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Let’s Make a Deal: The Ducks Trade Value Rankings: Part I

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Fourth-liners, backups, and the overpaid

NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at Anaheim Ducks Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a lot of information out there.

That’s probably what National Hockey League front offices think these days — fans have access to so many statistics and salary figures that it allows everyone to have an opinion on who is worth what. “Joe Smith is having a down year? Let’s see what it’d cost my team to buy him out in June.” “Bob Michaels makes how much? Who was the genius that gave him that deal?”

Hockey fans fawn over player contracts and how it fits into team structure during this era of the salary cap. Value isn’t just based on how many goals or points you score anymore — production is weighed against how much a player costs. And every player, more than ever, is viewed as an asset.

The Anaheim Ducks have some good assets and some bad ones, and with the trade deadline arriving on Feb. 26, there’s no better time to rank each Ducks player’s value as a trade asset.

Here are the rules (borrowed from The Ringer’s Bill Simmons, who used to do an annual NBA trade column and was the main inspiration for this. His was league-wide, but this will be focused only on the Ducks):

  1. Salaries matter. Would you rather have Rickard Rakell at $3 million a year or Corey Perry at $8 million? (That one should be easy)
  2. Age matters too. Would you rather have Ryan Kesler, who turned 33 in August and has a few prime years left (or maybe none; more on that later), or Adam Henrique, who is six years younger?
  3. Don’t forget contract length. Nobody likes someone who overstays their welcome.
  4. What would a trade partner agree to give up? Ultimately, this is about what players would net the greatest return in a trade, and the aforementioned rules inform that. If two players produce the same on the ice, but one is younger and cheaper, younger and cheaper wins.

Some sidenotes … this list doesn’t include any top prospects, only players currently in the pros (sorry Max Jones and Sam Steel) or players who have appeared in at least 20 games (apologies Joseph Blandisi, Kalle Kossila, Andy Welinski, etc.). Also, Patrick Eaves, who was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome earlier this season, will not appear on this list due to his uncertain future. We hope to see him on future editions of this list.

Here’s Part I of the Ducks’ trade value rankings (players are listed with remaining contract AFTER the conclusion of this season):

(Salary cap figures are courtesy of capfriendly.com, statistics courtesy of hockey-reference.com and nhl.com)

20 - Kevin Bieksa (UFA)

19 - Francois Beauchemin (UFA)

While Beauchemin was certainly a productive player during his first two tenures with the Ducks, he’s nothing more than a bottom-pairing defenseman at this point in his career. Randy Carlyle has done well limiting Beauchemin’s ice time (18:05 ATOI would be the lowest of his career by a significant margin; he’s never averaged less than 21 minutes per game). Brought back to Anaheim in August, Beauchemin served his purpose as a stop-gap while the team waited for other defensemen to return from offseason surgeries. He’s cheap but still a liability on the ice, and this is likely his last season.

Bieksa’s time with the Ducks has been nothing short of aggravating. Over the last two seasons, he has the fifth-most giveaways on the team and the fifth-least takeaways. For a possession-lacking defenseman, his turnover frequency is damning. Since the start of 2016-17, only Jared Boll (who was placed on waivers on Dec. 10 and has since returned) has a worse SAT% (shot attempt percentage) than Bieksa.

Even more frustrating concerning Bieksa is that he would have been the perfect Duck had Anaheim acquired him three or four years years before they did. During his prime in Vancouver, Bieksa was a legitimate top-pairing defenseman that could soak up 20 minutes or more a night and deliver an element of nastiness every winning team needs. He perfectly fit the mold of how the Ducks wanted to play. Instead, Anaheim settled for the bargain bin version (except he costs a nice chunk of change).

Due to the expansion draft and trades, the Ducks have had to rely on Beauchemin and Bieksa more than they probably preferred this season. It wouldn’t be shocking if Ducks general manager Bob Murray looks to add a depth defenseman by the trade deadline — not doing so could expose Anaheim in the playoffs if these two are anchoring two of the Ducks’ three defensive pairs.

18 - J.T. Brown (UFA)

Claimed off waivers in January from the Tampa Bay Lightning, Brown has been a pleasant surprise for the Ducks through six games. Aside from playing a different position, Brown’s game is eerily similar to former Duck Nate Thompson — he brings plenty of energy, always finishes his check, and can fit into larger roles if the team is in a jam. Heck, if you eliminate the number and name on Brown’s jersey, his skating style is almost a carbon copy of Thompson.

Like Thompson however, he’s a career role player that should never be a long-term answer in any roster’s top nine. He’s also pretty expensive ($1.25 million AAV) considering his skill set, though the Ducks aren’t on the hook for all of that.

17 - Chris Wagner (UFA)

Wagner has already set career-highs in assists and points this season, while matching his previous best of six goals that he’ll likely exceed at some point. The main reason for his increase in production? Opportunity. With Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler out of the lineup for extended stretches this season, Wagner remained one of the few players on the roster capable of playing center. The 26-year-old played at least 20 minutes in seven games this season. Despite his improvement, Wagner is a career role player expected to create energy on the fourth line and he’s paid as such (due $637,500 this season).

16 - Antoine Vermette (UFA)

After watching him in a Ducks uniform for a season and a half, it’s almost hard to believe Vermette was once a regular 20-goal scorer (he peaked with 27 in 2009-10 with Columbus). His value to the Ducks is that he’s essentially a jack of all trades — he serves as a two-way center that can win faceoffs but also fill in on the wing if need be.

