Yet you look at that conference race, and you see eight teams within six points of Anaheim. You see creeping inconsistency, with the Ducks going 4-6 in their last 10. And you read assessments like this from Lyle "Spector" Richardson about Pronger's future in Anaheim:
It wouldn't make sense for Anaheim to move Pronger because he's the only top-six defenseman they have signed for next season, but some pundits are now suggesting if the Ducks fall out of the playoff race by the end of February the once unthinkable could occur and Pronger could be dealt.
The unthinkable is thinkable. Former Ducks GM Brian Burke may have shot down the notion of Pronger coming to the Toronto Maple Leafs, but he also matter-of-factly stated what Pronger's trade value is this season. The answer wasn't a "what if," but rather a "when it happens." There have been rumblings for weeks, with potential suitors like the Philadelphia Flyers being mentioned because of their blueline needs. Last night, buried in the bottom of a story about the New Jersey Devils' new marketing efforts, Star Ledger beat Rich Chere added to the intrigue:
Although [Devils GM Lou] Lamoriello will not discuss such matters, the Devils are believed to be among the teams interested in acquiring defenseman Chris Pronger from the Ducks. The clubs likely to be frontrunners for the big blueliner are the Devils, Bruins, Capitals and Canadiens.
Say what you will about the guy's attitude and reputation -- lord knows we have -- but he's still an elite, physical defenseman who logs an average of 26:47 a night. Adding him to any of those teams would have a transformative effect.
The Boston Bruins with Pronger and Chara? Sick. The Devils or Washington Capitals with Pronger as a defensive lynchpin should scare the bejeepers out of the rest of the conference. And even with another year on his contract at a $6.25 million cap hit, the Devils and Capitals could probably both afford him for 2009-10.
Until the deadline, we can debate whether a Pronger trade is fact or fiction. But his addition to one of several potential suitors could change the dynamics of the quest for the Cup. Provided, of course, that his mischievous elbows don't cause him to miss too much time for disciplinary reasons. He really has no control over them, you know.
- Chris Pronger