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One Year Later: Trade Deadline Eve
By Thomas Harrington
One year ago February 24th was the day before the trade deadline, and Anaheim made two trades: one major and one minor.
The Ducks traded defenseman Brandon Montour to the Buffalo Sabres for defenseman Brendan Guhle and a conditional first-round pick. The first-round pick would be the one that Buffalo had acquired from either San Jose or St. Louis, whichever was the better pick. Unfortunately, the two teams met in the Conference Finals, meaning the pick moved to the end of the first round. The Blues emerged victorious in six games, giving Anaheim San Jose’s first-round pick.
The Ducks had selected Montour 55th overall of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. He split the next season between the USHL and NCAA, before turning pro and getting 14 games with the Norfolk Admirals to end the season. Montour then spent a full year in the AHL, becoming one of San Diego’s top defensemen, before making his NHL debut in the 2016-2017 season. He split that year between the Gulls and Ducks and became a full-time NHL player for the 2017-2018 season. In Montour’s only full season with the Ducks, he scored nine goals and 32 points in 80 games. He looked like a player who would patrol Anaheim’s blueline for a long time to come. Before the trade, he played in 62 games with the Ducks and scored five goals and 25 points; however, he wasn’t playing great and struggled throughout the season. He was still putting up points, but his defensive game wasn’t as strong. He was pinching at bad times and giving up odd-man breaks to other teams. I figured that it was just a rough patch and he would work through it, but the Ducks decided that it was time to move on from him.
The Sabres had drafted Guhle 51st overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. He spent the next couple of seasons playing in the WHL but did get a few games in the AHL the year after he was drafted. Guhle made his NHL debut in the 2016-2017 season, getting three games with Buffalo. He split the next year between the AHL and NHL, spending most of his time in Rochester, but he did get 18 games with Buffalo. In the season he was traded, he once again spent most of his time in the AHL, but did get a couple of games with Buffalo. For a while, Guhle was Buffalo’s top defensive prospect. However, once they drafted Rasmus Dahlin first overall in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, they felt that they could move Guhle in the right deal.
The Ducks were in the midst of a terrible season and were looking to make a major move. Randy Carlyle had been fired, but it was clear that Bob Murray was looking to shake up the roster. He decided that Montour would be one of the players who would help do that. The Ducks were also looking to get younger. Finally, with Montour looking for a contract extension after the 2019-2020 season, the team felt like he would command a substantial raise that they would not be able to afford. The Sabres were looking for a right-handed shooting defenseman who could improve their top four and help them get back to the playoffs. They also had three first-round picks in the 2019 Draft, and they felt that they could move one of them to improve their defense.
With Buffalo, Montour played in 20 games to end the season and scored three goals and 10 points. He looked like he was back to his old self with his new team. However, this season hasn’t gone as well as hoped. He missed the first few weeks of the season but returned in early November. His offensive numbers haven’t been there this season, scoring just five goals and 17 points in 47 games. However, his +16 rating leads the team. Montour also averages the second most ice time on Buffalo’s defense. While his offense hasn’t been there this season, and the Sabres are going to miss the playoffs again, Buffalo can be pretty happy with the return on this deal.
Guhle was immediately inserted into Anaheim’s defense, playing between 18 and 24 minutes in his first four games with the Ducks. Unfortunately, Guhle was injured in his fifth game with his new team and only returned for the final game of the regular season. Overall, he played in six games and had one assist. This season, the hope was that Guhle would play in Anaheim’s top four. He played a lot with Cam Fowler in the preseason and training camp. Unfortunately, after playing in four games to start the season, Guhle was injured again. He returned towards the end of October and was then assigned to the AHL for a couple of weeks. He returned to Anaheim in mid-November before heading back to San Diego in December.
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Around the new year, he was one of several Gulls dealing with the flu and missed several games. Guhle was recalled to Anaheim in early February, and he’ll hopefully stay with the team through the rest of the season. Overall, he has played in 25 games and scored two goals and six points. I’m hoping that he stays in Anaheim for the rest of the season, but his health and any moves that Anaheim makes at the trade deadline will both have a big impact on that. With the Gulls, he’s played 24 games and scored four goals and 12 points.
The first-round pick the Ducks received ended up being 29th overall. The Ducks used that pick to select Brayden Tracey, a forward playing in the WHL. He has 55 points 46 games this season. He projects to be a top-six forward, but it’s going to be a little while before we see him in an Anaheim uniform.
In the short term, there’s no question, Buffalo has won this deal. They acquired a right-handed defenseman to play in their top four. However, this deal could turn out to be a real winner for Anaheim in the future; it just depends on a few things. First, when Montour signs a new deal this summer, if it’s a massive overpayment, then the Ducks will have been smart to move on from him. Second, if Guhle can turn into a true, top-four defenseman. He’s got all the tools and plays well in all three zones, but he doesn’t do one thing better than others. His offensive game isn’t as strong as Montour’s, but Guhle can become a better defensive defenseman. Finally, if Tracey can become a 20 to 30 goal scorer, then the Ducks will have made a great pick at the end of the first round. If either Guhle or Tracey works out, this will be a pretty even trade. If two of these three things happen, then the Ducks will come out on top in the long run. If all three happen, then the Ducks can look back at this deal as the big winner. But for now, Buffalo has gotten the better end of this deal.
Anaheim had signed Gibbons over the summer. He had scored 12 goals and 26 points in 59 games for New Jersey the season before. Gibbons wasn’t expected to be a big-time point producer, but the hope was he would improve Anaheim’s fourth line. He never really fit in with the Ducks and only scored two goals and five points in 44 games before being traded. It wasn’t a surprise to see the Ducks move him; he clearly wasn’t fitting in, and I’m pretty happy that they were able to get something for him.
Sieloff had been a member of the Senators organization for several seasons but spent most of that time in the AHL. In three seasons with Ottawa, he only played in one NHL game, but he did score in that game. He’s a minor league defenseman, and the Senators wanted some NHL depth in their bottom six.
Once acquired by Anaheim, Sieloff was assigned to the Gulls. He played primarily on the bottom pair and was a healthy scratch several times. Overall, he played in 14 games with the Gulls and had one assist. He played in three playoff games during San Diego’s march to the conference finals and was scoreless. This season, he played in 19 games for the Gulls and scored one goal. Anaheim recently traded him to Tampa Bay for Chris Mueller in an effort to improve San Diego’s scoring.
After not fitting in at all with Anaheim, Gibbons instantly fit in with Ottawa. To finish the season, he played in 20 games and scored six goals and 14 points. Sometimes players just fit really well into certain situations and not in others. For Gibbons, this was clearly one of those situations. He just never really played well for the Ducks, but was great for the Senators. He left Ottawa as a free agent over the summer and signed with Carolina, where he once again has not fit in with his new team.
A year later, it’s safe to say that Ottawa got the better end of the deal in that Gibbons played so well down the stretch. However, he left after the season was over, meaning the Senators had nothing to show for this trade just a few months later. Sieloff wasn’t great, but he gave San Diego some good defensive depth and was eventually turned into a forward who is scoring a point every other game. So even though Ottawa won this deal, Anaheim and San Diego can be pretty happy how things turned out since they were able to get some value for a player who just didn’t work out.
It’s not uncommon for Murray to do a number of his deals a day or two before the trade deadline, and that’s exactly what he did last year with these two deals. In the short term, both deals were losses, but acquiring Guhle and a first-round pick could really pay off in the long run. Flipping Gibbons for Sieloff and then eventually turning him into Mueller could work out great for the Gulls.
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February 24th, 2020