This Season’s First Big Trade Helps Both Teams.
Very rarely in the NHL is a trade “fair” for both teams, but the Anaheim Ducks and New Jersey Devils may have a close-to-even trade given their respective situations. While one team may have gotten a player they needed more, the other made a deal that many knew had to be done. The terms of the deal, per TSN, are as follows:
New Jersey receives: Defenseman Sami Vatanen and a conditional draft pick
The condition, per Cap Friendly, is contingent upon Henrique signing an extension. Depending on when he signs, the Devils will get a third round pick in 2019 if the deal is done before that draft, in 2020 if the deal is done after, and no pick if the Ducks and Henrique part ways at the end of the contract.
Why The Ducks Had To Make The Deal
Sometimes coming away with the best player isn’t how you win a trade. The Ducks had way more pressure to acquire a forward as well as move one of their defenseman. We will start with the “problem” that they knew would require them to move on of their defenseman.
It is never a bad thing to have too many good, young defenseman, but the salary cap reminds us that it isn’t a reality if you want to have a well-rounded team. When it came time to extend their players, the Ducks had to choose which one of their core d-men had to go. These are the contracts that they gave out, along with when they started or will start.
|Sami Vatanen||4 years/$19.5 Million ($4.875 Million AAV)||2016-2017|
|Hampus Lindholm||6 years/$35 Million ($5.2 Million AAV)||2016-2017|
|Cam Fowler||8 years/$52 Million ($6.5 Million AAV)||2018-2019|
|Josh Manson||4 years/16.4 Million ($4.1 Million AAV)||2018-2019|
In addition to these deals, Brandon Montour is up for a new contract after this year, and veteran Kevin Bieksa is finishing up a contract with a cap hit of $4 million that will expire at the conclusion of the season. In June, the first domino fell as Anaheim’s former first round pick and young defenseman Shea Theodore was selected by Vegas in the expansion draft.
Past their surplus of young defenseman, the Ducks have been hit with the injury bug this year, with both of their top centers Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler out at least until December, and top-six winger Patrick Eaves fighting Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
Henrique provides a reliable top-six scoring option, playing in over 70 games in all but one season and scoring over 20 goals three times. Important also is his versatility to play either down the middle or on the wing. The former will be important during the Ducks’ injuries, and he can hold his own, winning 47% of his draws during his career.
With the return of both Getzlaf and Kesler, Henrique will most likely move to the wing, as center Antoine Vermette is currently 2nd in face-off percentage with 60.6% among players who have won 150 draws.
Blandisi will most likely be nothing more than a depth forward, which is important at the moment due to injuries. But he shouldn’t be relied upon down the stretch as he only has nine points through 29 games with both clubs this year.
While there is no denying that Henrique is a great player to have in any top-six, the Ducks were in a position that they had to make this trade. The story is very different for New Jersey.
Why The Devils “Could” Make This Trade
New Jersey has been in somewhat of a “rebuild” in the last few years, and thanks to good drafting, taking bad contracts, and a little bit of luck, they are in a position to be buyers. GM Ray Shero should be applauded for how quick this team has turned around, as they are on top the Metropolitan division, arguably the toughest in all of hockey.
In the offseason, New Jersey shored up their offense by drafting Nico Hischier first overall after winning the lottery with the fifth best odds. They traded two draft picks that weren’t even their own for forward Marcus Johansson. Sixth round pick and rookie Jesper Bratt has shocked the league by scoring 19 points so far.
The Devils had a chance to pick up not only a top defenseman, but a right-handed shot that has become a premium attribute in today’s NHL. Vatanen comes in and takes the top spot on the right side, replacing former Devil Adam Larsson who was sent to Edmonton last season. That trade now looks exceptional for New Jersey, as they essentially swapped out Larsson and Henrique for Taylor Hall and Sami Vatanen.
Combine all of this with the signing of Will Butcher, who leads the team’s defenseman with 18 points so far, and goaltender Cory Schneider playing at his usual all-star level, and this team is now in an even better position to contend for a Stanley Cup.
Which Player Came Out Better?
As unfortunate as it may be, if Patrick Eaves cannot make it back on the ice due to his illness, Henrique may be looking to replace the role that Anaheim was hoping Eaves would play. Due to the surplus of centers who win face-offs, with Getzlaf a career 48.5% and Kesler a career 55.6%, along with the aforementioned Vermette, Henrique would be better served in a top-six role on the wing instead of as a third or fourth line center.
Vatanen will now have more responsibility in New Jersey, but a better chance to establish that he is an elite defenseman that is not helped by players like Lindholm or Fowler. Due to his right-hand shot, he is already in a position to be paid more than a lefty of the same caliber.
Overall, Vatanen has already played at an elite level and is a harder player to come by in today’s NHL, simply because he is a right-handed defenseman. Henrique has the most to gain from his new surroundings, especially on a team that has seen more playoff success. His role will be different than it was in New Jersey in previous seasons and what it would have been due to the emergence of the young talent.
All stats in this article are courtesy of Hockey-Reference.com and all salary information courtesy of Cap Friendly, unless noted.
Edited by Jeremy Losak.
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