Rocky W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images
The New Jersey Devils acquired defenseman Sami Vatanen and a conditional third-round draft pick from the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday in exchange for forwards Adam Henrique and Joseph Blandisi as well as a 2018 third-round draft pick.
Thursday’s deal involves two teams in the thick of the playoff race, as the Devils currently hold the third playoff spot in the Eastern Conference’s Metropolitan Division with 32 points and the Ducks are just one point out of the Western Conference’s final wild-card spot with 26 points.
The 26-year-old Vatanen, in the midst of his sixth NHL season, has registered one goal and three assists to go along with a minus-six rating in 15 games.
Vatanen is signed for two seasons beyond 2017-18, but trading him clears a defensive logjam for the Ducks.
Perhaps no team in the NHL has more blue-line depth than Anaheim, as it boasts younger rearguards such as Hampus Lindholm, Cam Fowler, Josh Manson and Brandon Montour in addition to veterans Kevin Bieksa and Francois Beauchemin.
They are somewhat lacking in terms of top-six forward talent, though, especially with Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler and Patrick Eaves all on injured reserve.
The 27-year-old Henrique has four goals and 10 assists in 24 games this season, and he is just two years removed from a career-high 30 goals.
Blandisi may be viewed as something of a throw-in, but the 23-year-old has registered 14 points in 19 AHL games this season. The left-handed shooter had nine points in 27 NHL games last season.
With the injury bug biting Anaheim’s forward group, it had the luxury of dealing from a position of strength to improve elsewhere.
The Ducks are just 26th in the NHL in scoring this season, while the normally reserved Devils are ninth.
New Jersey is in the middle of the pack in goals allowed, but adding Vatanen—who has never posted a minus rating over the course of a season—should significantly strengthen a defensive corps led by Will Butcher, John Moore and Damon Severson.