It’s hard to say Anaheim Ducks power winger Corey Perry being suspended four games for nearly beheading Wild rookie Jason Zucker is a blessing in disguise but, at the very least, it gives Ducks brass a glimpse at what their team would look like without Perry in the lineup permanently.
Ducks General Manager Bob Murray has a huge decision to make as the April 3 trade deadline approaches.
Perry is in the last year of his contract. He is two years removed from leading the NHL with 50 goals and being named the league’s Most Valuable Player. He is only 27.
If Perry is unwilling to sign a contract extension, do you risk losing a player of that ilk for absolutely nothing? Or do you potentially sacrifice your team’s Stanley Cup hopes by trading him?
It is not an easy decision because the Ducks keep winning and are suddenly on the heels of doing what at one time seemed impossible — catching the Chicago Blackhawks, who started the season with no regulation losses in 24 games.
Last week the Ducks signed Perry’s longtime linemate Ryan Getzlaf to an eight-year, $66-million extension. The two have been joined at the hip since being drafted in the first round in 2003 and they were again this year as they each entered the final year before potential unrestricted free agency.
It also has been expected that Getzlaf would re-sign. It’s been very much speculated from the start that Perry would not.
That’s a big concern for the Ducks.
Look no further than the Wild to see how devastating it can be to a franchise to lose a bigtime player for absolutely squat. The Wild tried to extend Marian Gaborik’s contract the summer of 2008. Gaborik would ultimately turn down a 10-year, $78.5 million contract, then promptly got hurt playing soccer hackysack. He ultimately opted to undergo hip surgery and thus became untradeable at the deadline — just like Florida has just experienced with free-agent-to-be Stephen Weiss.
This just kills an organization.
Murray knows this. Last summer he experienced losing University of Wisconsin defenseman Justin Schultz for nothing when he refused to sign and wound up inking with Edmonton. He watched New Jersey and Nashville get nothing in return for Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, who each signed with the Wild, last summer.
The summer before that, Dallas didn’t trade Brad Richards at the deadline because the Stars didn’t want to ruin their playoff chances.
They finished ninth — thanks to the Wild beating them in the season finale — and Richards was lost for nothing to the Rangers.
The reality is most players that don’t re-sign by the trade deadline, let alone July 1, wind up leaving. Chances are Perry won’t be back if not re-signed by April 3.
There is only one team a year that can win the Stanley Cup. We learn year after year that it also doesn’t matter how good you think you are, how high you finish in the regular season, it doesn’t always mean anything come playoff time.
So for the Ducks to hang on to Perry and hurt themselves long-term just on the chance they’ll be the last one standing in the playoffs seems ill-advised.
That’s easy to say if you’re not vested, but Murray is also paid to always look at the big picture.