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Pat Verbeek, Buddy – Are You Awake?

Apr 6, 2023; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks forward Conor Garland (8) shoots around Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy (5) in the third period at Rogers Arena. Canucks won 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

Over the last couple of weeks, with the season ramping up and finally getting underway, there have been a few names coming out of the trade rumor mill. Ottawa has let it be known they are looking to move on from 26 year old winger Mathieu Joseph, while the Canucks have been trying to trade Connor Garland basically since they got him. My question is this, why aren’t one or both of these guys already in Anaheim?

The Ducks enter this season looking to start a new chapter in the franchise’s history. After parting ways with Dallas Eakins — a move that was all but inevitable the moment Verbeek was announced as the seventh general manager in franchise history — and replacing him with first time NHL bench boss Greg Cronin, Verbeek moved on to addressing some of the team’s roster deficiencies. Radko Gudas was brought in to add some veteran experience and a healthy dose of physicality to a blue line, and a roster, that was so comically incapable of exerting itself physically. Alex Killorn was then added to further raise the experience quotient as well as inject some more skill into a forward core that consisted of mostly unproven young players and established bottom-six veterans. The remaining players from the previous summer’s free agency spending spree, Ryan Strome and Frank Vatrano, are useful pieces but should never have been expected to single-handedly replenish an offense that had all but atrophied over the last few years.

Now, the team has a strong prospect pipeline to be sure, Elite Prospects recently ranked it the second best pipeline in the league, but the ugly truth about prospect pools is they are never full of sure things. As we have seen over the years, the key to building a successful team is to draft cornerstone players high in the draft, and then augment that foundation with impactful role players through trade, free agency, as well as the draft. But never should a team expect that their future cup winning roster will be identical to their draft recaps. Anaheim seems to have done a really good job of identifying players they believe will form that foundation in the likes of Trevor Zegras, Mason McTavish, Pavel Mintyukov, and Lukas Dostal. But the question remains, what next?

This is where players like the aforementioned Joseph and Garland come in. Both players are on teams that are actively looking to move, if not outright unload, them and as such can not be expecting much of a return in doing so. Joseph will be 27 in February and Garland will be 28 in March, so neither of them are going to come in to augment the young core. But, they don’t need to! All they need to do is provide strong supporting play as the team’s stars continue to grow and flourish, while buying time for the rest of the prospect pool to work itself out over the next few years. And in this role and to that end, I believe these two are perfect.

Adam Henrique and Jakob Silfverberg have finally entered the final year of their five-year contract extensions that Bob Murray game them in July 2018 and March 2019, respectively. They have both been incredibly valuable and meaningful contributors to this team over their time in Anaheim, but it seems that their tenure as Ducks is coming to an end. Silfverberg has spent the last few years struggling to stay healthy, and as such his strong and steady two-way play has taken a serious hit. On the other hand, while Henrique saw some ups and down in his production over the course of the Eakins era, he is still a strong top-nine forward who can play both center and wing. Both seem like prime candidates to find themselves in new sweaters before the season ends, Henrique especially so. It’s also hard to imagine that either one is on the team next season which means that not only will Anaheim have two forward spots up for grabs, they will also have north of $11 million in cap space freed up by their departure.

To that end, players like Garland and Joseph would be great choices to fill those roles moving forward as both have dual wing versatility as well as play styles and skill sets that make incorporating them into the lineup relatively easy. Furthermore, if Cronin is interested in experimenting with all three of Zegras, McTavish, and rookie Leo Carlsson playing in their natural center spots, Verbeek would do well to add two forwards who can play on the wing for any of the three while mitigating the drop off from line to line. Almost any combination of Killorn, Vatrano, Strome, Terry, Garland, and Joseph with the aforementioned pivots would immediately raise the floor on an Anaheim team that is expected to take a noticeable step forward this season.

As always it’s important to note that front offices have an almost infinite amount of information to that those of us on the outside lack both the awareness of and the access to. Player timelines, internal expectations, short and long term goals, etc. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t simply look at a roster, see its deficiencies, and – with whatever modesty or humility – point out that these issues aren’t beyond fixing. Both players have contracts that carry AAVs below $5 million, expire at the end of the 2025-26 season, and will only get easier to move on from as the salary cap increases over the next few years.

This is also where I should probably mention the Ducks salary cap situation. As of this writing, Pat Verbeek has a little over $8 million in available cap space for this season assuming no money is sent out in these or other trades. But perhaps more importantly is the fact that according to the NHL’s most recent projections, the salary cap is expected to increase to somewhere between 87 and 88 million for next season. CapFriendly has seemingly settled on $87.5 million for next season, and using that number Anaheim is currently slated to have north of $33 million dollars in available cap space for next season. On top of that, the remaining years on the deals for Garland and Joseph would expire at the same time that the deals for Zegras, Drysdale, and Gudas were expiring. Frankly, it almost works out too perfectly for Verbeek and Co.

I may not be an NHL General Manager, and I’m certainly no Rhodes Scholar, but it’s hard for me to see any reason one or both of these players couldn’t make an immediate impact on Anaheim’s ability to compete night in and night out, beyond “well we just don’t wanna do that”. So someone go check on Pat, get him one of those sugar free Monsters he loves so much and tell him to get his ass to work; we’re trying to win hockey games over here!

Note: Unless other wise noted all contract information is courtesy of, all advanced stats are courtesy of, and all traditional counting stats are courtesy of, without whom all of this would be impossible.