We are now more than 65% of the way through the season and the Anaheim Ducks are still on the outside looking in when it comes to being in a playoff spot. Still, they are not out of it by any means, sitting one point behind the third Pacific spot and one point behind the second Western Conference wild card spot. In a season incredibly hampered by early injuries and bad luck, the Ducks are still hanging on to hope. That being said, the Ducks have about 20 days before the trade deadline to decide if they are going to push for a spot or retool for next season.

No matter what the Ducks will not blow up their team. They are made to compete now and their current standing has more to do with the overabundance of injuries than their performance. Only three players have managed to play in all the Ducks’ 54 games this season, including injury absences for Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, John Gibson, Corey Perry, Hampus Lindholm, and Cam Fowler.

None of these names would be on the move this season; they are the team’s biggest names and will be needed again next season. Instead, names like Francois Beauchemin and Antoine Vermette would be shopped to playoff teams. Both players are on expiring contracts and would fetch the Ducks mid-round draft picks if the team was willing to part with them.

If the Ducks instead decide that they want to push for the playoffs this year, they have to make frugal moves to benefit their position. With the competition so tight the Ducks should not be going all out with moves, trading the farm to get one player they believe will help them now. Trading big prospects for half a season of Evander Kane would not benefit the Ducks, especially if they still failed to make the playoffs.

The Ducks should be looking at more cost-effective moves that will help without breaking the bank. Looking at players like Thomas Vanek (which GM Bob Murray has been doing), Lee Stempniak, or Radim Vrbata would cost the Ducks only a couple of draft picks, but gain the team a middle six scoring winger that can get the team going offensively.

It would not be wise to doubt the Ducks if they manage to get into the playoffs. Much like last season’s Nashville Predators, the Ducks are having the most trouble after regulation. They have 10 losses in either 3 on 3 overtime or the shootout, neither or which exist in the playoffs.

With all their top players in the lineup the Anaheim Ducks would be one of the most difficult teams to face in a playoff series. They bring both edge and offensive ability with proven veteran players. Gibson has shown the ability to steal games in the net, and Ryan Miller has shown himself to be one of the best backup goalies in the league. If Gibson were to go down with an injury like he did last playoff season, Miller would be able to win games no question.

The Ducks have to make a decision quick if they want to join in on the trade deadline fun. Whether or not they decide to make a push for the playoffs this season, be prepared for them to be right back in the thick of the playoff race next season.

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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