Three days before the NHL’s trade deadline, the Ducks dealt forward Ondrej Kase to the Boston Bruins on Friday in exchange for forward David Backes, prospect Axel Andersson and a first-round draft pick in 2020.
Kase, a 24-year-old winger with a team-friendly contract (his deal doesn’t expire until the end of next season and is worth only $2.6 million in annual average value) had 23 points (seven goals, 16 assists) on a Ducks team that started the season on a short hot streak but has faded ever since under first-year coach Dallas Eakins.
The Ducks are second-to-last in the Western Conference with 55 points after a 1-0 loss Friday to the Colorado Avalanche, 13 points back of a playoff spot with 21 games remaining. Boston is leading the NHL with 90 points and will add Kase to one of the league’s most productive offensive rosters.
In return, the Ducks received future assets in the draft pick (though it will likely come late in the first round given Boston’s position in the standings) and Andersson, a 20-year-old Swedish prospect playing his first season in North America this year with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Moncton Wildcats, where he has 22 points in 41 games. The 6-foot, 185-pound defenseman was drafted in the second round in 2018.
The Ducks also agreed to take Backes, a 35-year-old forward who has scored only three points (one goal, two assists) in 16 games during a season derailed by injuries and lack of production. The 14-year veteran cleared waivers in January but did not play any games with the Bruins’ minor-league team while the club tried to find an alternative option for the future of his career, a stretch Backes described as “purgatory.”
“I’m coming at this with my full heart,” Backes said during a conference call Friday. “Ready to conquer and give everything I’ve got to the next situation. … I’m grateful to have another opportunity.”
Originally a second-round pick of the St. Louis Blues, Backes has more than 500 career points but also has another season remaining on a contract worth $6 million in annual average value. Boston reportedly agreed to retain 25% of his salary.
“We’ve said over and over again we have the cap space,” said Ducks general manager Bob Murray, whose team is still more than $3 million below the maximum, according to CapFriendly. “We might as well use it while we have it. We’re using it here. We’re coming out better in the cash situation this year in this deal than we were yesterday.”
Unlike their Southland counterparts, the Kings, who have been extremely active this month in turning over their roster and turning the page on a past generation of players, the Ducks had previously been quiet leading up to the trade deadline. They’ve already infused a stream of young talent into their NHL roster, but have yet to see it pay off.
After finishing third-to-last in the Western Conference with 80 points last season, the Ducks are on pace for even fewer points and a lower finish in the standings this year, almost certain to miss the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2000-01 and 2001-02.
“We have to maneuver things,” Murray said. “It’s not like Ondrej is old. We had a few too many guys like that. I thought we were a little small. It was an opportunity to maybe change that a little bit. As we’re going, there are going to be changes and a progression as players come along. Things can change, and this was an opportunity.”