Ducks-Coyotes face off as trade deadline approaches
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Anaheim Ducks are in a unique position as the NHL’s March 1 trade deadline approaches. They could be both a buyer and a seller.
The Ducks could use a little more scoring up front as they try to solidify a playoff spot and perhaps catch the San Jose Sharks for the Pacific Division title, starting with Monday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena.
On the other hand, the Ducks possess enviable depth on their blue line. Teams have inquired about that depth.
“The phone has started to ring,” general manager Bob Murray told the Orange County Register.
The Ducks signed defenseman Sami Vatanen to a four-year extension last summer for nearly $20 million. They have physical presence Josh Manson under contract through next season. Young players Shea Theodore and Brandon Montour are signed through next season, and prospect Jacob Larsson is still playing in Sweden.
All of those defensemen are 25 or younger, as is Cam Fowler, 25. Strong play this season (11 goals, 30 points) suggests Fowler won’t be going anywhere despite widespread interest.
Whatever Murray decides to do, he insists he won’t be looking for players with expiring contracts in return.
“Any young player deal would be a hockey deal,” Murray said, “not a rental.”
The Coyotes are also in an enviable position as the trade deadline approaches. They have three players on expiring contracts that are generating interest: center Martin Hanzal, right winger Radim Vrbata and right defenseman Michael Stone.
Hanzal scored his team-leading 15th goal of the season Saturday in Arizona’s loss to San Jose. It was Hanzal’s fifth goal in his past five games, and it moved him within one goal of his career high of 16 set in the 2009-2010 season.
“Just playing for my future,” he said.
Vrbata leads the team with 40 points, a benchmark he reached Saturday to earn a $500,000 bonus to be paid after the season by whichever club he is with, along with a $500,000 bonus for games played and multiple playoff bonuses that may give cap-strapped teams pause.
Stone has improved in recent games after struggling to find his rhythm coming off ACL and MCL surgery last March in a season in which he produced 36 points.
Of those three players, general manager John Chayka admitted that Hanzal is generating the most interest.
“Martin Hanzal is as good as they come when it comes to a matchup center against other teams’ top lines,” Chayka said. “He plays that hard, heavy game that is playoff hockey, and he’s been excellent for us lately. Teams that want to win Stanley Cups, they want Martin Hanzal in their lineup.”
Chayka said the conversations he had held with GMs up until this week were largely exploratory, but with just over a week left before the deadline, that has changed.
“I think we’re now starting to look to execute on different opportunities,” Chayka said. “There’s a deadline in place, and that’s kind of what makes people act.”
As Arizona prepares to face Anaheim, Coyotes goalie Louis Domingue (lower body) and left winger Lawson Crouse (injured reserve, lower body) are still considered day-to-day. Center Brad Richardson (broken right tibia and fibula) has resumed skating but is still on injured reserve.
For the Ducks, defensemen Clayton Stoner (abdomen) and Simon Despres (concussion symptoms) are on injured reserve and out indefinitely. Center Antoine Vermette served the second game of his 10-game suspension on Sunday for abuse of an official. Vermette slapped linesman Shandor Alphonso on the back of the leg with his stick in a game against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday.
Mike Smith is expected to start in goal for Arizona on Monday. Jonathan Bernier is likely start for Anaheim after John Gibson made 24 saves Sunday in a 1-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings.