COLUMBUS, Ohio — Mighty Duck General Manager Brian Burke made no secret that his decision last month to deal center Sergei Fedorov to the Columbus Blue Jackets was based largely on economics.
The opportunity to free up nearly $18 million over three years was too good to pass up in the new era of the salary cap. The players the Ducks received in the Nov. 15 trade -- forward Tyler Wright and defenseman Francois Beauchemin -- were considered afterthoughts.
Yet the two players along with center Todd Marchant -- another acquisition from the Blue Jackets -- have had key roles in bringing the Ducks back into contention for a playoff spot.
More surprisingly, the three have delivered more production with their new team than Fedorov -- a six-time All-Star and former NHL most valuable player -- has with the Blue Jackets. In doing so, the three new Ducks have quieted critics who said the deal was only about money.
"You take one player out of a lineup and you bring in three new guys, you should see some kind of a change," Burke said. "It's not throwing rocks at Sergei. It's not throwing rocks at [Columbus General Manager] Doug MacLean. But they got one new player and we got three."
Wright has solidified the Ducks' grinding fourth line while chipping in two goals and two assists in 16 games. Marchant, claimed off waivers Nov. 21 after originally being part of the trade, has three goals and seven points.
The biggest surprise is Beauchemin, who played sparingly with the Blue Jackets. Playing alongside Norris Trophy winner Scott Niedermayer, the 25-year-old rookie has logged much more ice time while collecting eight points -- one more than Fedorov has with Columbus.
"We just felt we were going to give them an opportunity to play a role for us, and they've seemed to have fit into those roles," Duck Coach Randy Carlyle said of the threesome. "Comfortably."
Wright, a veteran of nine seasons with Pittsburgh, Edmonton and Columbus, said he welcomed the opportunity to join a Duck team that was much further ahead than the struggling Blue Jackets.
"Obviously, we've all been contributing," he said. "We're just excited to be in a playoff race with a chance to win every night.
"There was a grace period where you're trying to fit in and find the role that you're going to play in. What you do is accept that role and you got to go with it. I think we've all done that."
At the time of the trade, the Ducks were mired in a franchise record-tying eight-game losing streak and had fallen to the bottom of the Pacific Division. It didn't help that Fedorov was saddled with a severe groin strain suffered in the home opener Oct. 10. He sat out 13 games and, by the time he was traded, had one point in five games.
Since the roster shakeup, the Ducks have risen to 10th in the conference standings with a 8-4-2 record in the last 14 games.
Fedorov, who has one goal and six assists in Columbus, said he was surprised by the trade after being told by Burke a few days earlier that he wouldn't be traded unless the right deal came along.
"I'm sure that maybe he changed his mind," said Fedorov, who in 2003-04 led the Ducks with 31 goals and 65 points. "That's the way business goes. Maybe it's the new [collective bargaining agreement]. I don't think it was his personal agenda.
"He just faced a situation where he needs to get room to improve the team."
Though many have labeled his year-plus stint with the Ducks a major disappointment after leaving the Detroit Red Wings to sign a five-year contract in the summer of 2003, the 36-year-old Fedorov would only say that he didn't get much of a chance to show what he could do.
"I enjoyed living there especially," said Fedorov, who averaged 73 points over 13 seasons with Detroit. "The hockey part was a lot of adjustment.
"The first year, we played with four lines and I didn't really do much," he said of his 65-point effort. " ... The second year, you saw what happened."