Here are two things that I strongly believe. Things that, according to my perception of this team and the universe, are so evidently true that I do not need to defend them:
2. The Ducks as currently constructed are not good enough to win the Cup this year without an improbable amount of luck.
In other words, the time for patience has passed. In my estimation, Bob Murray did a lot of really good things from 2010 to 2013 that rebuilt this team into a potential contender, and since then he has only made one significant move (the Ryan Kesler trade) to turn this team into a serious contender. Murray has a good team in place, but that team has some major holes. Last year, he traded for a rental player (Stephane Robidas), which was an encouraging departure from his usual operating philosophy. This year, rentals may be his only options to improve his team. Let's take a closer look.
I am happy with Ryan Getzlaf - Kesler and Corey Perry - Kyle Palmieri as the 1-2 punches at center and right wing, and I am happy with Matt Beleskey playing the left side with either of those two lines. I am also very happy with the third line (7-67-33) and moderately happy with the fourth line (Nate Thompsonis not the best but he's also not the problem with this team.)
I am not, however, happy with any of Patrick Maroon, Rene Bourque, Devante Smith-Pelly, or Andrew Cogliano playing with either Getzlaf or Kesler. Emerson Etem might have potential, but I'd feel a lot better with an established top six guy up there.
Taylor Hall — Yeah, I'm still dreaming, what of it? If the Oilers are actually dumb enough to trade him, Bob Murray needs to be aggressive. Cap hit: $6M until 2020
Antoine Vermette — Plays center, but is listed as LW and C. Murray might balk at the idea of giving up a first round pick and a good prospect or two for a rental who might not even play his natural position, but didn't Mike Babcock just say you should ideally have two centers playing on each line? Vermette would make the Ducks' top six a lot more dangerous, and Arizona is definitely in sell mode. Cap hit: $3.75M, UFA
Jaromir Jagr — He has played on the right side his entire career, so perhaps Palmieri could slide back over to the left? Cap hit: $3.5M, UFA
Jiri Tlusty — Carolina is another bottom feeder looking to move players for picks and prospects, and Tlusty is a prime candidate. He has more career goals (85) than assists (77), so he'd probably be a better fit with the playmaking Getzlaf than with shoot-first Kesler. Cap hit: $2.95M, UFA
Nail Yakupov — He hasn't been the scoring threat that he was projected to be, but the talent is still there. He is a riskier trade target that the others on this list, and he's really the opposite of what I'm advocating for (an established player with whom we know what we're getting), but the potential reward is very high if he ends up coming into his own alongside the Twins. Cap hit: $925K, RFA
The bad news is that a Doughty/Keith/Weber world-beater D is not available. The good news is that the Ducks might not need one. Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, and Sami Vatanen [Ed. Note: When not injured... -EE] are all very good players who just need better partners.
First, a note on Keith Yandle and Mike Green: I'd love to see either of these guys in a Ducks' uniform this season, but the price is going to be way too high for both of them — Yandle because he has another year left on his contract and Don Maloney knows he can get a bigger return if he waits for the summer, and Green because the Capitals are a playoff team and will be reluctant to part with him.
Zbynek Michalek — This guys shoots right, owns the best corsi numbers of any defenseman on his team, and his cap hit might make it tough for other contending team to make a play for him. Cap hit: $4M, UFA
Andrej Sekera — He's a leftie, so somebody would have to switch sides, but it would probably be worth it. And oh by the way he can do this. Cap hit: $2.75, UFA
Jeff Petry — He shoots right and is probably a better player than his numbers and the eye test indicate, based on nothing other than the fact that he plays for the Oilers. Cap hit: $3.075M, UFA
Any of these guys could round out a solid top four. The question would then become, does Bruce Boudreau load up his top four (4, 45, 47, and new guy) with 25 minutes each and leave the third pairing (two of 3, 6, and 23) with ten sheltered minutes?
The problem is that Arizona, Carolina, and Edmonton are unlikely to be interested in Clayton Stoner or Eric Brewer, and I don't think the Samuelis are particularly keen on paying those guys a combined $7M to sit in the press box.
If Murray does not add to his team, I don't like their chances in April, much less May or June. But if he adds just two players without subtracting anything important, this team looks a whole lot better. While I would love to see Hall or Yandle come aboard, I don't think the Ducks need to add a star player of that caliber in order to compete for the Cup this year. They just need to add a couple of good players that can ensure that Maroon plays on the fourth line instead of the first, Lovejoy plays on the third pairing instead of the first, etc.