Bob Murray has had a lot on his plate recently. Not only has he been handling his usual duties tinkering with the roster, but he’s also been evaluating players from behind the bench.
Given the Ducks’ current spot in the standings and with a roster that now has more questions surrounding it than the team has had in years, all eyes were on Murray to see what decisions he would make during the important trade deadline.
He responded with three trades: defenseman Brandon Montour for defensive prospect Brendan Guhle and a late 1st round draft pick, forward Brian Gibbons for defenseman Patrick Sieloff, and Michael Del Zotto for a 6th round draft pick.
He also sent down, then called back up Troy Terry, Max Jones, Jaycob Megna, and Gruhle in a paper transaction with the San Diego Gulls, thus ensuring that all four of those players remain with Anaheim for the rest of the season (assuming one of them wasn’t an emergency call up).
So how did Bob Murray do?
Fine, I believe would be the appropriate word here.
But then again, there wasn’t a ton he could do. The contracts that would be the most beneficial to move either have NMCs attached to them, or would likely get a better return around the Draft during the offseason.
His statement after the deadline gives us a glimpse into his goals for the immediate future.
With the #NHLTradeDeadline in our rearview mirror, Executive Vice President/General Manager Bob Murray laid out a road map for the future of our franchise. pic.twitter.com/dl31A1JBa7— Anaheim Ducks (@AnaheimDucks) February 26, 2019
The Ducks did indeed get younger, going from a 24-year-old to a 21-year-old and a draft pick. His words also indicate that more moves are coming, especially during the offseason.
Some signs were there for those looking. With Brandon Montour filing for arbitration last summer, his ice time diving off a cliff as soon as Murray took over as interim head coach, and considering his very reasonable cap hit, it’s clear that Montour’s days were numbered with the organization. Montour was one of the easiest pieces for Murray to move, and he got a pretty good return for him, as well, in a defensive prospect still with a lot of upside and near-elite skating skills as well as a 1st rounder to help with the retool.
Montour was having a down year (like almost everyone on the Ducks roster), but his name brand was definitely inflated primarily from his time as a great offensive threat from the blueline in juniors and in San Diego. Since being called up by the Ducks on December 26th, 2016, Montour was 2nd amongst Ducks defensemen in points and goals, 2nd in assists, and 3rd in points per game.
He was a fine performer for the Ducks on the blueline, but a mid-tier prospect with upside and a 1st round pick was probably a good package for a team in the middle of a race towards a lottery pick with intentions of competing again as soon as possible after this season.
As for Guhle, the former 2nd round pick in 2015 was considered the top defensive prospect in the Sabres’ system before they drafted Rasmus Dahlin. That’s not to say that his stock had fallen in the eyes of Buffalo, but rather that they got the opportunity to draft an elite talent on the blueline.
Scouts who have watched Guhle praise him as an elite skater who set the sixth-best time in AHL All Star history in the Fastest Skater competition. He profiles as a 2-way defenseman who can be very difficult to play against with the ceiling of a reliable top-4 puck mover.
While not considered to have the offensive ceiling of Montour, Guhle showed great instincts activating and joining the rush once he was moved to the left side of Cam Fowler in the second period of yesterday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks. At the very least, it appears that there is some offensive talent to work with.
Brian Gibbons was a signing that Murray straight up admitted to as being a mistake.
Per Eric Stephens of The Athletic, the Ducks GM expressed guilt with the stint of Gibbons in Anaheim:
Gibbons floated in and out of the lineup, serving as a healthy scratch on numerous occasions and receiving 4th line minutes when he was able to crack the lineup. As a pending-UFA and with the Ducks no longer setting their sites on the playoffs, he became expendable.
Gibbons wasn’t going to fetch anything the Ducks could use for the future, so Murray opted to get help now for the San Diego Gulls by acquiring defenseman Patrick Sieloff. With Megna and Guhle staying up with Anaheim for the rest of the season and Jake Dotchin and Josh Mahura currently recovering from injuries, Sieloff becomes a warm body to fill in on the blue line as the Gulls continue to make their Calder Cup Playoffs push.
The final move of the day saw defenseman Michael Del Zotto, he of 12-game Anaheim Ducks legend status, dealt to the scorching-hot St. Louis Blues for a 6th round draft pick.
Del Zotto was originally acquired from Vancouver for Luke Schenn and a 7th round pick. By dealing Del Zotto to the Blues, Murray upgraded his draft pick. That’s really all that you can say about that trade.
What about the moves Murray didn’t make?
There are four players that had been in the rumor mill leading up to the deadline: Cam Fowler, Adam Henrique, Ryan Miller, and Jakob Silfverberg.
Two of those players were removed from that mill this weekend, with news that Jakob Silfverberg had an unofficial agreement in place to re-sign with the Ducks for five years.
Goaltender Ryan Miller was reportedly asked by Murray if he wanted to be traded to a contender (cough San Jose Sharks cough), but he declined, wishing to remain in Anaheim for the time being.
As for Fowler and Henrique? Both of those players have contracts with high AAVs and lots of term remaining for whom most contenders don’t have the cap space and aren’t willing to take a risk on, at least at the moment.
During the offseason, longer-term plans become clearer for lots of teams as they begin setting their rosters up for next season and beyond. With Fowler having six years remaining on his eight year deal and Henrique’s five year extension not kicking in until July 1st, potential returns on those players will likely be more acceptable for Murray come summertime.
That’s not to say that both players are a guarantee to be dealt. Fowler, while valued by many GMs around the league, has a modified NTC that allows him to approve a trade to one of only four teams of his choosing. And Henrique is a 40-50 point player who is about to turn 30-years-old while making $5.825 million per season.
I mean, it’s fantastic for the players that they both hit paydirt on these contracts, but it would require some significant planning for other teams to take them on. This, of course, inherently lowers their trade value as well.
Overall, I give the Ducks a solid B for this deadline. They got younger and cheaper with a good defensive prospect and a valuable extra 1st round pick that they can use to help restock the farm, or even trade up if they feel it prudent. They got rid of non-impact pieces and set the stage for more moves this summer hinted at by Murray.
Players that could have been moved - but would have resulted in unsatisfying returns due to contract reasons - were held onto in a gamble that their prices will rise come draft time, where the real retooling will happen.
Dealing Jakob Silfverberg would have likely been the Ducks’ best move and potentially netted them yet another 1st round pick, but Murray instead sees a 40 point 2-way winger being given a raise as part of the Ducks’ future plan to get more scoring I guess? Jake Rudolph does a wonderful job breaking down why the extension is a bad move for Anaheim that echos many of my thoughts.
Murray is insistent that he has a retooling plan in place and that it will take shape as time moves on. Whether or not that plan turns out to be the one that puts the Ducks back into contention remains to be seen. But this trade deadline was a decent first step in executing that plan.