In a clear sign that they are trying to win it all this year, the Anaheim Ducks dealt a pair of players from the fringes of their roster – popular but controversial winger Dustin Penner and goaltender Viktor Fasth – to clear up the salary cap space to grab veteran defenceman Stephane Robidas from the Dallas Stars.
The Ducks received a fourth-rounder from the Washington Capitals for Penner and then turned around and flipped the puck to the Stars to acquire Robidas. Essentially, the Ducks traded from a position of strength – a deep collection of forwards – to add experience to their blueline.
They have managed to put up the NHL's best overall record despite a relatively inexperienced defence group that includes rookie Hampus Lindholm and second-year player Sami Vatanen, in part because one of last year's defensive mainstays, Sheldon Souray, has missed the entire season because of injury.
In Robidas, who has been out since Nov. 29 recovering from a broken leg but is scheduled to return later in March, the Ducks get a shutdown defenceman who will be eager to play in the playoffs for the first time in half-a-dozen years and could be a good partner for fellow veteran Francois Beauchemin.
Fasth, who brought in third and fifth-round picks from the Oilers, became expendable because of how well rookie goaltender Frederik Andersson has played for the Ducks this year. The Ducks also have one of the top goalie prospects, John Gibson, in their system. Fasth had slipped to the de facto No. 4 spot in the organizational depth chart.
Edmonton grabbed Fasth at the same time as they flipped goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov to the Minnesota Wild. Bryzgalov will provide the Wild insurance behind rookie Darcy Kuemper, who has taken over as the team's starter, because of Josh Harding's continuing battle with multiple sclerosis and Niklas Backstrom's inability to stay healthy.
That Penner was traded to the Capitals on Shrove Tuesday – aka Pancake Day – created a moment of great hilarity. Penner achieved a level of dubious notoriety two seasons ago when he missed a game with the Los Angeles Kings because of back spasms – caused, he later explained, by tucking into a stack of his wife's delicious pancakes. But Penner has won two Stanley Cups in his career, one with Anaheim in his first stint with the team, another with the Kings in 2012, the same year as his pancake injury.
Penner's stock rose and fell with the Ducks this season. At one point, he was leading the NHL in plus-minus, playing on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. But he was also rotated out of the Ducks' lineup other times because of the team's depth up front – and his inconsistency wore on the club's coaching staff. Penner will provide size up front for the Capitals and along with 78 games of playoff experience.
Bryzgalov's NHL career began with the Ducks and overlapped the years in which current Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher was Anaheim's director of hockey operations (2003 to 2006), which should enable Fletcher to separate fact from fiction as it relates to Bryzgalov's reputation for quirkiness.