The Anaheim Ducks might just be in a little bit of fiscal hot water this coming season.
The warning signs to fans were there when the Anaheim Ducks took on David Backes‘ contract last season, yet the LTIR cap relief granted by Ryan Kesler and Patrick Eaves may have papered over just how much money the Ducks were due to spend this coming season.
Recently, PuckPedia.com flipped over to the next season, which was quickly followed by capfriendly.com doing the same. While the accuracy of these sites is always somewhat debatable, they give a very good indication of the lay of the land.
At present both Puckpedia and CapFriendly present the Ducks as the team with the least cap space of all NHL teams, sitting between $470k and $545k. All this without a backup netminder signed for the 2020-21 season.
In many ways, the Anaheim Ducks are in a somewhat odd position. They’re incredibly expensive overall, due to the trade made to acquire David Backes from Boston and the buyout of Corey Perry, which itself holds a ~$6,625,000 cap hit for this coming season. The two moves combined have added ~$11.1 million dollars to the payroll.
The Perry buyout has long since been discussed. For many of the years in which Perry was criticized, he was still a somewhat productive player. That changed in his last season with the Ducks and hasn’t really changed in Dallas. What is debatable is whether the Ducks have adequately leveraged the cap space his buyout created. The players originally earmarked to take his top-6 wing slot didn’t really fire and were, in the end, dropped to the AHL team after GM Bob Murray went out and acquired Sonny Milano at the trade deadline.
What that space did allow them to do was absorb another team’s salary cap dump in exchange for assets. An acquisition that eventuated as Backes, a middling prospect, and what was projected at the time to be the final draft selection in the 1st round of the entry draft.
All but a few years ago, the Carolina Hurricanes and Arizona Coyotes both absorbed significant salary in exchange for draft capital and prospects. In this manner, the acquisition of Backes followed the profile of two of the current playoff teams. Where these teams differed, however, is that neither team gave up a 24-year-old player in order to absorb those bigger contracts and that both teams acquired higher draft selections or higher-profile prospects. Perhaps more significantly, both teams gave themselves enough space to maneuver following those deals.
While the trade of the 24-year-old Ondrej Kase is understandable given his injury history, it is somewhat contentious to give up a young 20-goal scorer in order to absorb $6 million dollars in salary and acquire a very late 1st round draft selection. It suggests that the Ducks either really value the prospect they received, Axel Andersson, or that they don’t understand the value of money or their place in the league at present.
Either way, the Anaheim Ducks current cap situation is entirely their own making. With over 10 years in charge of the team, GM Bob Murray can only point to himself when discussing the architect of the current roster.