Because It’s The Cap: Anaheim Ducks Offseason Preview

For the first time since 2013, the Anaheim Ducks won a Game 7 on home ice, knocking out the Edmonton Oilers in the second round to reach the Western Conference Final for the second time in three seasons. So they made it over one hump, but unfortunately, they weren’t able to get over the other. The Nashville Predators, for the second year in a row, took down the Ducks in the playoffs, this time en route to their first ever Stanley Cup Final appearance.

All in all, it was a good season for the Ducks. Obviously the goal for a team with three core players in their early 30s is a Stanley Cup, but reaching the Conference Final is no small feat. Now the Ducks will head into an offseason with some major challenges as they try to maximize the value of their assets before the Vegas Golden Knights can take advantage.

Roster Analysis

Ryan Getzlaf is the heart of this Ducks team. He has been for a decade now, and he doesn’t appear to be slowing down. Getzlaf scored 15 goals and 58 assists during the regular season, then followed that up with 19 points in 17 playoff games.

His wingman, Corey Perry, suffered a down year, producing just 19 goals and 53 points, his lowest totals since 2006-07. That said, Perry took 215 shots on goal, the same amount he did in 2015-16 when he scored 34 goals, and his underlying numbers were in line with his career average, so there’s certainly reason to believe this year was an anomaly that he’ll bounce back from. While Perry’s production declined, Rickard Rakell was able to step up and fill the void, potting a career-high 33 goals.

Ryan Kesler anchored a very effective two-way line for the Ducks, logging an average of over 21 minutes of ice time per game with heavy defensive zone starts. Kesler reached the 20-goal plateau for the third season in a row since arriving in Anaheim, which is impressive considering how difficult his assignments are on a nightly basis. On his wing, Jakob Silfverberg scored 23 goals and Andrew Cogliano posted the team’s best possession numbers, making the trio ridiculously effective.

Patrick Eaves, who randomly had a breakout offensive season, was acquired at the trade deadline from the Dallas Stars and continued to play very well in Anaheim. Eaves played in 20 games with the Ducks, scoring 11 goals but was sidelined for a good chunk of the playoffs due to injury.

Beyond that, though, the Ducks didn’t have much going on up front. Their top six forwards, Getzlaf, Perry, Rakell, Silfverberg, Cogliano, and Kesler, combined to score 128 goals while the rest of the group just kind of killed time until one of those two lines could go back out.

The blueline continued to be a strong point for the Ducks last season as it has been in recent years. Cam Fowler had a very good season, producing 39 points, the most since his rookie season, and vastly better underlying numbers than we’ve seen over the past few seasons. It seemed like Fowler was on his way out after a few mediocre seasons, but his 2016-17 campaign likely put him back in the team’s long-term picture.

Hampus Lindholm missed the first few weeks of the season because him and the Ducks couldn’t figure out a contract. When he returned, Lindholm put up another very strong season in a defensive role alongside Josh Manson, as the two formed one of the best shutdown pairs in the league.

On the negative side, Sami Vatanen had a disappointing season after getting locked up to an expensive four-year contract. Vatanen recorded just 24 points, his lowest total since breaking into the league, and most of that offence came on the power play. The Ducks will likely move on from Vatanen and use Brandon Montour, who was solid in his NHL debut last season and has produced at a high level in the AHL.

Kevin Bieksa did, uh, Kevin Bieksa things. He provided leadership and played rugged defence, though he got guttered in terms of shot attempt differential.

The Ducks traded Frederik Andersen last summer, giving John Gibson the starting role for the first time in his career. Gibson was strong, posting a .924 save percentage in 52 games, and Jonathan Bernier was solid in relief when he needed to be.

Cap Situation

The Ducks have the majority of their core players locked up long-term, as Getzlaf, Perry, Kesler, Rakell, and Lindholm are all inked for at least four more seasons. Simon Despres is also a part of that group that’s locked up long-term, though a concussion derailed his entire 2016-17 season, making his future somewhat of a mystery.

With virtually an entire NHL roster, 13 forwards, eight defencemen, and two goalies, locked up, Anaheim already has roughly $71 million committed to the cap for 2017-18. Looking a little further ahead, the Ducks are going to need to figure out new contracts for Manson, Cogliano, Fowler, and Nick Ritchie next summer, but they’ll have Bieksa and Clayton Stoner’s money coming off the books, which will help.

Offseason Game Plan

The Ducks are always a name that comes up when it comes to Vegas and the expansion draft because of the difficult situation they’re in with a veteran-heavy roster.

According to Bob MacKenzie, the Ducks have some deal in place that has resulted in them not having to ask Kevin Bieksa to waive his no movement clause. If I had to venture a guess, I would assume this deal the Ducks and Golden Knights have worked out involves Vegas taking on Simon Despres or Clayton Stoner’s contract in return for a package of draft picks. I mean, that’s just an assumption, but I really can’t imagine the Ducks protecting Bieksa while willingly letting Vegas have their pick at either Josh Manson or Jakob Silfverberg.

Then there’s Sami Vatanen, who’s name shows up in a trade rumour every week. As I mentioned earlier, Vatanen had a disappointing season, producing three goals and 21 assists, which isn’t good for somebody who’s calling card is an offensive defenceman. Still, Vatanen is a right shot who can anchor a power play and a lot of teams need somebody who fills that role. The Ducks aren’t likely looking to get rid of Vatanen, but instead deal from a position of strength, which is defence, to fill a position of need, which is scoring wingers.

Beyond the expansion draft and a potential Vatanen trade, the Ducks aren’t likely to be very active this summer. They already have most of last season’s group coming back in 2017-18, and as a result, the Ducks don’t have much cap room to fool around with. We’ll likely see a Cam Fowler extension at some point, and possibly either a depth addition up front or a new contract for rental acquisition Patrick Eaves, but that’s about it.

Previously in this series…

30. Colorado Avalanche, 29. Vancouver Canucks, 28. Arizona Coyotes, 27. New Jersey Devils26. Buffalo Sabres25. Detroit Red Wings24. Dallas Stars23. Florida Panthers22. Los Angeles Kings21. Carolina Hurricanes20. Winnipeg Jets, 19. Philadelphia Flyers, 18. Tampa Bay Lightning17. New York Islanders, 16. Nashville Predators, 15. Calgary Flames14. Toronto Maple Leafs13. Boston Bruins12. Ottawa Senators11. San Jose Sharks10. St. Louis Blues9. New York Rangers8. Edmonton Oilers, 7. Montreal Canadiens