How Do Things Lineup?
A further consideration is that after the Grant and Shattenkirk signing, the Ducks are out of cap space to work with. The upper limit this season is $81.5 million and the Ducks currently sit on $82.43 million, without a backup netminder signed. Ryan Kesler will very likely be moved to long-term injured reserve, which should free up some cap space, but it should be somewhat obvious that changes will be required.
Given that the Anaheim Ducks currently have 5/6ths of their defensive unit set for next season, the question could be made that a package of the Ducks prospects could be dealt for forward line help. They absolutely do not need players like Guhle, Larsson, and Mahura all sitting on the pine or being blocked from the NHL team and playing in the AHL. Similarly, up front, there isn’t enough room for each of the younger players to get NHL time.
If Murray truly has designs on a playoff team, he’ll want to find consistent performance up front. At this stage that typically means veteran players, as the Ducks don’t necessarily have young players who will enter the team and be consistently strong each night. Thus a lineup could look something like:
Rakell – Getzlaf – Milano
Heinen – Henrique – Silfverberg
XXX – Grant – XXX
Deslauriers – Backes – Rowney
It’s a very veteran group that should provide consistent play. Yet, it’s hard to imagine this group scoring with any type of meaning. The third line spots are open however, it’s hard to imagine anyone placing scoring wingers on a line with Derek Grant on purpose. With that said, Jones and Terry are two of the Ducks better defensive players and it would be of great benefit to infuse the forward group with at least a little youthful exuberance.
In a lot of ways, I simply do not see how Murray could look at this group and expect it to be a playoff-contending group as it currently sits. Milano has given them an infusion of speed, yet scores at only a slightly higher level than Troy Terry over his career. Henrique, Silfverberg, and Rakell are all who they are and have been relatively consistent these past few years.
Thus, the upside appears to be predicted from Heinen, Terry, and Jones. Heinen gave them a slightly better defensive presence than the outgoing Nick Ritchie, yet one 40+ point season in which he scored a lot of his points from secondary assists is asking a lot from the player moving into this season.
He certainly appears to be one of the most likely players to fill in the scoring void. Terry has long been hyped as a scorer in the NHL, despite his results not reflecting that and his skillset seemingly better used as a 3rd or 4th line “two-way” player. Jones, has never really been given a chance as a scorer, but he too is one that may be better suited to a supporting role.
Outside of this lineup, the Anaheim Ducks have a few (no longer) prospects who could contribute, yet their upside is uncertain. Steel has relatively comparable stats to Kasperi Kapanen in his early days, which isn’t an indication of the players individually, just an indication that there might be some upside to his game. The question is, however, where does he fit into the lineup? This question too can be raised regarding some of the other youthful players.