I can already hear everyone screaming that trading Bobby Ryan is not what you do when your team is struggling to score goals, and is contemplating chasing a Stanley Cup. I sympathize; I recently talked about how trading Corey Perry during a Cup chase would be pretty foolish. That was before the Penguins traded for Brenden Morrow, Douglas Murray and Jarome Iginla, essentially declaring war on the rest of the Eastern Conference.
For a game, the Pens had arguably the best top 6 in the league. Sidney Crosby's injury put a temporary halt to all of that. Still, if the preliminary reports are true and Crosby only has a broken jaw, then there should still be a small worry in the East that the Pens will be heading into the playoffs at full strength.
This begs the question as to whether or not there's a team in the Eastern Conference that looks at this Pens team riding a 15 game winning streak, and decides they need a big time piece to compete. Boston and Montreal could be in on it. Maybe the Islanders decide they can make the playoffs if they add a piece like Ryan, or Ottawa switches their sights from Perry to Ryan. I think Bob Murray should do whatever back-channel things that GMs do and float out something to give teams the idea that Bobby can be had for the appropriate extreme price: multiple firsts and a top prospect or useful NHL player.
There's two things to consider here. First, if Bobby wants anything close to what the Twins received - he's gone. Even if the cap goes up to 70 million again, a team that can't count on huge revenue streams runs big risks tying up $23-$24 million on three guys. That's over 1/3 of the cap. I just don't see it happening. That means moving Ryan needs to happen as soon as possible to take advantage of the years left on his contract and squeeze more out of the deal. Second, where will the offense we lose come from? Well, Emerson Etem's 4 points in the last 9 games are tied for second most from a forward over that stretch. He's tied with Bobby Ryan. Two of those points came shorthanded. In all fairness, Etem plays 4th line minutes but still has an offensive impact on the game. He deserves more even-strength and power play time and ice-time with better offensive players than David Steckel and Brad Staubitz. I'm not saying you'll get the same thing in the long run, but I am saying there's something to lessen the sting for this year, plus the potential to get an NHL player in the trade.
The Ducks need to investigate what the return on a Bobby Ryan trade might be, while there might be some teams willing to pay a premium for him. Yes, there will be more buyers in the off-season, but those guys might not be blinded by their desire to keep up with the Pens or finally acquire an impact forward to push them into a playoff spot or passed the middle of the pack and into contender territory. Sometimes it's better to sell when people are willing to pay the most, not when there are the most buyers available. Now let's talk about the shopping.
The 2C-Top 6 Conundrum: There's been a lot of talk about getting a 2C to solidify our second line and improve our offense. I don't disagree with that sentiment, but I think it's premature when we don't know how hurt Nick Bonino is. Bonino was a key element of our improved PP along with Gabby finally giving up his insistence on playing Getzlaf on the point. If you acquire a 2C, you bump Bonino farther down the depth chart, and lose space for Steckel. The only other option is to move one of those guys to the wing. If Bonino is on his way back, I don't have a problem using Saku Koivu as the 2C and Bonino on the third line. That means the Ducks still need extra scoring up top. It's too late to get Devin Setoguchi on the cheap; he's outproducing Andrew Cogliano right now. Maybe Murray can tug Ryan Malone away form Steve Yzerman. It will definitely be a sellers market, so Murray will have to be creative to get the help he needs.
Defense: I'm not sold on this defense. I think there's room for improvement, if Murray is willing to get creative. Bryan Allen has been a bit of a bust. Cam Fowler isn't producing the offensive numbers that we all would like. Luca Sbisa is missing defensive assignments and/or Ben Lovejoy isn't telling him where he's going so they lose track of people in the defensive zone. I was hoping the Ducks could have made a move for Ladislav Smid, but I doubt the Oilers will move him so soon after extending his contract. Scott Hannan could be an interesting addition. He could easily fulfill all of Allen's tasks and allow Murray to flip Allen for a forward, opening some more lateral possibilities with teams still in the playoff hunt. I would have liked to get in on Jordan Leopold, but the Blues beat us to him. This defense has shown a strong tendency for lapses, and hasn't been strongly contributing to the offense, except Francois Beauchemin. Sheldon Souray's numbers have tailed, and that's pretty much it in terms of offense from the blue line. Fowler will put up more points eventually, but I don't have faith in this D. Murray should seek out an upgrade over Allen and possibly a more permanent partner for Fowler.
It's been written in many places, but there seem to be fewer and fewer buyers this year. The schedule has kept more teams in the hunt despite the fact that there are only a few games left. The teams that are selling aren't stacked with phenomenal talent that we should be hunting down. There are pieces out there, but they might not be able to fill the needs we have.
Murray might have to dig deep to pull out something that looked like the Chris Stewart for Erik Johnson trade. I'm trying not to get too excited for the deadline, but it's hard not to have some expectations considering the Ducks have dropped five of their last six games (as of this writing). The Ducks need to find offense from somewhere. After their back to back overtime losses to Phoenix, the Ducks put up 32 goals in 14 games for an average of 2.29/G. That's almost a full goal below their season average before that stretch. It dragged the team from 3rd to 6th in total offense. The guys who were providing depth before have disappeared. The Ducks need to get more consistent scoring up front.