The Mighty Ducks' original team is fast disappearing, and the club continued its overhaul Wednesday by trading right wing Terry Yake--who led the team in scoring during its first season and still has the Ducks' only hat trick.
General Manager Jack Ferreira is putting his confidence in the batch of rookies who pushed Yake down the depth chart during the preseason. He sent Yake, 25, who had 21 goals and 31 assists last season, to the Toronto Maple Leafs for center David Sacco, 24, a 1994 U.S. Olympian with little NHL experience who is the younger brother of Duck right wing Joe Sacco.
Ferreira said Sacco, a playmaking center, gives the organization much-needed depth at the position and assigned him to minor league affiliate San Diego, saying whether he plays in Anaheim this season depends on his performance.
The Ducks haven't been sentimental with personnel decisions in their first year and have traded their first All-Star (Alexei Kasatonov), first captain (Troy Loney), first game-winning goalie (Ron Tugnutt) and first goal-scorer (Sean Hill), along with Yake.
"It's just the reality of the league that everybody gets better. You can't stand still," Ferreira said. "With first-year teams, you can get to a level really quick and then kind of hit a plateau. That's where you have to either get better players or be patient. You try to prepare for not taking a dip down."
Yake, who turns 26 next month, has back-to-back 20-goal seasons after scoring 22 with Hartford two seasons ago. He fell behind rookies Valeri Karpov and John Lilley at right wing during a poor training camp that he characterized as his typical slow start. But the Ducks' confidence in him was shaken by a poor finish last season in which he scored only one goal after Feb. 23.
"Terry has a history of being inconsistent," Coach Ron Wilson said. "We've got roles for certain people, and the role he was falling into, he wouldn't be able to play. If he's on the third or fourth line, would he be able to check?
"Onward and upward. That's the whole thing. You've got to make sure you improve."
Yake--who scored the first hat trick of his career Oct. 19 against the New York Rangers in Madison Square Garden--said he was happy in Anaheim and didn't realize until the last couple of days that his poor preseason might contribute to a trade.
"I did think I was in a good situation, and I considered buying a house over the summer," he said. "Then I slapped myself upside the head and said, 'You could get traded.'
"To say you're safe is never possible. If Wayne Gretzky can get traded, anybody can get traded. Being the leading scorer doesn't make you safe."
Even Ferreira said he thinks Yake could have a better year playing in Toronto if he's on a line with Doug Gilmour, Mats Sundin or Mike Ridley.
"I expect a better year this year myself," Yake said.
Joe Sacco said he talked to his brother the day before the trade.
"He said he was hoping to get traded. We didn't talk about where," he said. "We're losing a good guy in Terry, a very good player. But I'm happy for my brother."
Ferreira said David Sacco, who had three goals and five assists in eight games in the Olympics, lacks his brother's speed but is more of a finesse player and can play the point on the power play.
"Joe is more the explosive winger, David's more the center iceman with good hands, clever with the puck," Ferreira said.
Joe Sacco's scouting report was similar.
"Oh yeah, and I think he's a pretty good guy," he said.
Bob Corkum, the team's representative to the players' association, said forward Stu Grimson and defensemen Tom Kurvers and Robert Dirk will travel with him to Toronto on Saturday for an NHLPA meeting, unless a lockout is averted and they are playing at Dallas.