, stayed patient after tieing the game 1-1, and then went up 3-1 in an eventual 3-2 regulation time victory.
So what was Verbeek expected to do? Something. Build the prospects cupboard. Get some decent draft picks. He did get a promising college player in Nikita Nestorenko, currently in his third season at Boston College after playing a year in the BCHL. That season, he was a point-per-game player. He’s almost that this year with BC. But does it mean anything that he was picked (by Minnesota) in the sixth round of the 2019 draft?
Did Verbeek wait just that much too long, until the co-GMs who were trading picks had already sent all the good ones away?
To be fair, short of trading Jakob Silfverberg (who hasn’t had a great season) or John Gibson (who has, by all measures except wins and losses), Verbeek didn’t have a lot to work with in terms of what he could draw for what he could give. Troy Terry, Trevor Zegras, and Mason McTavish were obviously not going anywhere. Jamie Drysdale is hurt. Past that, there are a lot of names on this roster that, it’s safe to say, won’t be remembered when they go. Maybe had things been different, Adam Henrique would finally get his walking papers, but he’s hurt. He was having a decent season before his Feb. 20 injury: 19-14-33 in 57 games.
Maybe the point is that what Verbeek was letting go wasn’t worth a whole heap of a lot. Klingberg was supposed to be on a one-year prove-it contract after needing a reputation rehab when coming to the team from Dallas. He has been relatively ineffective/disinterested for much of the season. Another short deal wouldn’t be a surprise when he comes up for renewal this summer by whoever decides he’s worthy of signing.
What did he yield? A 2025 fifth-round pick and the aforementioned Nesterenko, plus Andrej Sustr, who has been with the Ducks twice before, though for a total of only 28 games. He’s a defenseman also.
The other departure, Kulikov, was OK this year for the Ducks. He was drafted fourteenth overall in the first round in 2009, a big, solid defender. What was he traded for? Brock McGinn and a 2024 third-round draft pick.
McGinn can be counted upon for about 30 points in a full NHL season, though he rarely plays an 82-game campaign. He has reached that level only once in the NHL, where he debuted in 2015-16.
So the sum that the Ducks had returned to them in two trades: two marginal players, one who-knows prospect, and two draft picks: a third rounder in 2024 and a fourth rounder the year after that. Is that a haul?
One way or the other, everyone’s glad that it’s over, even though the frenzy didn’t really hit the Anaheim locker room.
Dallas Eakins said in response to IH’s question on this after the game, “I think the trade deadline is awesome for our game, especially this one, since there was a lot of action leading up to it. . . . These days the players do read everything, so I guess you do see your name thrown out there in rumors, which as a team we can’t control.”
He added, “I do understand with the deadline coming, there’s a lot of hype surrounding it. I think our guys were watching it as the date approached. We all knew who was in play for us. We don’t like seeing people leave our locker room, but we wish those men the best.”
And so the Ducks move on from March 3rd, hardly better, hardly different. When’s the big plan going to come into focus? Stay tuned.