Man, it’s been two months.
Time really does fly by. Since we last got together for the mailbag, the Ducks have done a few things. When you thought that another quiet summer was in the offing, first-year general manager Pat Verbeek pierced through the silence that a lengthy offseason can bring with the signings of Ryan Strome and Frank Vatrano on Day 1 of free agency and then the surprising landing of John Klingberg, the top defenseman who wasn’t under contract.
There was also the tidy business of re-upping young center Isac Lundestrom for two more seasons and some additional organizational depth signings. (One of them a big welcome back to hometown kid and AHL standout Chase De Leo.) By the way, there was also a draft that saw Anaheim build out a prospect core that’s now quite deep on the blue line.
There wasn’t a trade to shake up the news cycle. But with gobs of money to spend and some quality currency still retained in a strong prospect pool and four picks in the first two rounds of the 2023 draft, Verbeek added some proven talent to help a struggling club now and kept the club in a position to continue building for the future.
In the first year AG—After Getzlaf—the Ducks could be an interesting bunch to watch. If nothing else, the Klingberg Trade Watch might be one of the storylines to monitor next spring if the team is again on the outside looking in when it comes to a playoff push. We know Verbeek won’t hesitate to move an attractive veteran who has value.
One thing about the Klingberg acquisition is that it took care of several questions you had when it came to how Anaheim was going to shore up its suboptimal defense corps. Hopefully, Verbeek provided the answer you were looking for. (He particularly nailed Chris R.’s wish for him on a high-dollar, one-year deal to take some pressure off Jamie Drysdale.)
To the questions. There will be a Part 2 as I sifted through a mountain of them. (Some questions have been lightly edited for style and clarity.)
Hey Eric, love all the work you put in for all of us to enjoy. My question is, with Verbeek vocally trying to boost the defense corps, do you think he circles back around Jakob Chychrun this offseason? – Jake A.
At this point, Jake, I’m not sure that he’s going to pull the trigger on a Chychrun deal. There is a reason that he hasn’t been moved yet and I suspect it’s because Arizona is still setting a high price to part with a 24-year-old minutes-cruncher on a great contract. Even though it’s clear that the Coyotes are in full rebuild mode, Chychrun still has three years left on his deal at an easily digestible $4.6 million cap hit. I’m still not sure why they wouldn’t build around him, but you don’t trade that away for peanuts.
Having said that, I think the Ducks have more to offer now in terms of prospects and they’ve got three second-round picks for 2023. The three things that I’d consider off limits are Mason McTavish, Olen Zellweger and their ’23 first round selection. What they might be lacking in is a productive youngster on the NHL roster they can part with that’s attractive to the Coyotes. Lundestrom or Max Comtois might be the closest to that as you’re obviously not thinking about moving Trevor Zegras or Troy Terry. The thing we don’t know if whether Verbeek even views Chychrun as someone he likes for his club.
Eric, after just signing Klingberg obviously there is a chance to use him as a trade chip at the deadline. But if things go well and both sides are liking the partnership, are they able to sign an extension with him before the deadline? Or since it was only a one-year deal, can they not do an extension until next offseason? – Scott S.
Hey, Scott. Good question. Yeah, it’s very possible that the Ducks could sign Klingberg to an extension that starts with the 2023-24 season, but nothing can be done until after Jan. 1 for players on a one-year deal. Not saying that will happen, but one never knows. A lot of conditions would have to come into play, like the team and him doing well, both sides seeing Anaheim as a long-term fit and, of course, contract terms that both are amenable to.
I believe this is Kevin Shattenkirk’s last year of contract so there is a probability that he is flipped at the deadline. Does PK Subban make sense for like two years to eventually replace Shattenkirk until a better defenseman emerges on the free-agent market? – Ralph P.
Not anymore, Ralph. But I think Pernell-Karl would have enjoyed playing in SoCal. He could have offered some marketing tips to Mr. Zegras and, well, the club itself. Got to build that brand.
