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One Year Later: The Nicolas Deslauriers trade
By Thomas Harrington
One year ago today, the Anaheim Ducks traded a 2020 fourth-round draft pick to the Montreal Canadiens for winger Nicolas Deslauriers. At the time, I didn’t think much of the trade. I figured that Deslauriers would add to Anaheim’s depth on the fourth line, and I was expecting him to get some playing time in San Diego. Over the last couple of seasons, a number of enforcers have found a new home in the AHL with the Gulls. Well, a year later, my initial assessment of this deal has been proven wrong and Anaheim fans are quite happy with how this deal worked out.
Deslauriers joined Montreal in October 2017. He was traded to the Canadiens from Buffalo right before the 2017-2018 season began. He played 14 games for the Laval Rocket, Montreal’s AHL team, and 58 games with the Canadiens. In Montreal, he scored 10 goals and 14 points. The 10 goals are still a career-high for him to this day. His strong year led to him getting a two-year contract extension with Montreal. The following season, he was injured in a preseason game and ended up only playing in 48 games, scoring two goals and five points.
Last summer, Montreal was looking to clear cap space because they had a very specific target in mind for free agency. Besides sending Deslauriers to Anaheim, they also traded Andrew Shaw back to Chicago. With the extra cap space, the Canadiens gave an offer sheet to restricted free agent Sebastian Aho for $42 million over five years. It was the first offer sheet since 2013 when the Calgary Flames tried to get Ryan O’Reilly away from the Colorado Avalanche. Predictably, given how good Aho was for the Hurricanes, Carolina matched Montreal’s offer and retained Aho.
For the Ducks, they wanted to create more internal competition for roster spots, both in the NHL and AHL. Over the last couple of seasons, Anaheim has had a number of rookies knocking on the NHL’s door, but Bob Murray wanted them to earn that spot and not just be given it. Also, by acquiring Deslauriers, Murray was hoping that he would help offer protection for the collection of young talent that Anaheim had. Trading away a fourth-round pick was an easy price for Murray to pay. He’s actually traded away more fourth-round picks than any other round in his time as Anaheim’s GM.
When training camp opened last fall, I expected Deslauriers to be one of the players cut and sent to San Diego. However, the longer training camp and the preseason went on, the more he showed that he deserved a spot with the Ducks. He was in and out of the lineups early in the season, but the more Dallas Eakins saw him play, the more Eakins trusted him. Deslauriers established himself as Anaheim’s fourth-line left wing. He led the league in fighting majors, while also chipping in with the odd goal. Anaheim was so happy with his performance that they gave him a two-year extension in February.
On March 10th, in the second to last game before the rest of the NHL’s regular-season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, he gave Anaheim’s fans one of the best moments of the season. Less than three minutes into the game against Ottawa, Deslauriers scored his first goal of the night. Less than nine minutes later, he scored his second goal. Just 32 seconds later, he completed his first career hat trick while playing pro hockey. His three goals had come just 11:49 into the game, the fastest hat trick from the start of a game in Anaheim’s history. He also joined Teemu Selanne and Ryan Getzlaf as the only Anaheim players to score a hat trick in the first period. It brought his goal total on the season to seven. He finished the year with seven goals and 13 points in 58 games. If the season had been able to continue, he would have had a chance to set new career highs in both categories. Hopefully, he’ll get that chance next season.
Normally, Montreal would have stepped up to the podium by now and used their fourth-round pick. However, with the draft delayed until later in the summer or even until the fall, it’s unknown who the Canadiens will take with that pick. All that’s known is that it will be one of the higher picks in the fourth round.
A year later, and the Ducks can definitely call this trade a win for them. Even if Deslauriers falters next season, this past year was enough to justify calling Anaheim the winner in this deal, at least in the short term. If Montreal can draft a superstar with their pick, then they will become the ultimate winners, but that’s something that probably won’t be known for several years. So for now, Anaheim can be declared the winner. Deslauriers’ hard-nosed play endeared him to Anaheim fans and he quickly became a fan favorite as the season went along. There weren’t a lot of highlights for Anaheim in the 2019-2020 season, but his hat trick was easily one of the best.
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June 30th, 2020