The Anaheim Ducks are in an interesting situation. For the third year in a row, they are piling up regular-season points and looking to cruise to a third straight division title. But they have hit a rough patch and are banged up heading into the trade deadline.
In the bigger picture, this also is a team that has failed to get over the next hurdle in the postseason. The Ducks let a first-round series against the Detroit Red Wings get away from them in 2013, and then failed to close out the Los Angeles Kings in the second round last season after taking a 3-2 series lead.
Needs: Need is a relative term in the NHL, and the Ducks' needs are relatively more acute than a few weeks ago. Emerging offensive defenseman Sami Vatanen is out for a month or more with a lower-body/leg injury, and given the Ducks' poor defensive play recently, the need for GM Bob Murray to shore up the blue line has grown.
With Cody Franson and Tyler Myers already traded, the options for Murray are limited in a market that wasn't all that flush with options to begin with. He has had plenty of opportunity to watch Arizona Coyotes defenseman Zbynek Michalek, who would be a good fit. Jeff Petry in Edmonton is a right-handed shot that will be in much demand, too, but both defenders will cost.
Would Murray look at adding an asset with term and a bigger dollar cost, like Keith Yandle, perhaps? Again, the cost will determine everything, but our guess is that Murray will be open to anything that gives his team a shot at the long playoff run the franchise is desperate for.
Finances: The Ducks are not a cap-strapped team, so the issue isn't whether they can afford to take on money. It's whether moves fit their budget and what they cost the team in picks and assets, given how important drafting and developing is to their ongoing success.
Scouting the GM: Murray was all-in on Kesler a year ago when it became known the Ducks were on Kesler's list of teams to which he would accept a trade. A deal couldn't get done by the 2014 deadline, though, and it's fair to ask whether Kesler's presence would have turned the tide against the Kings.
The Ducks did bring in Stephane Robidas from Dallas, who was almost immediately lost to injury, and ship out Dustin Penner after Penner fell out of favor with the organization. The Ducks are blessed with lots of top-end forward talent and Murray has shown he isn't afraid to make bold moves.
His Ducks are an elite team, but are they built for the long haul in the spring? Right now the answer is only "maybe," and that won't be good enough for Murray.