Our staff takes the next step in our quests to be Anaheim Ducks GM. In this series, each participant will put together the best Ducks roster they can for next season (and beyond). Greg Johnson is up in the cleanup slot.
A few weeks ago the staff answered some questions about what we would do if we were Anaheim Ducks General Manager Bob Murray. We all had fun with it. What I realized is that although our contributors agree on many things; we also, like everyone else, have some very different ideas on how to make this team a winner.
So the Anaheim Ducks GM challenge was born. Just like fantasy hockey, we see which one of us does it the best. Those who take the challenge are required to put together a realistic full roster. They must stay within the parameters of both the salary cap and the Anaheim Ducks internal cap, which is in the neighborhood of about five million less.
Would be GMs are allowed to make trades, re-sign restricted free agents (RFA), sign unrestricted free agents (UFA), and buyout contracts (with cap consequences). We agreed in advance to a salary cap total.
The NHL expects the cap to be around $82M in 2018-19, so we went with $81.5M. Additionally, we agreed how much RFAs get paid on their next contract. The results were Ondrej Kase (bridge deal), Andy Welinski, Kevin Roy get $1M, Nick Ritchie, $1.2M, and Brandon Montour (bridge) $1.5M as salaries for next season.
To see other contributors GM Challenge teams, click on the link:
As you see from the links above, Ed, Chris, and Jake have differing philosophies. So do I. Let’s get in the GM machine and take it for a whirl.
More from Pucks of a Feather
M.A.S.H. Season 2
This season the injuries won’t be nearly as debilitating as they were last season. Still, the Ducks have two players of concern. Patrick Eaves has been suffering from Guillain-Barré syndrome, and Ryan Kesler seems to have a serious hip injury that very well may keep him out for the entire season.
I believe Eaves will return this season after sitting out last year. Unfortunately, RK17 will shut it down for the year. As a result, the Ducks will have access to Kesler’s $6.875 million salary cap hit.
At the Helm
Early in November, after it’s clear to everyone that Anaheim Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle can’t adapt to the modern game. He will be let go. This has nothing to do with the salary cap. It’s just a reality. I love Carlyle, but it’s time for him to help his son run the ice rink pro shop in San Diego.
The San Diego Gulls will need a new head coach because I’ll be driving Dallas Eakins straight up the 5 to live in Orange County permanently. Why hasn’t this been done already? Nobody knows.
The Ducks have one of the best tandems between the pipes in the league. Ryan Miller and John Gibson have a combined cap hit of $4.3M in 2018-19. It’s one reason why Ducks general manager Bob Murray still has a job.
Miller may well be winding his career down this season. Conversely, Gibson will be looking to get paid after this year. That means both have extra motivation to perform well. This position is set for the Ducks until the next off-season.
Right now the Ducks have four defensemen signed to NHL contracts, meaning they can’t be sent down without clearing waivers. One of the four is Korbinian Holzer. I love the guy, but he doesn’t belong in the top seven. combined, these four have a total cap hit of just under $17 million.
Anyone in their right minds would keep Hampus Lindholm, Cam Fowler, and Josh Manson. Based on our ground rules, Montour gets his $1.5 million and we pave that bridge as far as he wants it to go. That leaves us with two bottom-pairing spots and an extra defenseman to sign.
I’ll start by waiving Holzer to San Diego. He’s been a loyal soldier for Anaheim. But if someone wants to pay his $900,000 salary this season, they can have him for nothing.
Then I’m signing unrestricted free agent Thomas Hickey from the Islanders. He is 29 and available for under $3M per season. At that price, he gets four years, unless he wants more, at $2.75M per season.
I’ll also sign 28-year-old Luke Schenn too. He and Hickey are both right-handed defensemen. The two of them can battle it out for ice time in camp. Hickey obviously gets the nod to start. Schenn isn’t overly valuable. He receives a contract for two years at $1.5M per year. It’s no secret that defensemen get dinged up. The Ducks will need a veteran to step in that doesn’t have to be sheltered every minute he’s on the ice.
