LAS VEGAS – Five days ago, Ducks general manager Bob Murray waved goodbye to Simon Despres and the rest of his large contract. And it became clear Wednesday that he had long been at work making another burdensome deal disappear.
The cost to shed defenseman Clayton Stoner came with some pain as young blue-liner Shea Theodore, their first-round pick from 2013, was traded to the incoming Vegas Golden Knights so that they would take the veteran instead of the more coveted Josh Manson or Sami Vatanen.
But the Ducks did not lose any draft picks along with Theodore. The confirmation came Wednesday when the Golden Knights announced their picks in the NHL expansion draft at T-Mobile Arena to begin assembling their inaugural team for the 2017-18 regular season.
But the trade itself was one of several long-rumored side deals teams made with Vegas GM George McPhee. Murray began talking with McPhee weeks ago to see what he could do to steer him away from taking Manson or Vatanen, two players with a high amount of value to them.
The Ducks were faced with exposing both defensemen after being able to only protect three – Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm and the no-movement clause-holding Kevin Bieksa – in order to lock up players like wingers Jakob Silfverberg, Rickard Rakell and Andrew Cogliano among their seven forwards.
Manson, 25, is one the Ducks wanted to keep in their defense corps as a cost-effective physical performer that’s starting to come into his own as a shutdown artist. Vatanen, 26, was also kept to go into next season or possibly to use as an offensive-minded piece to use in a trade for a scoring forward.
It could be why Murray wanted to hold onto Vatanen for now and see what develops at this weekend’s NHL entry draft or later this summer rather than be forced to settle for the offers that came his way. Many speculated that he had to deal him before Saturday’s trade freeze.
The other big part in Wednesday’s announced deal is the Ducks being able to move…