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One Year Later: The Erik Gudbranson Trade
By Thomas Harrington
One year ago today, the Anaheim Ducks traded Erik Gudbranson to the Ottawa Senators for a 2021 fifth round pick; no salary was retained in the deal. This move opened up a significant amount of cap space for the Ducks and gave them an extra late pick in the 2021 draft, while giving the Senators a veteran defenseman to help out their young roster.
The Ducks had previously acquired Gudbranson from Pittsburgh the year before for Andreas Martin and a 2021 seventh round pick. Upgrading from a seventh round pick to a fifth round pick was nice, but I was hoping for Anaheim to get a little more from Gudbranson at the time, since he had played well for Anaheim.
He played in 44 games for the Ducks and scored four goals and nine points, equaling his career high in goals set during the 2014-2015 season. Gudbranson brought a physical presence to Anaheim’s blue line, playing around 18 to 20 minutes a night, and saw a decent amount of time on the penalty kill. While he did struggle at times, he played about as well as he was expected to.
With Ottawa, Gudbranson played in 36 games and scored one goal and two points, and often played less than he did in Anaheim. The Senators were a very young team last season, and the hope was that Gudbranson would help out the team’s young core. Hoping to recoup an asset, the Senators traded him to Nashville at the deadline, receiving a 2023 seventh round pick in return.
Trading Gudbranson allowed the Ducks to make some moves during free agency, most notably signing Kevin Shattenkirk and Derek Grant to three-year deals. The hope was that Shattenkirk would fill Gudbranson’s role but bring a lot more offense with him and help out a failing powerplay.
Unfortunately, Anaheim’s power play was historically bad last season, so Shattenkirk was not able to fix it, but he did finish the season with two goals and 15 points. More importantly, he’s been able to help mentor Jamie Drysdale, a fellow right-handed shooting defenseman who saw 24 games of action with the Ducks last year. I’m hoping that Drysdale can learn a lot more from the veteran Shattenkirk this season.
With the fifth round pick, Anaheim selected goaltender Gage Alexander. Alexander plays for the Winnipeg Ice of the WHL, and figures to be there for at least two more seasons before turning pro. Goaltenders are notoriously hard to predict, but many great ones have come out of the later rounds of the draft. Anaheim’s two best goaltending prospects, Lukas Dostal and Olle Eriksson Ek, were chosen in the third and fifth rounds of the draft. While neither has made it to the NHL, both had solid seasons in the AHL last year. Hopefully Alexander can follow a similar development path as them.
A year later, it’s safe to say that Anaheim won this trade, if only because when Ottawa flipped Gudbranson at the deadline, they were only able to get a seventh round pick back, while Anaheim was able to get a fifth round pick from the Senators. And that was after Anaheim traded a seventh round pick and an AHL forward to get Gudbranson in the first place.
The cap space was a bonus, and while neither signing helped the Ducks out much last season, it was still a good sign that Anaheim was willing to make a trade, get the cap space, and then try to improve their roster in free agency. If Alexander ever becomes an NHL starter or even backup, this will be a very good trade for the Ducks to look back on someday. However, if Ottawa does pick a star, or even just an NHL regular, with their seventh round pick in 2023, then this deal could end up being a win for them. The odds are against that happening, but there’s almost always at least one good player in the seventh round of every draft, so the true winner of this deal will likely not be known for years to come. For now, this looks like a win for Anaheim.
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October 8th, 2021