Greetings, and welcome to the latest NHL-team-by-team analysis as we move into the start of the next regular season. In this new series of files, we’ll ask three important questions ahead of the 2022-23 season, about each franchise in the league.
With that, let’s get to it and start alphabetically with Anaheim Ducks:
Three questions to burn ducks in 2022-23:
1. Will the Veteran Leak lead to Anaheim’s entry into the knockout race? GM Pat Verbeek had a productive off-season, adding a slew of veteran players – most notably defenders John Klingberg and Dmitri Kulikov, and forwards Frank Vatrano and Ryan Strom – and bolstering the team’s overall depth. Kulikov may be in his final stages as an NHL player of caliber, but defensive depth is important to any organization, and all three other Warriors have a lot to offer, even if, in Klingberg’s case, they sign just one player-contract of the season. Verbeek’s spending has given them a solid top six defensive line, and now the rest of the squad has to keep growing.
Don’t make it quirky – Anaheim can still potentially go far beyond its young stars (Troy Terry, Trevor Zegras, Max Comtois, Mason McTavish, Jimmy Dressdale), but Verbeek’s foray into the trade and free agent markets has given the Ducks a stronger roster than they were it last year. In the relatively weak Pacific division, that should probably be enough to keep them in the playoffs race until the end of the regular season.
2. What will ducks do with each salary cap space? Despite Verbeek’s spending spree, Anaheim (per CapFri Friendly.com) still has more than $16.5 million in cap space. The good news for duck lovers is that Verbeek is well aware that he doesn’t need to spend all that money just to spend it; Instead, he can target specific teams that have trouble maxing out and pressure them to have high picks and expectations over the next season, and make smart additions in the longer term when warranted.
This will be Verbeek’s first full season as a Ducks GM, but he appears to have learned a lot more about working on the management side from his Wings counterpart Steve Yzerman. Verbeek is well aware of the fact that Anaheim won’t be the favorite for the Stanley Cup this season, but as long as he continues to make progress with the money Ducks ownership gives him to play with, Anaheim fans should be satisfied with that. His appointment and options as General Manager.
3. What is the future of John Gibson? Goalkeeper star Gibson whispered his name in the trade rumors this summer, and with good reason: The 29-year-old struggled through the lean years at Anaheim, and with the top-tier goalie paying a premium these days, there could be plenty more. Teams prepared to experience Verbeek with a demonstration of Gibson’s services.
However, Anaheim’s reticence to keep a portion of Gibson’s $6.4 million annual salary, and the fact that his contract runs for the next season and four more years after that, will likely intimidate teams and/or keep their trade package offerings on the weaker side. Gibson has also had a walker in the past three seasons – he hasn’t been able to get his savings percentage above 904 in any of the three years, and hasn’t been able to get his goals against the average below the 3.00 mark in two of the past three seasons – and despite Although some can attribute this to the terrible teams he played behind him, Gibson must also take the blame for those numbers.
Depending on how the duck season eventually turns out, there could be another spot in Gibson’s trading bloc before the league’s trading deadline. The trade will likely require Verbeek to keep some of his salary, but Gibson himself may want to try his luck with a better lineup than he’ll get at Anaheim this year. Many variables will ultimately determine Gibson’s future, but for now, he’s got the #1 goalkeeper job, and his fate will be in his own hands.