What Happens Now?
Prior to free agency, the question would have been an easy answer. The Anaheim Ducks would continue to play their younger kids and hope that they would develop into fine NHL players. Acquiring Derek Grant for the third time, however, and for the term, muddies the water just a little. Especially when you consider that quote right at the start about the rebuild being over and wanting to contend.
What I find confusing is this: If Getzlaf, Henrique, Grant, and Backes are the proposed starting centers for the Anaheim Ducks, then what does that mean for Sam Steel, Benoit Oliver-Groulx, and Isac Lundestrom? Presumably, they’re surplus to needs given they don’t fit into the team in this upcoming “playoff-bound” season.
Of course, the Anaheim Ducks have the option of shifting Henrique to the left-wing position as a scorer to Sam Steel’s pivot. Creating a spine of Getzlaf, Steel, Grant, and Backes. This then means that one of Rickard Rakell, Danton Heinen, Maxime Comtois, and Max Jones is considered surplus to needs, or that they simply cannot find a roster position for.
While many would suggest that Backes is only here for one more season under his current contract, is sitting young players or playing them in the AHL the best case for their development at this stage of their careers? For some, it may be the case.
Certainly, Groulx could use a season or two in that league. What about the others though? At some stage they should be getting meaningful minutes in the NHL, to either be developed as long-term Ducks or to be moved in a trade for other assets. How will not playing contribute to either of those outcomes?
This is, of course, before we ask how Derek Grant himself contributes to a playoff berth. His last season with the Anaheim Ducks was incredibly high scoring. He exceeded his career numbers and quite frankly exceed his underlying numbers as well. It wouldn’t be the first time Murray has become enamored with a hit streak and bout in (cough Patrick Eaves cough).
Even should Grant be a pure depth move, in a lot of ways, I feel like the Ducks had depth enough. Rickard Rakell, Danton Heinen, Max Comtois, Max Jones, and Nicolas Deslauriers all play the left-wing, with Adam Henrique chipping in. In the event that Grant plays the 4th line pivot spot and David Backes moves to the wing. Ryan Getzlaf, Adam Henrique, Sam Steel, David Backes, and Isac Lundestrom each play the pivot, as can Carter Rowney in a pinch.
There is certainly a case to be made for top 6 depth, yet I fail to see how Grant remedies that particular issue. Sure he was the Anaheim Ducks 9th highest scorer last season. However, I imagine that was more luck than skill… and if I’m completely honest, I want to see a team where the 9th best scorer has more than 20 points. For comparison, the league mean was ~25, with only Buffalo and Detroit’s 9th highest scorer having less, the mode was 27, range 16-34.