The Anaheim Ducks Interesting Decision Making Has Cost Them Cap Space

Patrick Kane #88 of the Chicago Blackhawks skates to the puck under pressure from David Backes #21 of the Anaheim Ducks (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Patrick Kane #88 of the Chicago Blackhawks skates to the puck under pressure from David Backes #21 of the Anaheim Ducks (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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Anaheim Ducks
Carter Rowney #24 of the Anaheim Ducks (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

Making Trades Under the Flat Cap

Exactly what kind of move the Anaheim Ducks may consider is dependant on how the Ducks management sees the team at present. If they consider this team to be a genuine chance at a playoff berth (which appears to be the highest aim of management), then perhaps only a small change may be needed to keep this current roster intact. Of the Ducks roster, the players who make less than ~$3.8 million per season are all primarily young players, with the exception of Carter Rowney, Nicholas Deslauriers, and the newly signed Kodie Curran.

Of the three players mentioned, Carter Rowny is the obvious choice to be moved. He’s the oldest, he’s the most expensive, and both of the other players have been signed to contracts more recently. Adding fuel to that fire, Rowney is also coming off of his two back-to-back most productive NHL seasons.

Furthermore, the Anaheim Ducks have a ready-made replacement in the defensively sound Troy Terry (who is already calculated into the cap). The Ducks would be unlikely to receive anything of significance back from a Rowney trade, however, they should be able to squeeze open some cap space.

Similar deals could be made with some of the Ducks youth movement. Troy Terry, Max Jones, Sam Steel, Danton Heinen, Sonny Milano, and Jacob Larsson, are each included in the current cap projections and could be moved to fill in gaps in other areas. While it would seem unlikely to the casual observer, that the Ducks have moved on from Nick Ritchie, Ondrej Kase, Marcus Pettersson, Daniel Sprong, Brandon Montour, Joseph Blandisi, and Nicholas Kerdiles over the past two seasons, shows they will at least consider moving their younger players.

Another option would be to “shake up” the roster and attempt to make a “hockey trade” to take from a position of relative strength to fill an area of perceived need. As an example, we recently saw the Pittsburgh Penguins and Florida Panthers come together to trade a relatively productive forward for a potential 3rd pairing defenceman.

While most pundits would consider the trade to be a win for Florida, it provides context for what is happening within the league. The question the Ducks have to answer is whether they can trade their big-money contracts for players that will be productive for them. For instance, is there value in trading Adam Henrique? As one of the more highly paid Ducks, can he be moved for a player who would be more beneficial for Stanely Cup run? Intrinsically, it would seem unlikely that the Ducks could trade a 43-point scorer for a ~50-60 point scorer of the same financial value. It isn’t impossible, but it seems unlikely.

An alternative consideration is that Anaheim Ducks management may truly believe that it’s time to commence a rebuild in earnest. Should that be the case they will have a plethora of options at their disposal. Notable names who could be moved include Josh Manson, Cam Fowler, Rickard Rakell, and Jakob Silfverberg, amongst others. The question, however, is what the compensation would be for those players.

Ten of the 2019-2020 playoff teams sit within the top-15 for salary cap expenditure next season. Bubble teams like Toronto and Pittsburgh also sit in that range. That the playoff teams and leading contenders are so condensed in the top portion of cap expenditure will restrict the Ducks if they’re attempting to trade players like Manson to one of them. While not to say trade is impossible, it merely makes it more likely to be a “hockey trade” which would not likely suit the purposes of a rebuild.

Whether the Ducks may have run themselves into trouble is that they very likely need to make some moves to become cap complaint this coming season (assuming they do decide to sign a backup netminder). At present, if CapFriendly and PuckoPedia are correct in their respective analysis, the Ducks are unable to fit in even the cheapest of their current AHL or Junior hockey signed netminders. Thus, it’s likely a trade could be made with this in mind.

On that note as an aside, and it is possibly a little early to be too concerned about it, the Ducks will be required to sign a goalie contract for the 2021-2022 season. That player will then be required to become exposed for the Seattle Kraken to potentially select, in order to become compliant with the expansion draft (unless they want to expose John Gibson).

It isn’t necessary to panic about that right now, however, it may behoove the Ducks to consider a move now if they’re already going to be trading players to make space and to fill their roster. Nonetheless, they will need to become compliant with the expansion draft as well.

Regardless, the flat cap has thrown some of the best-laid plans into turmoil. While Stanely Cup finalists, the Dallas Stars, built their team via trade (over years), it seems unlikely that the Ducks will be able to start walking down that path this season. It may also be difficult to facilitate trades with the future in mind, given they’ll not easily be able to absorb the onerous contracts of some of the more expensive teams. Taken together, perhaps the way to a Stanely Cup is not going to be created via a trading route.