Quick, someone name the last Stanley Cup champion that brought in a major name to fill a top role at the trade deadline.
Outside of the Los Angeles Kings bringing in Jeff Carter for their 2012 championship run, you'd be hard pressed to do so. In fact, it'd take all the way back to 1994 when the New York Rangers brought in veterans Glenn Anderson, Brian Noonan, Craig MacTavish and Stephane Matteau while shipping out Mike Gartner and Tony Amonte to find the last title winner that had a major adjusting of the team's core in-season.
So while many Ducks fans had visions of Ryan Kesler and Thomas Vanek dancing in their heads, the ultimate result of shipping out Dustin Penner and Viktor Fasth for picks and bringing in Stephane Robidas feels somewhat flat in comparison.
Yielding only a fourth round draft pick from Washington for Penner may sting for some, but this is a player who has been punching above his previous two seasons points-wise (32 this season vs. 31 his previous two in Los Angeles) at 31 years old with a $2 million contract. At the end of the season he'll be in line for a raise, and despite his chemistry with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, the Ducks have already found another younger player who brings a similar skill set: Patrick Maroon. At 26 years old and with a year still remaining on his current deal, Maroon has shown himself to have a more consistent physical presence while at the same time showing flashes of scoring touch (five goals and nine assists) in predominantly lower-line roles. Simply put, Maroon's performance made Penner expendable, and now lessens the tangle in the forward lines that will lead to more ice time for the likes of Jakob Silfverberg and Kyle Palmieri, while also opening spots down the line when the roster expands for the likes of Emerson Etem and Devante Smith-Pelly.
Viktor Fasth appeared to be the Ducks next great signing find from Europe with his performance last year, but after being riddled with injuries in this his first full NHL season suddenly became much less clear a commodity. Factor in as well the splendid first season of Frederik Andersen, who currently lead NHL rookies with 15 wins, and an unseemly loggerhead developed in the crease. General Manager Bob Murray had said earlier in the season there was "no way" he'd trade Jonas Hiller, so this seems the most appropriate place for the axe to fall. Sure it leaves the question unresolved as to whether Hiller will be re-signed, but with Andersen beginning a two-year deal with a cap hit of $1.15 mil next season it opens up more space to do so. Turning an older question mark goalkeeper into a pair of draft picks (fifth round this season and third round in 2015) is better than Brian Burke managed with Ilya Bryzgalov, and clarifies the crease question for the foreseeable future.
It's important to keep in mind what Murray and the Ducks had stated they were looking for come deadline- a physical defenseman that can help on the power play. Enter Robidas from Dallas in exchange for a conditional fourth round draft pick that becomes a third rounder should the Ducks reach the Conference Final and Robidas play in half of the Ducks playoff games. While approaching the tail end of his recovery from a broken leg, Robidas is exactly the kind of physical, hard-nosed defenseman that fits the Ducks shopping list. A right-handed shot that has a wealth of experience, Robidas is used to playing top pairing minutes in Dallas and gives the Ducks the opportunity to create a genuine shutdown pairing while limiting the ice time for the likes of Luca Sbisa and Bryan Allen. Add to that three seasons (most recently 2010-11) with over ten assists on the power play, he adds puck moving ability that should help the second unit. As Kid Ish said in this week's Pizzametrics column "He's played with some real iffy partners the past few seasons and still has even-to-positive numbers, plus he plays with a sort of physical edge that's useful in the playoffs."
While the addition of a big name like Kesler, Vanek, or even Matt Moulson might up the 'sexy' factor for fans, one should also consider in addition to the costs involved that the vast majority of Stanley Cup winners since the wipeout lockout in 2005 have made modest moves at the deadline. Carolina brought aboard the experience of Mark Recchi in 2006; Detroit added Brad Stuart to bolster the defense in 2008; Pittsburgh brought in Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz in 2009; Boston solidified their lower lines with Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly in 2011; Chicago acquired Michal Handzus last year. In each case, it wasn't the proverbial 'belle of the ball' that joined the team on the trade deadline, it was players that filled a specified role.
When you go back to the Ducks Stanley Cup year of 2007, it was the grizzled gritty Brad May that came in at the trade deadline to fill a lower line role. It's very similar to the smaller, veteran need that the Ducks of 2013-14 have filled in the acquisition of Stephane Robidas. While it may not be the big splash fans had hoped for on trade deadline day, it's the kind of deal that history tells us may just lead to the splashing of bubbly at the end of the season.
[Ed. Note: Knock wood, Magumbo, Magumbo, Magumbo! -CK]