Ducks Add Speed, Skill On Trade Deadline
Anaheim added several young pieces aimed to inject offense into organizationFeb 24, 2020
By AJ Manderichio/SanDiegoGulls.com
As the dust settles on this year’s National Hockey League Trade Deadline, the Anaheim Ducks – and San Diego Gulls – will look quite different.
Gone are familiar faces Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase, two players who spent time with both organizations over the last few seasons. Daniel Sprong – who spent a considerable portion of this season in San Diego – also moved on, heading back to the Eastern Conference.
In total, Anaheim completed seven trades – six during today’s deadline and last Friday’s deal involving Kase. Executive Vice President and General Manager Bob Murray emphasized the moves will help his team adapt to the new NHL.
“We were definitely concentrating on more skill, speed and picks,” he said following the deadline. “In that respect, it’s been fairly successful. It’s not fun moving all these people. Where we were, and how things were going, it’s time to move forward with things.
“We wanted to get younger and more skilled. We didn’t go into this thing thinking we had to get picks all the time. That’s one way to do it. We’re not trying to be forever in this transition period.”
Anaheim began the process last Friday, sending Kase to the Boston Bruins for forward David Backes, defensive prospect Axel Andersson and a first-round selection in this year’s NHL Draft. The 20-year old Swedish defenseman is currently with the Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL, teaming with current Ducks prospect Bo Groulx on one of the premiere teams in junior hockey. He’s recorded 2-20=22 points in 41 games with a +16 rating.
Murray began today’s deadline with the acquisition of center Kyle Criscuolo and a 2020 fourth-round draft pick for Derek Grant. Criscuolo, a Southhampton, N.J. native, recorded 8-16=24 points with a +12 rating and 14 PIM in 40 games with Lehigh Valley this season. Criscuolo led the Phantoms in plus/minus, ranked second in shots on goal (89), and third in points-per-game (0.60) and assists at the time of his acquisition.
The 5-9, 180-pound center has also collected 46-73=119 points with a +31 rating and 76 penalty minutes (PIM) in 214 career American Hockey League (AHL) games with Lehigh Valley (2019-20), Rochester (2017-19) and Grand Rapids (2015-17). Criscuolo won the Calder Cup championship in 2017 with Grand Rapids and has picked up 6-4=10 points with a +1 rating and 16 PIM in 25 career AHL playoff games.
Anaheim continued its retool with a 1-for-1 trade, acquiring forward Danton Heinen for Ritchie. The Langley, British Columbia native recorded 7-15=22 points in 58 games with Boston this season and is expected to join the Ducks.
The Ducks added further depth in their forward group, claiming Andrew Agozzino on waivers from the Pittsburgh Penguins and traded for Sonny Milano from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Agozzino recorded two assists and four PIM in 17 games with Pittsburgh this season and is likely to remain on the NHL roster in Anaheim. The left wing has 385 points in 504 career AHL games.
Milano, just 23 years old, posted 20-22=42 points with 32 PIM in 116 career NHL games.
Murray also addressed the organization’s defensive depth, grabbing Christian Djoos from Washington for Sprong and Joel Persson for netminder Angus Redmond in a deal with Edmonton. Both defensemen address a specific need for Murray and the Ducks.
“I don’t think we were skilled enough as a hockey team,” he explained. “Look at our goals. We don’t score. Our power play isn’t very good. We went out and got [Christian] Djoos and [Joel] Persson. They’re power-play type people we wanted to get a look at here right now. We were able to get a couple guys on the backend we could look at for the power play, so to speak.
“The Persson and Djoos were things I had asked Mac [Capitals Senior Vice President, General Manager, and Alternate Governor Brian MacLellan] and Kenny [Oilers General Manager and President of Hockey Operations Ken Holland] on a long time ago. Things I felt we had to get more of were the PP-type of people into our system. Give them some time and see what we had before we enter the next period when you can change your team, which is the week or so leading up to the [NHL] Draft, and the draft.”
The influx of young skill and talent will create competition and tough decisions at the NHL level. Murray acknowledged today his young players continue to take steps forward, and today’s moves are aimed at helping them achieve more success as Anaheim looks to finish its season on a high note.
“I’ve seen signs of improvement in them all, in different degrees,” he said while discussing the young players with the Ducks. “Some have been more consistent. In what we’re seeing, they’re all coming along. We need to figure out what we’re going to do with them all, what’s best for them moving forward. With the young guys, I’m not disappointed in what they’re doing.”
What’s still unknown are the players Anaheim will make eligible for the AHL playoffs. The organization had to assign all eligible players to the Gulls roster today by noon in order for them to play in the Calder Cup Playoffs. With an influx of talent, Murray admitted there are difficult decisions in the process.
“We’ve got some decisions to make here going up and down,” he said.