Thursday, March 5, 2009

It Happened at 3:30

As news was breaking on the Ducks' last two deadline trades, Bob Murray held a media conference call. Explaining the jettison of two-thirds of the 2007 Stanley Cup Champions' "Shut Down" line, Murray had this to say, "You talk to Travis, Sammy and Husky. They love it here and wanted to stay here, but they all look at you and say, ‘I’ve got to try free agency’. The contract negotiations were going nowhere." Clearly still spooked by the free agency debacle with Dustin Penner, Bob Murray moved all three of the soon-to-be Unrestricted Free Agents for whatever he could get, going so far as to trade with the division rival San Jose Sharks.

[note:  the B-roll graphic that introduces the highlight video also features two Bonino goals]

For the consistently tough forechecker Moen and the recently declining Huskins, the Ducks acquire a conditional pick and prospects Nick Bonino and Timo Pielmeier from San Jose. Bonino is a Hockey East superstar sophomore and Boston University's second most productive scorer. Pielmeier was San Jose's third round pick in 2007, and the 19-year old is currently tending goal in the QMJHL to the tune of 29 wins and a 2.62 GAA.

In exchange for Pahlsson, Logan Stephenson and a conditional pick, Chicago ships defenseman James Wisniewski and center Petri Kontiola to Anaheim. Wisniewski was scouted as a scorer in the OHL, but has been unable to reproduce those numbers in the AHL or NHL, while Kontiola has had successful seasons in the AHL but has yet to be truly tested at the NHL level.

Okay Daniel, assuming the Ducks couldn't sign these guys for the market price in July, was Bob Murray right to pull the trigger here? And is something really better than nothing when you improve teams in your own conference in exchange for that something?

First, I have to say that I like the deal we made with San Jose, so he was right in shipping off Moen.  Huskins is pretty solid, but he's still prone to mental mistakes and he was so inconsistent, it was infuriating.  And that "Shut Down" line just hadn't been as effective recently.  Yes, it was a team in our division, one I'm pretty sure all Ducks fans hate, but we got a really good center prospect, who might be going pro soon.  I think if any team has shown how important College players can be, it's us.  More importantly, we got a goalie prospect.  Pielmeier is 19 and is putting up good numbers. The fact is, as much as I love Hiller, by the time Giguere's contract is up Hiller will almost be 30 and we'll need another outstanding backup.  We were so thin in goalie prospects that you almost have to love this move.  We got two solid prospects, and a potential 2nd round pick if the Sharks make the finals, 4th if they don't, for two guys we weren't sure would be here next year.

On the other hand the Pahlsson deal might not have been as good.  We are trading what amounts to, in my humble opinion, one of the best defensive centers in the game for a defenseman who isn't much of a scorer, and didn't do anything that amazing in the game the other night except be a -1.  It'll be nice to have a solid d-man to replace Montador though. Wisniewski might not be as nasty, but he has been a plus player, if nothing else.  I think this becomes a good deal if we can keep Wisniewski at a reasonable rate, somewhere between 1 -1.5M.  He can be a good 3rd pair defenseman.  In the long run though, Sammy was so good for our system and the way we played, not to mention he's severely underrated as an offensive player.  Look at the work he did on that first powerplay unit.  I just think moving a Pahlsson requires a second round pick and a player/quality prospect.  He's a lynchpin type of guy and given the trouble we've already had with the Hawks I don't see this being good for us if we hit them in the playoffs.

I think we did a bad job strengthening Chicago, and not a good enough job strengthening ourselves.  I think we cleared enough cap space that you have to pick up some sort of scoring veteran, just to let the team know you haven't quit.  Yes, this team is good enough to make the playoffs as is, and Christensen might play well on the top line with Perry and Getzlaf, but who knows.  He's been pretty much a bust up until now.  I think adding a Satan or giving Afinogenov a new home would have been great for us.  We would have 2 solid scoring lines, at least a solid D and of course you never know what can happen if Jiggy decides to be his Conn Smythe self.  I'd have to say that after the deadline everything is just a jumble, and Carlyle is going to have a tough time trying to come up with line combinations that make sense right now.

Well, let's be clear that when you're signing an Unrestricted Free Agent, it doesn't matter if the guy finished the season with you or not.  Yes, it's dangerous to let Sammy and Travis sample the players, coaching staffs and front offices of other organizations, but in July they take the offer they want.  If they really want to play for us, they'll say so in July, and then Bob Murray looks like a damned genius.  If they really need more money than the Ducks are willing to offer then it's good that Murray pulled the trigger because these guys weren't coming back.

I agree that the San Jose trade is the better trade here.  I still remember the highlight of Nick Bonino absolutely undressing Thiessen with a wraparound in his Freshman season last year.  The kid's been solid for the Terriers, and he was Reebok's Hockey Player of the Month last month.  He and Colin Wilson are lighting up Hockey East.  Pielmeier is an important pickup because Hiller's two-year renewal expires next year, and he was a starter LAST year.  Jiggy's contract will continue into the 10-11 season.  Hiller seems like a good kid, but if he wants to start somewhere in Jiggy's last year, we can't ask him to sign and wait.

I think the Hawks trade gives us, effectively, nothing.  To me, it literally is nothing. There are teams where Wisniewski could be an effective Power Play quarterback, but he won't see that ice time with us-- this year or next year.  Especially not if Niedermayer chooses Anaheim as the lame-duck team that pays him to play in the Vancouver Games [no pun intended].  Wisniewski's been bordering on "bust" as an offensive defenseman for quite a while now.  And the Ducks have steadily picked up defensive defenseman that deserve his ice time.  He's not the kind of guy whose basic abilities put Brookbank on the scratch list, unless he can improve his defensive game or really establish his offensive game.  He'll help transition because that's all he's been playing in Chicago, but he'll have to score as many goals as he gives up to be valuable, a feat that Mathieu Schnieder barely accomplished as a Duck.  Kontiola's potentially good, but he didn't make much of his ice time as a Blackhawk.  And after playing so many years in the Finnish Leagues, he's now 24, and bordering on busting as a career AHL player.  

I think Murray had to pull the trigger, but I think if you have the San Jose offer on the table, you keep Pahlsson.  You promote Mike Brown, and add the money you were spending on Moen and Huskins to Pahlsson's offer.  What we got for Pahlsson is not worth the risk, however minimal, of letting Sammy get a taste of playing with a great Chicago team.  Remember that Sammy got frustrated when we asked him to produce offensively to open this season, though he warmed to the prospect of playing on the Power Play.  Chicago will ask him to do exactly what he did in 2007, and exactly what almost won him a Selke, nothing more.

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