The new era of Anaheim hockey has officially begun. Three years after Corey Perry was bought out, Ryan Getzlaf retired. Armed with bundles of cap space and assets from trading away Rickard Rakell, Josh Manson, and Hampus Lindholm at the deadline, General Manager Pat Verbeek had the opportunity for a big offseason. Money was spent, and the team still has cap space. But the questionable non-tendering of a few young players has tainted the offseason.
Offseason additions: D John Klingberg, F Ryan Strome, F Frank Vatrano, D Dmitry Kulikov, F Glenn Gawdin, D Olli Juolevi.
Offseason subtractions: F Ryan Getzlaf, F Sonny Milano, F Sam Steel, F Nicolas Deslauriers, F Zach Aston-Reese, D Andrej Sustr, F Gerald Mayhew, F Dominik Simon, D Jacob Larsson, F Buddy Robinson, F Vinni Lettieri.
The most marketable young star in the game is now on the cover of NHL 23. While Trevor Zegras may have accumulated more fame in his rookie season than many NHL stars have in their career, he still has to make adjustments. His two most common linemates last season are both gone, in Rickard Rakell and Sonny Milano. The next step for him is to replace Getzlaf on the top line, something that he is capable of. Zegras had 61 points in 75 games, finishing second in Calder voting. Troy Terry’s 37 goals and 67 points both led the Ducks. His breakout season saw him act as a legitimate sniper, finishing 11th in the league in expected goals above average.
The highest paid forward on the team is Adam Henrique, who is sneakily coming off one of his best career seasons, scoring 19 goals with 42 points in 58 games. His 2.98 expected goals per 60 lead the Ducks. Anaheim shelled out multi-year deals for former Rangers Ryan Strome and Frank Vatrano after a long postseason run. Strome signed a 5 year deal worth $25 million total following a great stint next to Artemi Panarin. He scored a career-high 21 goals with 33 assists last season. He takes too many penalties and is not great at faceoffs. Vatrano was a cap dump from the Panthers at the deadline, but had 13 points in 22 regular season games for New York, then matched that point total in the playoffs. If you combine both numbers, Vatrano scored at roughly a 50-point pace as a Ranger.
Which Max Comtois will the Ducks get this season? His 33 points in the shortened 2020-21 season led the team, but his age-23 season was much worse. Comtois scored just six goals with 10 assists in 52 games. His 3.75 GA/60 was the 12th worst in the league (minimum 500 TOI). The 11 players below him were all on Columbus, Arizona, New Jersey, or Buffalo, who all had awful goaltending. Is that an indicator of Comtois, or John Gibson? Veteran Jakob Silfverberg missed the end of last season with blood clotting in his leg. He is expected to be ready for next season, but the forward struggled mightily last year. His xGF% was 43.6 percent, the worst on the team. Only 22 forwards with as much as time as Silfverberg were worse. 2021 third-overall pick Mason McTavish will try to break into the league for good after an impressive World Juniors run that included one of the best skater saves in hockey history. He had three points in nine games last year, with 47 in 29 OHL games. Former first-rounder Max Jones missed the rest of the season after two games when he tore a pectoral muscle. He has just 28 points in 137 career games.
Another former first round pick who is coming off a breakout season is Isac Lundestrom, who scored 16 goals with 13 assists for 29 points in 80 games. However, you should curb your enthusiasm on him. Lundestrom was last on among Anaheim forwards in xGF/60. He was also last in shots for per 60. A great shooting percentage may have boosted his numbers in 2021-22. Derek Grant gave the Ducks more offense than they expected when he scored 15 goals with 14 assists in 71 games last year. But for mainly a fourth-line center, Grant’s defense was shockingly bad. His 2.9 xGA/60 was easily the worst among Ducks forwards. Sam Carrick crushed his career high of two goals by scoring 11. He still had an on-ice shooting percentage of 6.4 percent, which is what happens when most of your ice time is spent with Nicolas Deslauriers. The Ducks brought in Glenn Gawdin from the Flames after he scored 15 goals with 50 points in 62 AHL games. He has just one assist in nine career NHL games, but he could fight for a lineup spot.
With Getzlaf out of the league, who will be the next Ducks captain? Cam Fowler has to be in the running. All 811 of his career games are with the franchise and he is still signed for four more seasons. He averaged over 24 minutes of ice time a night for the first time since 2017-18 and had 42 points, a career-high. No other returning Anaheim defender had a xGF% over 50 last year. The Ducks rushed Jamie Drysdale to the NHL at age 18 in 2020-21. He played in 81 games in his first full season, finishing with four goals and 28 assists. He struggled in his own end, which could be expected from an undersized teenager.
The Ducks threw a “Taylor Hall offer” at John Klingberg and he accepted it. It seems unlikely that this will not be his only season with the Ducks. Klingberg is a complete one-way defender, and it is not the way included in the position name. He had 47 points in 74 games for the Stars last year, and 374 points in 552 games in his career for Dallas. There is a real competition to be his partner. Urho Vaakanainen was a first-round pick in 2017 and came over from Boston in the Lindholm trade. He had two assists in 14 games after the trade. The undrafted Simon Benoit played in 53 games for the Ducks last year, and his 2.5 xGF/60 trailed only Fowler among the team’s seven regular defensemen. His 2.61 xGA/60 was the third-best. Josh Mahura has 20 points in 79 career games, but had a 32 GF% last season. The only worse defender in the league with at least 500 minutes played was Keith Yandle.
Kevin Shattenkirk is a great candidate to be traded mid-season as he enters the final year of his contract. Shattenkirk reached 35 points last year for the first time since 2016-17, the year the Blues traded him to Washington. The Ducks just shored up their defense by acquiring Dmitry Kulikov from Minnesota. He is a great example of how the Ducks can weaponize their cap space this season. Kulikov was the fourth-best Wild defender by xGF/60 and third in xGA/60 last season.
John Gibson is a polarizing figure. A large group of fans swear that he is elite and that a weak Anaheim defense has held him back. However, he has been underwhelming for three years now with a negative GSAA. Gibson had a terrible .904 save percentage and 3.19 GAA in 56 games last year. He has five years left at a $6.4 million cap hit. The good news is that he still has value. If the team has affected his play so much, then why does his backup, Anthony Stolarz, not seem affected. He had a .917 save percentage and a 2.67 GAA in 28 games last year.
Adam Henrique – Trevor Zegras – Troy Terry
Max Comtois – Ryan Strome – Frank Vatrano
Mason McTavish – Isac Lundestrom – Jakob Silfverberg
Max Jones – Derek Grant – Sam Carrick
Scratched: Glenn Gawdin
Cam Fowler – Jamie Drysdale
Simon Benoit – John Klingberg
Dmitry Kulikov – Kevin Shattenkirk
Scratches: Urho Vaakanainen, Josh Mahura