ANAHEIM, Calif. — Hours before he took the ice against the Edmonton Oilers, Adam Henrique sat comfortably at his stall inside an Anaheim Ducks locker room at Honda Center that he will almost assuredly not call home much longer.
This is the time of the year when the winds of trade speculation swirl most and Henrique is caught up in the constantly blowing draft. Players aren’t exactly keen on that topic when it pertains to them, and some may not discuss it at all. But not Henrique. Long one of the more cooperative and engaging sorts when a media member seeks his time, the veteran forward knows the deal.
The prospect of Henrique being dealt by the Ducks is a hotter topic now. The conditions are ripe: An expiring contract, a rebuilding team that has already moved in a younger direction, a potential valuable piece for a team to strengthen its roster for a Stanley Cup run.
A perfect storm. Once Elias Lindholm and Sean Monahan changed teams earlier this month, Henrique became the next man up in terms of offensively productive middle-six available centers. Time to keep the cell phone close at hand.
“It’s funny,” Henrique said. “It could ring tomorrow and happen or it’s not going to happen for another month. So that’s the part that unless you’re on the inside or you’re a fly on the wall (of) those GMs doing all those sorts of things, we don’t know.
“But that’s the part where you just try to block out, be as prepared as we can be. Try not to worry about it, just try to focus on hockey and the games that we have.”
The Ducks are no longer at the stage of tearing things down, but they know in Henrique they’ve got a trade chip that could fetch a nice return. Heading into the March 8 trade deadline, Anaheim general manager Pat Verbeek currently sits in a nice position where he can sort through the interest and offers that come from multiple teams.
With Vancouver getting ahead of the deadline market by acquiring Lindholm and Winnipeg doing the same with Monahan, Henrique has moved to the top of the list of centers who will become unrestricted free agents. It is a short list of quality pivots on expiring deals, as our Chris Johnston lays out. Seattle’s Alex Wennberg is perhaps the next best option.
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But Henrique is the stronger offensive player and he’s among the Ducks’ top scorers with 15 goals and 35 points. He’s been particularly hot of late with an active seven-game point streak and an extended run of 16 points in his last 13 games which includes five multi-point efforts. And he’s missed only one game after being inactive for 20 last season — a season in which he still finished with 22 goals.
The Lindholm and Monahan trades helped set some parameters of what a potential Henrique trade might look like. As a reminder, here are the breakdowns of each deal:
• To get Lindholm from Calgary, Vancouver traded roster winger Andrei Kuzmenko, its first-round pick in the 2024 draft, a conditional fourth-round choice this year and defenseman prospects Hunter Brzustewicz and Joni Jurno. The fourth-round pick can turn into a third-round selection if the Canucks reach the Western Conference final.
• To get Monahan from Montreal, Winnipeg sent the Canadiens its 2024 first-round pick and a conditional 2027 third-round selection if the Jets win the Stanley Cup. Any finish short of that and the Canadiens will only receive the first-round choice.
What Verbeek can extract from a team beyond a first-round pick remains to be seen, but securing that pick as part of a package must be a priority if he’s looking to add to his draft assets. Anaheim has its first-round pick — which could land in the top three again after getting Leo Carlsson at No. 2 last year — and has two picks in the second round and three in the third.
The Ducks are well-stocked in draft capital even after surrendering their 2025 second-round pick with Jamie Drysdale to Philadelphia for the signing rights to Boston College sophomore Cutter Gauthier. Moving Henrique can mean building more organizational prospect depth or upgrading their roster with proven talent on the same timeline as their young core.
But the Lindholm and Monahan trades also reduced the number of suitors looking at adding a center for their second or third lines. Who’s left that could be in the mix for Henrique?
The New York Rangers, who colleague Arthur Staple and I recently theorized as a trade match, need another center after losing Filip Chytil for the season. Colorado hasn’t filled the 2C slot since Nazem Kadri left as a free agent and needs an upgrade from a disappointing Ryan Johansen. Boston has acquitted itself well after the retirements of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, but it can still use more up front to make a Stanley Cup push after last season’s first-round flameout.
Ducks’ Frank Vatrano, Adam Henrique on Rangers’ radar. What could a trade look like?
