The Anaheim Ducks took a step toward solving their immediate problem with injuries at forward -- and solidifying their roster for a run in the second half of the season -- by acquiring center Adam Henrique in a trade from the New Jersey Devils on Thursday.
Anaheim sent defenseman Sami Vatanen and a conditional third-round pick to New Jersey for Henrique, forward Joseph Blandisi and a third-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.
[RELATED: Analysis: Devils address need with Vatanen trade | Fantasy spin: Vatanen, Henrique trade impact]
History shows general manager Bob Murray isn't afraid to make major trades, but this is the kind of transaction he often makes in January or February, not before Christmas. Although Ducks centers Ryan Getzlaf (facial injury) and Ryan Kesler (hip surgery) are expected to return in the next month, Murray couldn't afford to wait much longer, especially after forward Rickard Rakell (upper-body injury) missed the past three games and is at home in Orange County.
Without their two top centers, the Ducks have been patching the position with the likes of Derek Grant, Chris Wagner and faceoff specialist Antoine Vermette. Though the Ducks (11-10-4) are two points behind the third-place San Jose Sharks in the Pacific Division, Anaheim is 1-3-1 in its past five games and alarm bells surely sounded during a 7-3 loss at the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday.
"We've been looking for a left-hand shot center or winger," Murray said on a conference call. "Adam can play both. Once [our defensemen] got healthy, we had to make a decision. They happened to get healthy at the same time.
"It helps us right now. I'm not going to deny that. We have two big centermen out, but they're not that far away. Keep our head above water until they get back."
Henrique and Blandisi each is scheduled to join the Ducks in time to make his debut with his new team at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday (7 p.m. ET; FS-O, PRIME, NHL.TV).
Video: Ducks acquire Henrique and Blandisi for Vatanen
If all goes well, the Ducks will go from a position of weakness at center to strength in the next month with Getzlaf, Kesler and Henrique, who has the skills of a good two-way player and scored 30 goals in 2015-16.
"I think it gives [coach] Randy [Carlyle] lots of options," Murray said. "Adam has proven over the last little while he can play left wing. It makes us really strong down the middle if Randy wants to go that way. And it gives us lots of movement up front. We'll see where they fall."
Henrique, 27, is in the fifth season of a six-year, $24 million contract, with an average annual value of $4 million, according to CapFriendly.com, and can become an unrestricted free agent after next season. If the Ducks sign Henrique to a contract prior to making their third-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, that pick will be sent to the Devils.
If the Ducks sign Henrique after using that selection, their third-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft will be sent to the Devils. If Henrique does not re-sign with the Ducks, no pick will be traded.
Murray and New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero had trade discussions at the 2017 NHL Draft in June. Since then, Murray explored other options and then circled back with Shero.
Video: NJD@MIN: Henrique deflects one home in front
"When [the Devils] won the [NHL Draft] lottery and got [center Nico] Hischier, that kind of made things more flexible for him to do some things," Murray said. "It was close, but then we knew we'd have [defensemen] out with injuries. So it was very difficult for us to even think about doing something until we got our defense healthy.
"We knew right away that Sami and Hampus [Lindholm] weren't going to be back until sometime around about Nov. 1. That kind of pushed us back."
Henrique has 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) in 24 games this season. He was second among Devils forwards in average ice time (18:15).
His feeling of shock over the trade eased slightly when he thought about the Ducks' potential.
"They have a great team with a lot of great players there," he said. "The exciting part is it's a winning organization. Once everybody comes back, and it's healthy there, it's going to be a scary team for a good push this year."