This is Anaheim Calling to the hockey world.
The Ducks' struggles have caused a bit of a rotating door in the roster, especially on defense. Sbisa got sent back to his junior team early, Mikkelson got switched for Festerling after a decent start turned into an inability to clear the zone, and now, Boynton and Eminger are fighting for the last spot with Boynton getting the lion's share of the time. Eminger had a very solid game against the Sharks, despite the overall struggles of the team, but has found himself sidelined with the flu.
Arthur, you've recently said that this roster can't make the playoffs unless the Lord visits Apocalypse upon the Western Conference. To me, that means the Ducks would need to be buyers at the deadline. If so, they can certainly afford to move a defenseman in a trade, and in order to keep chemistry and experience at their highest, the team's best trading chip (aside form one of their extra first round selections) would be a defenseman. So, is Steve Eminger the number one candidate to be moved down the stretch, or is there another extra defeseman who should be moved first?
Well, in terms of asset management in the long run, Eminger is first in line on the trading block. He and Whitney are the only blueliners whose contracts affect next year's cap. If this team is going to rebuild its defensive corps through free agency, then it will need all the money it can get.
However, assuming this team is in a position to be a buyer at the deadline, Eminger won't cut it. As buyers, the Ducks would have to take on long term salary for pending free agents, or I suppose, take on expiring free agents for prospects (I bet Murray's licking his prospect mismanaging chops after McMillan's hat trick in the World Juniors). For that objective, Eminger is the least viable option.
But I really can't pick out the MOST likely blueliner-go-bye-bye in this situation. If we're willing to take on a complete disaster of a contract, then Wisniewski and Boynton are interchangeable (even though Wiz is an RFA). But if we're targeting a key acquisition, MOST of this corps won't pass muster in trade talks. And that's a testament to the job Murray did last offseason.
Sadly, I agree with you about the status of our defensive corps and Murray's job in constructing it. I don't think that Eminger will be the first one to go, and I think that he serves as little more than insurance right now against what will be an inevitable move of Wisniewski. Eminger has shown signs of being able to play very well, and I've gotten a general sense that he can be very consistent despite the small streak of poor games that got him benched.
Still, the emergence of Brookbank is really the key factor in deciding who goes. The fact is that the chemistry of Festerling- Niedermayer and Whitney-Brookbank had relegated Wisniewski to third pairing oblivion despite having what is supposed to be a Top 4 tool kit. Carlyle had to move him back with Nierdermayer, because the Boynton-Wisniewski pairing was so awful and was costing us goals.
Wisniewski has enough skill that a team that has the stay at home, mistake free defenseman who can play with him might be interested in that offensive upside. Also, the expiring contract and pending RFA status makes him a little more appealing as well. I don't think the Ducks have to do that much outside construction on the blueline for next year, and that's all the more reason to keep Eminger as a little bit of veteran insurance. Really, the Ducks only need to replace Niedermayer, and that's virtually impossible, because there isn't a defenseman of that caliber that will go UFA this summer. Maybe Sergei Gonchar or Rob Blake, but they'll probably want to sign with teams more solidly in the Cup race. The only option at getting a big time defenseman this off season is if the Flames get interested in moving Phaneuf. That'll take picks and prospects, things we won't have if we use them at the deadline as buyers. Look for Murray to do his usual scrap trading at the deadline, and unfortunately, look for him to not be smart enough to trade Wisniewski.