Adding to Henrique’s appeal is his versatility. The 34-year-old is just as comfortable playing left wing as he is in the middle. He isn’t a classic playmaker as a pivot, but he’s a career 15 percent finisher of his shots on goal and wins faceoffs (six straight years of 51.1 percent or better and 53.6 percent this season). He is a regular on the Ducks power play and penalty kill, presenting more options for a contending team.
While he has largely played on the wing the last two seasons, Henrique has often lined up at center over his seven seasons with Anaheim. He also did both for years in New Jersey before coming to the Ducks in the fall of 2017.
“I think every coach would love to have as many centermen in their lineup as possible,” Henrique said. “It’s a trustworthy position — that sort of thing. And that’s for me. For my game, I try not to change it at all. I just play the same way whether I’m playing center or wing. Try to play responsible and do the right things. Move my feet. That’s when I tend to have success out there. It’s just we wait and see.”
Whereas last year’s deadline felt like a slim possibility that ended when Henrique suffered a knee injury, this year has the feeling of certainty. Henrique’s five-year contract extension worth more than $29 million is near its completion and while his $5.825 million cap hit might look like a hindrance to a deal, Verbeek can easily retain half of that for the rest of the season as the Ducks have plenty of room, along with all three of their retaining slots, available.
Acquiring Henrique at a $2.9 million cap number for a few weeks instead of multiple seasons is a lot more appetizing for teams seeking a useful piece they don’t need to commit to after this season. And Henrique knows that more than anyone. A trade that figures to be coming is something he’s discussed with his wife, Lauren, and father-in-law, Steve Thomas — himself a famous acquisition by the then-Mighty Ducks who caught fire for their 2003 playoff push and magical postseason run.
“It’s just kind of one of those things,” said Henrique, who’s open to waiving his 10-team no-trade clause for the right situation if that becomes necessary to get a deal done. “Every year you seem to hear it. Then it’s the contract situation. Now my contract’s up so there’s more behind it. (It’s) something that we’re as prepared as we can be for, myself and my family.
“You don’t know when the trades are going to happen. Now we’ve had some early trades. So, now does it happen early? Are teams like, ‘Oh, we got to make trades now,’ or does it go right to the afternoon on the 8th?”
While prepared mentally and emotionally, Henrique joked that the only packaged bag he’s got is for when the couple is ready for the arrival of their second child. But his wife knows that his NHL future can change at a moment’s notice. He also doesn’t know anything more than the random hockey fan.
“Wife wakes up in the morning and she goes, ‘Oh, I see these rumors,’” Henrique said, smiling. “I’m like, ‘They’re like all over.’ People are asking me, ‘Well, do you know anything?’ I’m like, ‘No.’”
Irony will be associated with Henrique’s time with the Ducks. The club made the playoffs in his first year after a midseason trade but that was also the start of their lengthy downward slide toward rock bottom last season. It’s similar to his time with the New Jersey Devils, who reached the Cup Final in his rookie season and never played another postseason game until after he was gone. He’s been in only four playoff games since — the 2018 first-round sweep by San Jose.
Make no mistake, Henrique would rather be the one being watched in the spring. He still turns on the playoffs, though, and was happy to see former teammates like Andrew Cogliano and Josh Manson hoist the Cup with Colorado two years ago.
But playing in Anaheim hasn’t been an empty exercise. He found his game again after a rough COVID-19 year in which he was put on waivers at one point. He started his family in the cozy confines of south Orange County. There wasn’t much team success, but he scored the goal on Ryan Getzlaf’s final assist and reached personal milestones of 250 goals and 500 points. His first hat trick came earlier this season against the Devils in a victorious return to Newark.
And he’s a big believer in the Ducks’ future, having played whatever hand he could in helping young forwards like Trevor Zegras, Mason McTavish and Carlsson make their way in the league.
“I’ve loved my time here,” Henrique said. “Certainly would have been better to turn this thing around a lot earlier and (get) this to where we want it to go. I take pride in what I’ve done and tried to be that guy in the locker room to help these young guys push and learn. To try and show them what it takes to get this thing turned around. And I think it is close.
“I think Pat has a good vision. … A lot of young guys and they need that experience and those reps and that time to adjust. You’re not going to just bring these guys in and flip it right away. It takes time. I think there are a lot of great pieces here to continue to build and push this thing. And I don’t think it’s far off.”
(Photo: Ron Chenoy / USA Today)