March 4, 2010 Trading Places; Kings and
Ducks make moves
evaluates how the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks did at the trade
[LOS ANGELES, CA] -- As the NHL trade
deadline clock struck noon PT, the two Southern California hockey
franchises were in the midst of getting in position for the final push
into post season.
One team firmly entrenched in a playoff
spot chose to make a small splash in the trade pool, while the other
needed to make major moves to shore up a defense that their general
manager defined in a word as "disappointing."
Over the past decade, you'd identify the former franchise as the
Anaheim Ducks and the latter, the Los Angeles Kings.
But 2010 has brought winds of change to
the SoCal hockey landscape, so it was Anaheim GM Bob Murray making the
bold move while his counterpart, Kings GM Dean Lombardi, stood pat.
The Kings were looking for scoring help on the wing and probably
didn't get it. They took a flyer on Columbus left wing Fredrik Modin,
who has the adjectives "oft-injured" and "former 20 goal scorer" in
front of his name these days.
This season, Modin has missed 40 games
with a right knee injury and bruised feet, the predominant reason
Lombardi only gave up a conditional 7th (and last) round pick for his
services. If he's healthy, he'd be playing for a final contract at age
35, but Kings fans shouldn't expect a revival of his Tampa Bay days as
an All Star.
The other move brought back a less known name, but in fact was a
Lombardi continued to bring character
into his locker room by bringing in solid citizen Jeff Halpern from
Tampa Bay. A checking line pivot, his presence gives Kings Head Coach
Terry Murray increased versatility along the forward wall. With
increased production from Michal Handzus and Alexander Frolov on the
current checking line, you could see them graduate to 2nd line duties
with Wayne Simmonds. Though Jarret Stoll is great on face-offs, he may
be spending more time on the wing with Halpern as his center.
Regardless of the new acquisitions' contribution or how lines are
configures, the bigger story is what Lombardi didn't do. Since the
L'Affair de Kovalchuk wound up, the Kings GM has been consistent
in his steadfast refusal to deal away his young core players for
established talent. He resisted Atlanta GM Don Waddell's advances when
the stakes were high, refused to give in to Carolina's Ray Whitney
demand for a multi-year extension and didn't want to get into the mix
for Columbus forward Raffi Torres (who would have been a good fit in
our estimation, but was dealt to Buffalo). Those rumors you heard
about Frolov going or Edmonton's Ethan Moreau coming indeed were just
Using a poker analogy, Lombardi will go all in holding a live hand
knowing he's playing with house money this year because that's what
budding contenders do. Lombardi told us earlier this season he's
patterned his team after the Chicago Blackhawks, so wouldn't their
mirror image appear if Kovalchuk materialized in Los Angeles this
summer like Marian Hossa did in the Windy City last July?
As for the Ducks, GM Bob Murray is still trying to undo the effects of
deciding Chris Pronger and Francois Beauchemin weren't suitable for
his defense. The Ryan Whitney experiment lasted all of 82 games when
he was shipped to Edmonton (poor Ryan) for Lubomir Visnovsky.
Murray took the high road, saying that
Whitney was miscast in the role powerplay quarterback but his
miscalculation cost the Ducks six years in age (Whitney is 26)
although Anaheim will save $1 million over the entire term of both
To back this bet, the Ducks made a
smarter move in getting Aaron Ward, a stay at home defenseman who's
won three Stanley Cups.
The Ducks are in sniffing distance of a
playoff spot and as Phoenix and Colorado show signs of taking on
water, Murray feels better going into the 20 game sprint with his
newly constituted defense. Anaheim also reconfigured their back up
goaltending by shipping in Joey MacDonald and Curtis McElhinney in
favor of Vesa Toskala and Justin Pogge, moves that make little
difference in the Ducks' playoff destiny as Jonas Hiller could easily
start every game remaining.
Did the Ducks get appreciably better over the last 24 hours? It's
While Visnovsky is a better powerplay
quarterback than Whitney and stands to produce more offensively, the
Ducks are sixth in the NHL with the man advantage, not a team
weakness. The addition of Ward makes them more physical on the back
line, a trait that left Anaheim as soon as Pronger landed in the land
On a grander scale, the Ducks have four
starting defensemen that will hit free agency or retirement (Scott
Niedermayer) at season's end and these deals do nothing to improve the
Ducks over the long term, so expect the rebuilding of the Ducks needs
to continue over the summer and beyond.