An Actual Hockey Trade: Adam Henrique Traded for Sami Vatanen
By Josh Brewster, Buffalo Sports Page NHL Expert
A rare “hockey deal” took place last week involving the Anaheim Ducks and New Jersey Devils when the Ducks shipped puck-moving defenseman Sami Vatanen and a conditional draft pick to the Devils for center Adam Henrique and left wing Joseph Blandisi.
The Devils were in need of a defensive-zone upgrade and Vatanen brings offensive upside to his ability to move the puck out of the zone. He doesn’t hesitate to join the rush in the offensive zone and should create a nice pair with Andy Greene. With rookie Will Butcher having a big year (2-16-18) helping the Devils emerge in the Metro, Vatanen gives the club a legitimate weapon, especially on the power play.
Vatanen tailed off to three goals last season and is coming off shoulder surgery, which may be impacting his offense for now, but won’t forever as he continues to rebound physically. He’s also been productive in the playoffs (5-17-22 in 40 postseason contests). The 26-year-old Vatanen’s commitment, hustle and work ethic has never been in question.
With the Devils seeing an uptick offensively (12th overall, 3GPG) while LW Taylor Hall (8-19-27) enjoys a bounceback campaign and rookie center Nico Hischier starting strong (5-13-18), it made sense to pay the price.
For the Ducks, things couldn’t be going any worse on the injury list: Ryan Getzlaf has played only six games and Ryan Kesler hasn’t played at all. Both are expected back later this month. Top scorer Rickard Rakell is out, as is Jakob Silfverberg, and Patrick Eaves is dealing with a neurological issue which may end his career. RW Ondrej Kase missed ten games recently and the defense only became healthy about 20 games into the season.
Enter 27-year-old Adam Henrique. The former 30-goal scorer (2015-16) who appeared in the 2012 Stanley Cup Final as a rookie (5 playoff goals) endured a number of losing seasons.
Henrique immediately became the Ducks’ top line center next to 2011 Hart winner Corey Perry. That’ll change when Getzlaf returns, but interestingly, he may push Kesler to third-line status and is signed through 2019 at $4M. He started on the road with Anaheim and contributed an assist at Columbus and a goal in a shootout loss at Nashville Saturday night. Henrique has some familiarity with the Ducks having played with top defender Cam Fowler during juniors in Windsor (OHL).
“When (Devils GM Ray Shero) told me the news, I was just shocked,” said Henrique. “It wasn’t something I was expecting. In the back of my mind, maybe going into this season, maybe at some point, maybe closer to the trade deadline, you generally don’t see trades like this go down early in the season. But with everything going on in Anaheim with the injuries, it just makes sense. The Devils have been looking for a defenseman.”
Vatanen is signed at a $4.875M cap hit through 2020 and has Olympic experience with his native Finland.
The Devils also sent a third-round pick in the 2018 draft to Anaheim. Anaheim sent a conditional third-round pick in either 2019 or 2020 depending on whether they’re able to re-sign Henrique. If he re-signs with the Ducks prior to the 2019 Entry Draft, New Jersey gets a third-round pick in 2019; if after, the Devils get a third round pick in 2020. If he does not re-sign with the Ducks, Anaheim does not owe New Jersey a pick.
The 23-year-old Blandisi played four junior seasons with Owen Sound, Ottawa and Barrie before being drafted in the 6th round by the Devils in 2012. He’s bounced between Albany of the AHL and New Jersey. He was pressed into big-league action in Anaheim immediately but will likely see time in San Diego as well.
“Classic Hockey Deal”
“It’s a classic hockey deal in the sense that Ray [Shero] and I have been talking for a long time, even before the draft last year,” offered Ducks GM Bob Murray. “He could have an excess of forwards and I could have an excess of defensemen at some point in time. We both had to kind of wait. I had to wait for the defense to get healthy to make a decision on who to move. He just got some of his forwards back. It’s a good deal for both teams in the sense that we both had needs to fill. You never like to give up a guy like Sami because he’s such a competitive player and has done so many good things for us. It probably wasn’t easy for them to give up Adam either. Hopefully this one works out for both teams.”