Ducks pounce to pinch Perreault from the Capitals

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On Sunday, Anaheim acquired centre Mathieu Perreault from Washington in exchange for AHL-player John Mitchell and a fourth-round pick in the 2014 draft.

With the Capitals stuck between the fiery axe of the looming roster deadline and a piece of NHL legislation that meant budding star Tom Wilson would either have to be assigned a place at the top table (meaning valuable cap space) or sent back for another year in the juniors – those creatures from the Honda Centre became less elegant ducks and more like ravenous vultures – picking at their stricken counterparts.

On the surface, this looks every inch an exceptional deal for the Ducks – having captured an extremely popular and highly underrated player from D.C and paid virtually nothing for the privilege.

Fans from the Capital would hope to find some solace in the shadowy realm of stats and roster depth, and many will. However, if we look beneath the ostensible, we reach the same conclusion. The Capitals, in this instance, were unfortunate victims to a situation beyond their control.

Between a hard-place and another hard-place?

Tom Wilson epitomises the direction in which Adam Oates seems to be taking his team, with smaller stature playmakers being shown the exit and tougher, physically imposing skaters rising to the fore.

Make no mistake, there is still plenty of talent on the Caps roster, but the youngster, with his 6ft 4 inch frame, ability to grind and smooth skating, offers a unique combination. Wilson also looked pretty capable at the elite level – following his brief introduction during their playoff series against the New York Rangers last postseason.

Whilst the addition of talented free-agent Mikhail Grabovski may have also put Perreault’s third-line position in jeopardy, another year in the juniors would have undoubtedly been detrimental to Wilson’s development.

Adam_Oates_in_2012_-_croppedIn essence, this decision came down to cap space and the future; Washington decided that the absence of Perreault’s $1.05 million hit this season gave them the necessary freedom to improve as a unit. Whether Chimera is a greater asset than Perreault is something to be debated long into the night, or in my head, for about two seconds.

Although their return was never going to be satisfactory, it is worth noting that 28-year old left winger John Mitchell has never played at the top level, but posted 10 goals and 14 points for the Anaheim’s AHL affiliate Norfolk Admirals last season.

What exactly have the Ducks added to their roster?

For the Ducks, the priority this offseason has been replacing the production of superstar forward Bobby Ryan with an influx of depth.

In Perreault, they have gained a solid bottom-six player with an excellent career face-off percentage of 50.2, who has tallied 70 points in 159 games for the Capitals with a plus-17 rating. This eye for goal could be vital heading into the new season – especially considering the injuries currently plaguing the Ducks’ defence and the importance this places on troubling the score-board.

In addition to finding the twine, the exciting centre possesses underrated playmaking abilities, something evidenced by his 11 assists in 39 games last campaign and 14 in a breakout 2011-12 season.

Bobby Ryan

Looking beyond his career thus far, Anaheim have also acquired a player reaching his prime, and although top-six playing time is probably out of the question – the 25-year old will provide fierce competition at third-line centre – battling Peter Holland and the ageless Saku Koivu. The latter in particular may find the rigours of a full campaign too much to handle, though a decline in consistency doesn’t seem to be on the horizon for the Finn.

In another component that suits Anaheim, the move reunites Perreault with Bruce Boudreau, who coached him at both AHL level and during his early days in Washington. This understanding will surely mean he is deployed within a role that best suits his skill-set.

This trade sings of wonderful timing from the Ducks and fans at the Honda Centre will hope the roster they are stacking with young offensive talent (Silfverberg, Etem, Palmieri and now Perreault) which took them to the Pacific Division title last season, can spring a similar surprise this year – surpassing their defensive frailties. Overall, shrewd business.

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