The Anaheim Ducks dealt former No. 2 overall draftee Bobby Ryan to the Ottawa Senators for Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen and a 2014 first-round pick, in a trade that solidifies the Ducks' young core and farm system as one of the NHL's best.
The Ducks started to get production this season from their top youngsters like Kyle Palmieri and Emerson Etem, but there's still a lot more to come. Hampus Lindholm, the No. 6 overall pick in 2012, comes to mind, but you also have first-round picks Rickard Rakell, Shea Theodore and Peter Holland still on the way to add to top Swedish forward William Karlsson, Finnish defenseman Sami Vatanen and college forward Kevin Roy. In the net, John Gibson is an elite goalie prospect and Frederik Andersen is very quality too. When you add Silfverberg and Noesen, Anaheim's young talent base bodes very well for the franchise's future, even after trading away a young, accomplished player in Ryan.
In the salary-cap era, getting cheap value from young players is crucial to building a winning team. It's why when you deal top young players or prospects -- be it in the summer or at the trade deadline -- you generally lose long-term value due to the affordable cap hits of contracts under club control. Silfverberg still has six more seasons until he becomes an unrestricted free agent, and Anaheim could potentially get seven controlled years from Stefan Noesen and that first-round selection in 2014. And that doesn't even factor in their contributions on the ice.
Silfverberg was one of Ottawa's best prospects coming into the season following a tremendous 2011-12 over in the Swedish Elite League, where he won the regular-season and playoff MVP awards. He's what one NHL source describes as a "north-south, goes-to-the-net" kind of player with above-average skill and one heck of a shot. He's not a star talent and not a game-breaking talent like Ryan, but Silfverberg still projects to be a very good NHL player for a while and was an average to above-average NHLer already last season.
Noesen was drafted by Ottawa 21st overall in 2011. One NHL executive called him a "tremendous offensive winger with great skill, hockey sense and a player who can blast shots." Noesen's not only a skill player, though. Some scouts say his physical game, energy and intangibles are his best qualities. He's a gritty player who drives the net and wins battles. His skating at the time of the 2011 draft was, and is, still a bit of an issue. Noesen does still project as a quality top-six forward and is arguably a top-100 drafted prospect outside the NHL.
Ryan is a very talented player and still young at 26. He scored 30 goals or more from the 2008-09 season through 2011-12 and for most of his career has looked like a bona fide top-line forward up until this season, as illustrated below in his totals and ice time.
Ryan has only two years left on his contract with a cap hit of $5.1 million per year before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. It's unknown if the two sides have discussed an extension, but this looks like a move Ottawa made with the short term in mind. It's the sort of trade you make when you view yourself as a contender. And adding Ryan could be exactly that kind of catalyst.
Some may look at the two teams last season and wonder why this move makes sense for both. Ottawa was seventh in the East, Anaheim was second in the West, yet there's a good argument Ottawa was a better team and closer to contention. In a half season, like we saw in 2013, variance can paint inaccurate pictures of teams. True long-term team talent level can be found by looking at how much puck possession a team gets, rather than shooting and save percentages -- illustrated by PDO, a team's shooting and save percentage in one season -- which fluctuates greatly.
Despite their position in the standings in 2013, there's a good argument Ottawa was a better team than Anaheim last season, even with all the key injuries the Senators endured. This trade could potentially turn them into a true top-tier contender in the Eastern Conference, even given the fact they lost Daniel Alfredsson to free agency Friday.
Anaheim rode some high shooting percentages last season that are unlikely to be repeated. Dealing Ryan for good young assets not only gave the Ducks the better end of this trade but philosophically is the right move for this organization, which still has some growing to do.
There are uncertainties here obviously. Ryan could re-sign in Ottawa, he could be a star again or just a decent top-line forward. How the young assets Anaheim acquired develop could go in a variety of directions. The bottom line is that Ottawa is arguably a contender now in the East, but Anaheim will likely get the better value and made the best move for long-term success. Factor in the rest of the Ducks' impressive prospect pipeline and there's a lot to be excited about in Anaheim.