Bob Murray, general manager of the Ducks, said Wednesday he was “confused” by the unwillingness of teams with which he tried to make a deal.
He then quickly and repeatedly reassured his current players he has full trust in them to still win the Stanley Cup, saying he didn’t put any of them on the open market Wednesday.
“I thought we were going down the right track for most of the day,” Murray said before Wednesday night’s Ducks-Montreal Canadiens game at Honda Center and after the NHL trading deadline expired at noon without the Ducks acquiring a player.
“We were trying to accomplish something that obviously didn’t get done.”
Murray insisted the current Ducks, who possess an NHL-best 43-14-5 record, can still “do what we want to do."
The talks Wednesday were believed to be mostly with the Vancouver Canucks for center Ryan Kesler (21 goals, 18 assists).
Speculation about the Canucks’ resistance was based not only on the teams’ Pacific Division rivalry, but Vancouver’s belief that similar and perhaps better offers would be available at the NHL draft. The Canucks were two points out of a playoff position before Wednesday's games.
Murray said there were times Wednesday he had all of the Ducks’ two first-round and two second-round draft picks this summer and his top two picks in 2015 on the table.
The Ducks also offered prospects. Their top ones at minor league Norfolk are defenseman Sami Vatanen and forwards Emerson Etem and Devante Smith-Pelly.
Murray said he even made the unusual move, for him, of pursuing a “rental player,” meaning an unrestricted free agent.
That player is believed to be Nashville center David Legwand, who was instead dealt to his hometown Detroit Red Wings for right wing Patrick Eaves, a third-round pick and a prospect.
“Every one of those picks was put in play and I failed to get anything done,” Murray said.
“But I wasn’t going to, and did not, offer any player off this roster, because I strongly believe this team is good enough.
“But you always try to make a hockey trade.”
Despite the rejection, Murray said it’s “OK, because this is a good hockey team.”
On Tuesday, Murray toughened the Ducks by trading forward Dustin Penner for a draft pick that he then dealt to the Dallas Stars for 37-year-old defenseman Stephane Robidas, who will arrive in Anaheim on Thursday and should be recovered from a broken leg and ready to play within two weeks.
Murray said his trades of Penner and backup goalie Viktor Fasth on Tuesday were not based on information that he had a willing trade partner for a bigger deal Wednesday.
The Ducks are $2 million under the NHL salary cap and capable before Wednesday of bringing aboard someone like Kesler, Buffalo forward Matt Moulson, Legwand or another forward.
“I don’t think anything changed,” Murray said. “You have game plans. … [Tuesday] was part of a game plan I was able to accomplish.”
Murray said Wednesday he was “taking a crack at trying to get better. But they’ve already proven they don’t need any help. We have a lot of good young players who have a chance to keep on going. … I’m comfortable.”
He said he also tried to avoid players that would “upset the apple cart.” He made one minor league trade, dealing defenseman Alex Grant to Ottawa for wing Andre Petersson.
Two young players the team hopes step forward are 23-year-old forwards Kyle Palmieri and Jakob Silfverberg, who before the Penner deal had been subjected to a schedule of being scratched while healthy.
Palmieri said Wednesday he was excited by the additional playing time. He’s expected to be on the first line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry on Wednesday night.
“All year long, this group has managed to do things,” Murray said. “We’ve left it in their hands, and they’ve come through so far.”