Ducks acquire Adam Henrique from Devils for Sami Vatanen
Adam Henrique already has provided playoff heroics for the New Jersey Devils.
The Ducks surely hope he can do the same for them. But for now, they just need their new center to help shore up an injury-riddled offense that’s struggling to score.
The Ducks shipped puck-moving defenseman Sami Vatanen to the Devils on Thursday in exchange for Henrique, minor league forward Joseph Blandisi and a 2018 third-round draft choice.
The Ducks included a conditional third-round pick. The Devils get the pick in 2019 if the Ducks can sign Henrique before making their third-round pick in the 2019 draft, and in 2020 if they sign him afterward. If they don’t re-sign Henrique, the Devils do not receive a pick.
After Rickard Rakell and Jakob Silfverberg went down recently with injuries, the Ducks were left with only three of their top nine forwards, so Ducks general manager Bob Murray swung the deal.
“I was shocked. … You generally don’t see trades like this go down early in the season,” said Henrique, 27, who scored the game-winning overtime goal to send the Devils to the Stanley Cup Final in 2012. “But with everything going on in Anaheim with the injuries, it just makes sense.”
Murray says the rash of injuries didn’t accelerate the timeline to make a deal. He said the Ducks have been looking for a left-handed-shooting center or winger.
Henrique broke out with 51 points in his rookie season (2011-12), but was recently demoted to the Devils’ fourth line. The Canadian has only four goals and 14 points in 24 games for one of the top scoring teams in the NHL, but there’s no mistaking his scoring prowess when he’s on.
He’s produced at least 40 points in each of his last four seasons and reached the 30-goal mark, along with 20 assists, in 2015-16.
The former third-round pick is also one of the best faceoff men in the NHL, and his two-way game has been lauded with recognition in voting for the Selke Trophy, given to the best defensive forward.
He’ll earn $5 million this season and another $5.5 million over the final year of his contract.
“It helps us right now, I’m not going to deny that,” Murray said. “We have two big centermen out [Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler], but they’re not that far away. Keep our head above water until they get back. … [The Devils] have had to evolve and they’ve had to rebuild. He’s had a changing role there.
“With us, it puts him back into a more offensive role, which I think he’s going to love. He’s not old by any means. Sometimes when teams rebuild or reboot, or have this process, maybe it’s time for people to get a change of scenery. It doesn’t mean they’re bad players.”
Vatanen also could benefit from the move.
The emergence of Brandon Montour, who ranks second in the NHL among blueliners with six goals, made Vatanen expendable. Murray admitted as much. So, too, did the contract extension Josh Manson earned last month.
The 26-year-old Vatanen was no longer one of the team’s best four defenseman, especially considering how he has played since returning from offseason shoulder surgery. He was prone to turnovers in his zone, and posted one goal and three assists with a minus-six rating in 15 games.
But when Vatanen was thriving, he produced 37 points in 2014-15 and another 38 the following season.
“We’re deep on defense, but it’s never easy to give up a guy like Sami,” Murray said. “At some point in time, I was going to have too much on defense and too much money on defense.”
Vatanen has three years remaining on the four-year, $19.5-million deal he signed in June 2016.
“With the emergence of some of our younger guys,” Murray continued, “it was just a matter of time. This just happened now. This was very difficult.”
So Vatanen is out, and with Henrique in the fold and an abundance of offensive talent set to return in December, the Ducks hope to make it five consecutive Pacific Division titles.
“The exciting part is it’s a winning organization,” Henrique said. “Once everybody comes back, and it’s healthy there, it’s going to be a scary team for a good push this year.”
When: Friday, 4 p.m. PST.
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 830.
Update: The Ducks will look to produce their first winning streak of the trip. They bounced back from a blowout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday with a 3-2 victory over the Western Conference-best St. Louis Blues two days later. … This is the first meeting between the clubs this season. The Blue Jackets beat the Ducks in both games last season, one in overtime. … The Ducks offense will need to contend with former Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky, who leads all NHL goaltenders with a .935 save percentage.
Go beyond the scoreboard
Get the latest on L.A.'s teams in the daily Sports Report newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.