Coming off a Game 7 loss to the Nashville Predators, the Anaheim Ducks will now turn their attention to what should be an interesting off-season.
Former NHL player and TSN insider Ray Ferraro appeared on TSN 1260 on Wednesday afternoon; he called the Ducks’ loss “bitterly disappointing” considering the teams that were left. Ferraro believes that the Ducks’ window of contention is closed, saying “this was their year” to win.
Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Ryan Kesler will count for $23.75MM per season until 2021 (Kesler until 2022). All three men are 32, on the precipice of slowing down. Perry had a poor year this season, scoring just 19 goals in the regular season and four in the playoffs while shooting well-below his career average. ESPN’s Craig Custance suggested the Ducks explore trading Perry this summer. While the “nuclear option” could be difficult because of Perry’s high salary, he believes that teams would still be interested due to his experience and the expectation that he should score 30-plus goals next season.
The Ducks’ defense is much younger, however. The Ducks top-six defensemen are all under the age of 25. Despite Kevin Bieksa drawing back in the lineup over Shea Theodore late in the playoffs, the 35-year-old Bieksa is clearly the odd-man out in Anaheim. The Ducks will need to do something about the veteran, who has a $4MM price tag and a no-move clause. At the very minimum, he’ll need to be convinced to waive his NMC ahead of the expansion draft.
Hampus Lindholm and Cam Fowler are locks for protection, while Brandon Montour and Theodore are exempt. The Ducks will need to choose between Sami Vatanen and Josh Manson to protect with their third spot, provided they go 7-3-1. GM Bob Murray will look to make a trade to avoid losing a very good player for nothing. The team has six forwards that they want to protect, so a defenseman-for-forward swap would make a lot of sense. Custance suggests Jonathan Drouin as a potential target, as there have been reports that Tampa Bay is interested in moving him for a right-handed defenseman. Vatanen’s no-trade clause doesn’t kick in for another two years, which gives the Ducks some freedom.
Speaking of Fowler, he’s a year away from unrestricted free agency and will need to be extended. It’s a big change from last summer, where it was widely expected that he would be traded for offensive help. The venerable Elliotte Friedman from Sportsnet appeared on the NHL Network (transcribed by Chris Nichols of FanRag), and said a few NHL GMs that he spoke to believe Fowler would get seven years at $8MM. In that case, the Ducks have two choices: trade him, or try to get him to take a discount. Fowler has no clauses in his contract, so the Ducks would have free reign to trade him if it came to that. The latter option is very likely more appealing to Anaheim.
The Ducks’ young, skilled defense will give them options to boost their aging forward core; Murray will have to make some moves to keep his team’s Cup contention window open.