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Key Trade Deadline Targets for the Future of the Anaheim Ducks

What will the Anaheim Ducks trade deadline targets be? Much of the deadline focus surrounding the rebuilding efforts of the team is concrete. Some players are likely to be traded away, but the more important question is what to expect in returns. Conceptually, the idea is to acquire futures, draft capital, and young players. Assets that will strengthen the Ducks in the years ahead. However, there is more that goes into the blueprint of perennial contention than sheer volume. In other words, there are minutiae involved in what the Ducks choose to acquire. As well, as how these roster moves interact with the organization’s current makeup. 

Bird’s Eye View

While the Ducks are firmly rebuilding, the team has already built out an infrastructure of young talent. Most of these prospects are still a fair distance from becoming impactful NHLers. Unfortunately, a fair number of potential core players already find themselves in the NHL. Some fans are surely focused on falling into a higher draft position by losing as many games as possible this season. But with so much of the team’s future already on the roster, this is a risky strategy. The Ducks need to navigate their trade assets and targets at the deadline. This will help maintain cultural integrity and adequately support their young, blue-chip NHLers. The Ducks do have a wealth of goaltending talent behind starter John Gibson as well, with Lukas Dostal coming into his own as an NHLer and Tomas Suchanek excelling in the AHL. 

On Defence

GM Pat Verbeek will have one eye on maintaining the health of his locker room, and the other focused on the future. The Ducks have a wealth of quality defence prospects. In addition, they have a historical track record of drafting and developing a volume of quality NHL defencemen. The Ducks do have a great depth of left-shot defencemen worthy of NHL roles, including Olen Zellweger who finds himself on the outside looking in. With Zellweger and Pavel Mintyukov seemingly ready to start making an impact in the NHL, the Ducks have ample offensive talent on the blueline as well. In truth, a balanced NHL blueline requires two reliable power play options and four reliable penalty kill options. Therefore, the Ducks should focus on adding players that profile as defensively inclined. This is not to suggest that the team will not continue to draft or otherwise acquire defencemen.

At Forward

If there is a weak spot in the Ducks projected future it is at the forward position. This perceived need is offset by several highly skilled forwards in the NHL lineup. As the group led by Leo CarlssonMason McTavishTrevor Zegras, and Troy Terry they appear to form a strong foundation of top-six level talent. This will allow them to build on over the next several seasons. The Ducks do have some notable forward prospects in the system, most notably Cutter Gauthier. Gauthier might even debut this year after his college season ends. Conversely, the truth is most prospects will not be able to reach the full potential fans might hope for. 

Draft Capital to Target

The headline item in terms of Anaheim Ducks trade deadline targets, is acquiring additional first-round picks in the 2024 NHL Entry Draft. This surely would appease any invested in the team’s success. The Ducks do have their own pick, virtually guaranteed to be in the top ten. But they don’t currently possess any other team’s first-round pick at this point. The team does own some mid-round picks in the 2024 draft. This includes the second-round pick of the Boston Bruins and the third-round picks from both the San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins. Interestingly enough, the Ducks are missing their 2025 second-round pick.

Together, this scene suggests that the Ducks might choose to target mid-round picks in later years instead of this one. While this strategy is not necessarily immediately impactful, it does bode well for the long-term health of the franchise. Staggering draft capital outside the first round can help build layers within the timeline of the prospect pipeline as a whole. On the other hand, this extra draft capital will give the Ducks flexibility to navigate the draft board or to jump on trade opportunities that might arise in the future. The Ducks will prioritize adding draft capital. This won’t improve the support for the current NHL roster, but the Ducks are already positioned nicely for a big showing at the 2024 draft as it is.

Young NHL Forwards to Target

Given the balance of their prospect system, as well as the fact that many of the Ducks likely trade assets are forwards, the team might acquire a young talent up front. A common trope, there are many young forwards around the league who could benefit from a change of scenery. One form of this is a greater NHL role. 

While much of the speculation is often focused on former first-round draft picks, the Ducks might have a high grade on a number of young forwards to target at the deadline. In the early stages of his tenure, Verbeek has skewed towards drafting the team’s prospect pool. Thus filling out the current roster with veterans, instead of targeting this type of player. This does make sense given the distance of the future the Ducks are building towards, though this thinking could change at some point. 

Without many forwards knocking down the doors to an NHL roster spot at this point, taking a swing at a talent. The home run upside could help bolster the support for the likes of Leo Carlsson, Mason McTavish, Trevor Zegras, and likely Gauthier on their collective timeline. Other teams have employed this method. One team in particular is the Montreal Canadiens, who have acquired several players fitting the description, to varied success. With an opportunistic addition, and of course, continued developmental growth, the Ducks might be able to head into next season with a fairly formidable forward group. 

Defensive Right-Shot Defenceman to Target

Similar to targeting a young NHL forward at the deadline, the Ducks might add a young right-shot defenceman. Gustav Lindstrom is a player who already fits this description, but with Ilya Lyubushkin as a possible trade asset, this need could grow. 

Drew Helleson might be the RD in the Ducks system most worthy of an NHL audition but is by no means forcing the Ducks hand at this point. With no guarantee that Lyubushkin is on the roster next season, or that Helleson is ready to contribute, the Ducks are at best 1 defensive RD away from a reasonable blueline construction. Tristan Luneau is out for the season with an injury and is likely slated to continue proving himself in the AHL next season. Noah Warren possesses the desired skill set but is still at least a year of AHL seasoning away, if not more. 

Quality, near NHL ready right shot defencemen are difficult to acquire. Of course, this need can be addressed further in free agency or in the summer. But the opportunity to audition in the final weeks of the season is beneficial to the team and player. This hypothetical acquisition will be something of a project. They might be a player who has cleared waivers, lacks offensive upside, or is older for a prospect or stopgap. Unearthing a capable defensive RD would benefit the team, and is one of the Anaheim Ducks trade deadline targets. 

Main photo: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports


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