Ducks Deal Sykora for a Defenseman
Mighty Duck forward Petr Sykora, who had two of the franchise’s most important goals during a Stanley Cup run three years ago but who struggled to score this season, was traded to the New York Rangers on Sunday for young defenseman Maxim Kondratiev.
The 29-year-old native of the Czech Republic is having one of the worst seasons of his 10-year NHL career, with only seven goals and 20 points in 34 games. General Manager Brian Burke said he wasn’t comfortable with paying Sykora nearly $1.6 million the remainder of the season for little production.
Sykora is in the final year of a three-year contract that will play him $3.116 million this season. He will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
“I can’t be concerned about what players have done in the past,” Burke said. “Fairly or unfairly, this business is about what have you done for me lately. The goal output didn’t match what was expected of that salary. Those are expensive goals.”
The Rangers also will get back the fourth-round pick the Ducks received when they traded former captain Steve Rucchin to New York in August.
Kondratiev, 22, has shuttled between the Rangers and their minor league team in Hartford, Conn., this season. He had one goal and three assists in 29 games with the Rangers. On Sunday, he reported to the Ducks’ American Hockey League affiliate in Portland, Maine.
If Kondratiev is recalled to the Ducks, he will earn an NHL salary of $627,000.
“We see him as a top-four defenseman,” Burke said. “He can be a 24- to 28-minute guy when he’s done developing.”
But the trade of Sykora also seemed to signal another move primarily made for salary-cap reasons, much like the trade of center Sergei Fedorov in November. After the Ducks recalled rookie forwards Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, their payroll sits at about $34 million, $5 million under the cap.
Aware of his previous statements that he would reinvest the money saved from the Fedorov trade, Burke said that he was not finished tinkering with the roster and added that the team has not given up on the season.
The Ducks have been a disappointment to date with an 18-16-7 record, which puts them six points behind eighth-place Colorado in the Western Conference. What they do in the next few weeks before the two-week Olympic break may determine whether they are a buyer or a seller at the March 9 trade deadline.
“I’ll deal if the deal makes sense,” Burke said. “We have inquired about players that’ll increase our payroll. We just haven’t been able to put those deals together.”
Sykora appeared to fall out of favor with Burke and first-year Coach Randy Carlyle this season. The team seemed to be close to trading him in December, but rumored trades with the Rangers and the Boston Bruins fell through.
Carlyle put Sykora on the top line with center Andy McDonald and Teemu Selanne, but he was pulled off the power-play unit Friday against Dallas and played a season-low nine minutes.
“Obviously he felt that he should be given more of an opportunity to do what he does best,” Carlyle said.
“We obviously didn’t agree that he fit into that for us. He did respond for a short period of time. Other than that, we have made decisions that impacted his minutes and he didn’t like it. You go forward.”
Sykora figures to be a good fit with the Rangers, who have been looking to upgrade their offense for a playoff run.
“I’m just looking for a fresh start,” Sykora said. “I get a chance to play. Basically I just have a half a season left.”
Sykora’s goal in the fifth overtime of Game 1 of the 2003 Western Conference semifinals against Dallas ended the fourth-longest game in Stanley Cup playoff history. He followed that up with a game-winning overtime goal in Game 1 against Minnesota in the conference finals.
Kings vs. Mighty Ducks
7:30, FSN West 2
Site -- Arrowhead Pond.
Radio -- 710, 1090.
Records -- Kings 27-15-2, Ducks 18-16-7.
Record vs. Kings -- 0-1-1.
Update -- Forward Rob Niedermayer could be out a lot longer as the symptoms from a concussion he suffered last week in a game against Nashville have not subsided. Burke said he probably would go on injured reserve.