15 - Ryan Miller (one year, $2 million, 35+ NMC)

Settled in with his role as a backup, Miller has been fantastic when called upon by the Ducks this season. The 37-year-old netminder will never reach the heights of his Vezina-winning season in 2009-10, but the Ducks don’t need him to be that guy. Miller was brought in to spell starter John Gibson when Gibson was due for a break, or provide insurance should Gibson be felled by injury. As good as Jonathan Bernier was down the stretch last season in Gibson’s absence, his play in Games 5 and 6 of the Western Conference Finals might’ve cost the Ducks a chance to appear in the Stanley Cup Final. Wisely, Murray quickly upgraded the position during the offseason. Because he’s over 35, Miller automatically receives a NMC but his salary is very manageable (two years, $2 million AAV). Miller’s value is that he’s probably the best security blanket for goaltenders in the entire league.

14 - Nick Ritchie (RFA)

How much goodwill does scoring the game-winning goal in Game 7 of a playoff round buy? Ritchie was the hero as the Ducks dispatched of the Oilers in the second round last season, but the former first-round pick has been nothing short of a disappointment in 2017-18. Ritchie is truly one of the most frustrating players in recent Ducks history — he hasn’t lived up to his draft position and to boot, he can’t shake his need to take unnecessary offensive zone penalties.

There was hope that after Ritchie scored 14 goals in 2016-17 that the power forward would continue to evolve his game and approach 20-goal territory this season. Instead, he’s scored four times in 44 games and endured a 23-game scoring drought.

Ritchie’s value is a bit inflated because he still carries the reputation of a first-rounder, he’s big, and he does have a wicked shot. He could still be a major piece in a trade if there’s a team out there, and there probably is, that believes Ritchie can still consistently be a productive professional. In truth, he’s likely a career third-liner that can temporarily move into a scoring role if he’s paired with the right center.

13 - Andrew Cogliano (three years, $3.25 million AAV, modified NTC)

Mr. Reliable. There’s an old saying that an athlete’s best ability is availability, and none check that box better than Cogliano. The end of his consecutive games played streak was unfortunate, but Cogliano remains a hound on the forecheck and brings an element of speed to the Ducks’ forward unit that is otherwise seriously lacking it. Cogliano recorded 45 points as a rookie in 2007-08 and hasn’t topped that mark since; he’s settled in with 10+ goals and 30+ points per year, and has established himself as a crucial part of Anaheim’s penalty kill.

His extension, signed on Jan. 12, is only a $250,000 increase in salary from his previous deal. He doesn’t have the sexy statistics, but every winning team needs a Cogliano-type, and the Ducks have theirs.

12 - Ryan Kesler (four years, $6.875 million AAV, NMC)

11 - Corey Perry (three years, $8.625 million AAV, NMC)

For as well as Bob Murray has massaged the salary cap and avoided cap hell when every prognosticator suggested Anaheim was on a highway to just that, these two contracts stick out like a sore thumb.

First, Perry; the 32-year-old winger signed his current eight-year deal on March 18, 2013. He was 27 years old at the time of the extension. The next three seasons, Perry scored 43 (the second-highest single season total of his career), 33 (in 67 games) and 34 goals. That total of 110 goals from 2013-2016 was exceeded only by three players — Alex Ovechkin, Joe Pavelski and Jamie Benn. In that time, only Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos had a higher goals-per-game average than Perry. It’s hard to crush the deal, even though it hasn’t aged gracefully, considering how solid the early returns were.

Kesler is another story. Only a season and a half into his six-year, $41.25 million deal, Kesler’s contract is a problem. At the moment, the 33-year-old’s AAV is the 17th-highest among centers in the NHL; his cap hit is the exact same the BruinsPatrice Bergeron (which is a bummer if you’re the Ducks because Kesler ≠ Bergeron).

The long-term health of Kesler’s contract was always dubious but, like Perry’s contract, the hope was that the early returns are positive enough where the Ducks were willing to live with the back half of overpayment.

Well, it hasn’t been. Kesler was fine for the first half of 2016-17, but over his last 82 games (including the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs), he’s been held to 15 goals (0.18 goals per game). Take away his hat trick against Philadelphia on Jan. 1, 2017 (about 80 games ago), and Kesler’s goals-per-game drops to 0.14. For reference’s sake, Derek Grant’s goals-per-game average in 2017-18 is 0.19.

In fairness to Kesler, he required offseason hip surgery and according to Murray “couldn’t skate” the entire second half of last season. How much that, and not deteriorating ability, played into his production remains to be seen. As Kesler builds back up to 100 percent, it’s possible 2017-18 may become a wash year and 2018-19 might be a better indication of what he has left in the tank. It’s the risk you run when signing older players to long-term deals … one injury can submarine a player’s value.

Now, in both cases with Kesler and Perry, their value isn’t only in scoring goals and points. Perry’s ability to create goals when he never touches the puck — his aptitude for distracting goaltenders is still there — can’t be quantified, nor can Kesler’s grit or knack for getting under opponents’ skin.

Perry earns the nod over Kesler because even in a very down year in 2016-17, he still managed 53 points and was on pace for 58 points this season before suffering a lower-body injury Dec. 14 (and that pace was largely without Getzlaf in the lineup, whom Perry will likely see his share of icetime with the rest of the way). His deal expires one year earlier than Kesler’s and the final two years come with an actual salary lower than the AAV.

Concerning Kesler, the Ducks could always buy him out in future offseasons and save $4.45 million per year through the life of the deal, or they could continue to pay him as a rich man’s Samuel Pahlsson. Either way, it’s a rough contract.

Check back in the coming weeks for Part II.