After a strong regular season that ended with a disappointing second round playoff loss to the Los Angeles Kings, the Anaheim Ducks now head into the offseason. The Ducks held a 3-2 series lead before losing the final two games versus the Kings, sending Los Angeles to the Western Conference finals. Ducks fans will likely see some changes this offseason, here’s a look at some potential moves the Ducks can and should try to make.
Goaltending: The Ducks top choice between the pipes will be a major story this offseason and heading into the upcoming season. Although he’s had his share of ups and downs, Jonas Hiller has been a solid performer during his tenure with the Ducks. The veteran goalie is an unrestricted free agent this offseason and could command attention from other clubs that need an answer in net. The Ducks have the luxury of depth at the most important position in hockey in rookies Frederik Andersen and John Gibson. Andersen, the 24-year-old Danish rookie had a solid regular season as the backup to Hiller. During the regular season Andersen went 20-5 in 28 starts with a 2.29 goals against average. He started seven games in the postseason with solid success. Gibson, considered the top goaltending prospect in all of hockey had a dynamic start, winning his first three starts as a NHL player at the end of the Ducks regular season. His solid play continued into the first two games of the Kings series when Gibson was the surprising starter. The Kings solved Gibson in games six and seven, but the young rookie was impressive in how he commanded the situation. The Ducks have capable depth in Andersen and Gibson, but the big question is how much they value the veteran presence of Hiller, who had a solid regular season as the top choice in goal. Gibson looks ready to take over the top position and has the potential to be a Jonathan Quick-like difference maker in goal. A tandem of Gibson and Andersen should be capable.
Deal a young goalie? If the Ducks decide that Gibson is the future in goal they could potentially deal a player like Andersen to realize his full value now, then potentially re-signing Hiller as a veteran backup for Gibson. The Ducks situation could very much like the situation in Los Angeles, with Jonathan Quick and Jonathan Bernier. Once Quick won the starting spot and it was clear that Bernier was not going to be a full-time starter, the Kings traded Bernier to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Los Angeles was able to acquire forward Matt Frattin and backup goalie Ben Scrivens for Bernier, eventually moving Frattin to Columbus at the trade deadline for Marian Gaborik. With limited cap space and ability to move or acquire players this offseason, dealing Andersen may be an option.
Youth Movement: The Ducks have one of the top minor league systems in all of hockey, rated tops by Hockey News. In addition to Gibson and current contributors like Devante Smith-Pelly, Jakob Silfverberg and Sami Vatanen, Anaheim has young center Richard Rakell and defenseman Shea Theodore waiting in the wings. In the salary-cap era of the NHL successful teams are able to maintain a team of veteran stars, while developing youngsters to come in and contribute. Silfverberg and Smith-Pelly are restricted free agents who the Ducks will most likely re-sign, as is Sami Vatanen.
As a result of the Bobby Ryan trade, the Ducks have the tenth pick in the upcoming NHL draft. They likely don’t find an immediate contributor at the ten spot, but should be able to pick up a player who can potentially join the Ducks in the near future.
What do the Ducks need? With limited resources there are a couple of areas that the Ducks should explore to improve their team. One area is at defense where the team could use a bigger physical presence on the blue line. The team will have to decide whether not they want to re-sign Stephane Robidas, who they acquired at the trade deadline from the Dallas Stars. Robidas is an impact player when healthy, but has suffered two leg injuries in the past six months, a potential concern.
A second area of need is another veteran goal scorer beyond Perry and Getzlaf. Nick Bonino and Andrew Cogliano provide excellent second and third line play, but they could benefit from a goal scoring forward. Of course with the contracts of Getzlaf and Perry the Ducks are limited in free agency, but they could look to acquire a goal scoring forward in a potential trade, perhaps involving a young goaltender.
As an organization the Ducks are well primed for success over the next several years. They’ve maintained their veteran core will building a stop farm system that injects young talent into the lineup. In John Gibson they may have found that elite goaltender that can carry a franchise to a championship. Small tweaks, including a few additions, could return the Ducks to the Stanley Cup finals.
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