Ducks Pondering Pending Vatrano Departure

by | Mar 3, 2024

Ducks Pondering Pending Vatrano Departure

by | Mar 3, 2024

Bye bye, Frank. What a shame that your year of excellence playing in Anaheim has to result in a move elsewhere, but that’s what it looks like is going to happen.

So goes the mourning song of Anaheim Ducks fans, who have been lucky to observe Frank Vatrano’s scoring highlights in this season of loss. Somewhere just prior to the All-Star break, Vatrano was mired in a mini-slump. He scored in the game that took place right before he and a group of family and friends got aboard a charter from LAX to YYZ, the only way to play the Ducks’ game and then get his body to Toronto in time for the All-Star draft.

But who’s heard of anyone playing for the Ducks whose name is not “Zegras”? Not many, these days, and so it was that Vatrano was one of the leftovers in the draft which assigned players to one of four teams. Vatrano’s face showed his disappointment. He made up for it by having a good All-Star game, with two goals and one assist on the board.

Did that make people notice? Maybe, but so has his performance this season, with two goals Friday night versus New Jersey to pull him to 29-19-48. Last season he ended with 41 points, and that was in 81 games. He’s contested only 60 thus far this season. His totals might not seem like a lot in an Auston Matthews world, but on a team that generally has a hard time putting pucks in the net (the Ducks’ goal total ranks them thirtieth and is 157. The top nine teams in the league are all over 200 goals), his contributions are outstanding.

Is he likely on the block? He’s got a year left on a cheap deal ($3.65 million). He’s 29 and has made an estimated $14 million US dollars. Probably that’s more money than most of his classmates who grew up in East Longmeadow, Mass. This present deal was signed by now-GM Pat Verbeek, in summer 2022, for three years.

Better they get rid of the deadwood called “Jakob Silfverberg,” but who’s going to commit to a guy with 6-10-16 points and a salary of over $5 million? Nobody, that’s who. It’s not like he brings any intangibles you might want as part of the package. He’s just kind of become a blah lump of a third-liner, playing on the right side of Ryan Strome and Isac Lundestrom. But that’s an aside. This is about Vatrano.

Never was he better than on his second goal versus New Jersey. I noticed him looping back into his own zone. Then, suddenly, he had a jet pack on. He swept past the entirety of his team and the other one, and was on the edge of the crease when Troy Terry spotted him and flung a puck diagonally across the ice. Vatrano did a quick grab and draw-back move and tucked it into the open space he thus created.

Here’s how he described the goal in the locker room after the game: “It’s stuff that we work on every day, transitioning from defense to offense. Work on our neutral zone transitions a lot, getting four guys up  on the rush, and obviously  it paid off tonight.”

The night was Vatrano’s fifth multi-point game of the year. Two of those games have featured him scoring a hat trick.

Ironically, he made a (sort of) dumb play to nearly cost the Ducks a regulation win. With 2.1 seconds left and the puck about to roll behind the Anaheim net, he  pushed the cage off its moorings, thus  earning the Devils a penalty  shot. A goal would have tied the game at fours.


“Yeah, I did it. I didn’t know it was a penalty. Knew it was a penalty, I just didn’t know it was a penalty shot.” When asked whether he gave the net a good shove, he smiled and said, quietly, “Yeah, I did.” He said he was thinking the move was necessary. “I knew I was going to get caught, but the last thing I looked, the puck was on the goal line, so I just tried to, you know…by  the time I pushed the net off, the  puck was already behind the  net. It’s one of those reactionary plays, and [Dostal] made a big save for us [on the ensuing penalty shot] like he did all night.”

So with the trade deadline a week out, where’s Vatrano likely to go, if anywhere? Well, Chris Drury of the Rangers picked him up, from Florida, a couple of years ago for the playoffs, and he played 20 post-season games and notched 5-8-13 points, which is why he’s being rumored to New York again this year. The cost would be high, however, given that he has an extra year on his current deal and is, as was said, a relative bargain in terms of his cap hit.

For a local comparable, look at Adam Henrique, whom some people also have going to the Rangers. He’s a UFA at the end of the year with a salary nearly at six million bucks. He has veteran presence and was spoken of highly by Coach Cronin after the game. “For me, he’s been our MVP. He’s been here a while, so the new coaching staff comes in, and we’re asking him to do some things in terms of leadership, since we’ve got a young group. I don’t think by nature he’s a talkative guy…[but] I’ve noticed that he’s taken on more of a responsibility as having a presence as a leader.” Who the Rangers are likely to go for will hinge on the market for scorers and what they’ve got available to give back in a value-for-value situation.

The Ducks have some key things to mull over as this week progresses.


Cam Fowler missed Friday’s game with a facial laceration suffered Thursday  night. Leo Carlsson missed with an upper body injury. Mason McTavish went out during the game Friday. As per usual, no update on him was available in the post-game time.

Brian Kennedy wrote Growing Up Hockey and is  a member of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

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