That’s a lot of movement, but there’s still a hole on the third pairing. We’ll need to fill a spot on the left of the bottom pair. Most people think Marcus Pettersson is slotted for that spot. Instead, I’m making a big trade.
Everyone knows you don’t make big trades within the division. Bob Murray isn’t about conventionality. He often does the unusual. The Ducks need a steadier hand than either Pettersson or Jacob Larsson can provide right now.
The Edmonton Oilers just paid their top two centers a combined $21 million per season. Even with the new inflated cap of about $82 million, that is over one-quarter of their available cap space on two players. Adding severe insult to injury, they have low-hockey-IQ left wing Milan Lucic taking up another $6 million in cap space for five more seasons.
Even worse, his contract includes a full no-movement clause (NMC) for three more seasons. Maybe there are worse places in the NHL to spend your winters. Finally, Kris Russell is Edmonton’s worst defenseman, signed to an NHL contract. The balance is $4M for three more seasons, and this season includes another full NMC. To say the Oilers are in a cap crunch would be an understatement.
I’m packaging heroic center Adam Henrique, big strong Nick Ritchie, and young defender Marcus Pettersson and addressing them to Edmonton. In return, I expect restricted free agent (RFA) left defenseman Darnell Nurse and center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Darnell Nurse signs for $2.5M for as long as he would like it.
Why Does This Trade Work?
The trade nets Edmonton a center, Henrique, with one year and $4 million left on his contract. That looks much better than the $6 million for three more seasons RNH will get. They also get a younger RFA power forward, Ritchie, with a better demeanor than recently departed Pat Maroon.
Additionally, the Oil gets a gifted 22-year-old defenseman, Pettersson, who is signed for two more seasons at under $900,000 per year. Best of all, he’s a restricted free agent at the end of his contract. To be honest, Edmonton will probably have to throw in a pick or prospect to make this work. That won’t help this season, so we’ll leave those details for another day.
The Ducks would get to insert RNH between speedy shut-down wingers Jakob Silfverberg and Andrew Cogliano, where Kesler has been previously. And they would upgrade their defense. Darnell Nurse will shut down the left side for the Ducks under Scott Niedermayer’s tutelage.
Ondrej Kase can have the $1 million we all agreed upon for as long as he wants it. The Ducks’ first order of business up front is getting him under contract.
Anaheim also has one more move in them after the big trade. Paul Stastny is flying under the radar this off-season with John Tavares and Joe Thornton on the market. Objectively, the 32-year-old Stastny hasn’t earned his $7 million per season over the past four years.
According to Matt Cane’s contract predictor, Stastny is due for a three-year, $5.4 million contract. I am signing Stastny to a three-year, $5.75 million contract. Make it four years if he insists. I don’t care. Everyone needs smart hockey players who can play both ways. With Stastny onboard, if RNH doesn’t work out on the shutdown line, Stastny will.
The kids from San Diego, college, and juniors are going to have to step up to make this all work. I slotted junior sensation Sam Steel in at center. Nick Ritchie’s younger, better replacement Max Jones and Gulls leading scorer from last season Kalle Kossila will fill the openings at left wing. Kossila gets a $1 million contract.
The undersized but overly intelligent Kevin Roy will compete for ice time at any of the forward spots. It’s finally his time, so I’ll also take him for the agreed upon $1 million. Troy Terry needs to learn how to play with the big boys. He’ll receive a call-up when injuries hit the team.
The Stanley Cup window for the Anaheim Ducks is closing fast. Getzlaf has been a beast, but he’s 33 years old. He can’t carry this team much longer. Don’t kid yourself, guys like him don’t come along very often. The Ducks have to try to strike in the next two seasons.
With their defense shored up by Nurse and Hickey, and three quality veteran centers, this team will have a good chance. If I get fired as the GM, so be it. I’ll know I gave it my best shot. The next GM can clean up the mess, just like Murray did when Brian Burke left.