Remember collecting and swapping bubble gum cards as a kid, you’d sometimes hedge a transaction by calling “trade backs” – a way to get your Dave Keon or your Frank Mahovlich back if you ever had buyers’ remorse?
It makes wonder if the Anaheim Ducks and the Ottawa Senators can do some sort of version of trade backs this summer, when the NHL trading season heats up, upon completion of the 2014 Stanley Cup final.
Potentially, there are three attractive centres that might be available – the Senators’ Jason Spezza, the Vancouver Canucks’ Ryan Kesler and the San Jose Sharks’ Joe Thornton – and Anaheim will likely be in the discussion for all of them.
Let’s start with Spezza and why that trade might be the best fit for the Ducks.
A year ago, the Ducks traded away Bobby Ryan to the Senators and in exchange received a first-round pick, a prospect (Stefan Noesen) and a young player (Jakob Silfverberg). The decision to move Ryan was made largely for contract reasons. The Ducks are a mid-cap team and with new contracts for both Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry kicking in, there wasn’t going to be enough money left over to pay Ryan.
Getting a handful of futures made sense, especially since the Ducks have done an excellent job of grooming possible replacements for Ryan, with Devante Smith-Pelly, Emerson Etem, Patrick Maroon and Matt Belesky, all providing size and varied levels of skill on the wing.
But when the Ducks fell short this spring, losing in the second round to the Los Angeles Kings, the perception was that they didn’t match up well enough down the middle. The Kings ran Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Jarret Stoll and Mike Richards at them. The Ducks countered with Getzlaf, Mathieu Perreault, Saku Koivu and Nick Bonino.
That is a mismatch of the first order.
So Anaheim is interested in adding someone to support Getzlaf and ideally would like to do it without breaking the budget.
Spezza would be an attractive option, in part because the actual cash outlay on his current contract, which expires after the 2014-15 season, is $4-million (even if the cap hit comes in at $7-million).
That is a dollar figure that would meet Anaheim’s budgetary limitations and also give both sides a chance to feel each other out. Spezza would likely be a good fit on the West Coast, and as recently as the 2011-12 season was the No. 4 overall scorer in the NHL.
The price for Spezza is likely to be a package similar to what the Senators surrendered for Ryan – a first-rounder, a prospect and a player. So that’s where trade backs come in. Could it be the exact package – just return the pick to the Senators and the players?
More likely, it’d be some variation of it. Anaheim might prefer to trade its own later pick to Ottawa and if the Sens have lost interest in one or both of Silfverberg or Noesen, they have any number of prospects at forward and on defence Ottawa could choose from. On paper anyway, there appears to be a fit there.
Kesler is a different sort of player, a little grittier than Spezza and maybe in a perfect world, the Ducks would rather have him because the road to the Stanley Cup final looks as if it will go through L.A. for some time.
If the new regime in Vancouver goes ahead and deals Kesler, the cost to the Ducks would be roughly the same as it would be to bid for Spezza – and the contract isn’t bad either (two more years at $5-million per season, with a no-trade clause to work around).
Thornton would be a far longer shot.
He’s making more money than either Spezza or Kesler (a new three-year, $21-million deal kicks in next year); and teams are loath to trade stars within the division because that can make for some uncomfortable moments if the deal turns out to be one-sided.