Eric, Pat Verbeek said at the press conference introducing Strome and Vatrano that they still planned to target another forward and defenseman, be it a UFA or through a trade. Are there a few defensemen you have mused about watching a game where you think, “I wonder how this player would look as an Anaheim Duck?” And if so, can you offer up a few names? Cheers, Eric. -Spencer P.
Spencer, those days are long gone but I always wondered how Shea Weber would have looked at the front of Anaheim’s defense when he was launching bombs from the Nashville blue line. I remember one game when he had three straight rips on a power play. Two were blocked and by the time the third one came, no one was standing in front of that. Yes, he did score. More to your point, Carolina will never make him available but I’m a big fan of Jaccob Slavin. He’d not only replace Hampus Lindholm but even be an upgrade of spells. I’ve always liked Jake Muzzin, although he’s been injured in recent years and has some mileage on his tires now. Someone I think is underrated is Seattle’s Carson Soucy. Also, who in the world wouldn’t dream of Cale Makar, Miro Heiskanen or Adam Fox on their blue line?
Where does Max Jones fit into this team now and long-term? It feels like it’s a make-or-break year for him from a health standpoint as well as a performance standpoint. – Justin B.
Talking to him at the end of last season, Justin, you could easily tell that he’s very eager to get back in action after his lost year. He wanted to play at the end but team doctors convinced him that it would be best for him to sit out the final games and use the additional time off to be completely ready for 2022-23. He’ll be either on the third or fourth lines and can take turns on the penalty kill. He’s still a powerful skater and brings a size and snarl element the Ducks can really use.
Did Lundestrom’s contract come with any guarantees? Like, did Verbeek guarantee him the 3C? I’m hoping that Lundestrom will play 4C if assigned. – Cole J.
To my knowledge, Cole, his deal doesn’t have any sort of trade clause in it. Young players typically don’t get that in their contracts unless he’s committed to the team for a max-term deal. Even Jack Eichel or Jack Hughes have deals in which there’s some form of trade protection only in the back half of those long contracts. I don’t suspect Verbeek is the type to make promises on lineup spots or ice time, particularly to someone who’ll only be 23 in November with a limited proven track record. But it’ll be interesting to see where he lines up in camp with McTavish coming in.
With Nathan Gaucher coming up and the current depth at center, how likely is Lundestrom to get traded during the length of this contract? – Bill F.
Bill, I think we should pump the brakes on Nathan Gaucher, as he was just drafted and will almost assuredly play a fourth and final season in the QMJHL. There is no need to rush him – he’ll be eligible to play in the AHL in 2023-24. But if the Ducks were to settle on Zegras, Strome and McTavish occupying the top three slots at center, I could see moving Lundestrom as a possibility. Once I get around the team on the daily, I’ll get a better feeling of what the long-term vision might be.
What bad contracts do you see GMPV taking on to maybe bring the Ducks to the cap floor? I am all for being bad this year in a very good draft. – John M.
There is no worry about reaching the floor, John. And there really wasn’t one even before the Klingberg addition. But it’s good to see that some of that massive cap space was put to use. If they’re bad again, it won’t be because they’re making a definitive choice to be. Like Chicago, for instance.
Eric, I don’t know why, but losing out on Nino Niederreiter really stings. It seems like a player we really, really needed. A tough, big scorer. What went down? How did Nashville beat us out for him? -Peter H.
Niederreiter was one forward I did wonder about, Peter, and the Ducks could have easily afforded the two-year, $4 million AAV deal he got from the Predators. That’s a manageable salary and low term for a 20-goal scorer. One story quoted him as strongly looking at Anaheim. But as reader Peter S. alluded to, when your countryman Roman Josi reaches out, you listen to what he has to say.
Does Ryan Getzlaf get a statue outside the Pond? -Mike S.
Mike, I don’t get a sense that ownership is going the statue route. If that ever came to pass, Ryan wouldn’t be the only candidate.
Any leaks on Trevor Zegras’ new number for next year? Asking for the thousands of people ready to order jerseys. -Andrew S.
Well, Andrew, No. 13 is apparently gone as Simon Benoit changed to that. No. 9 is gone for eternity. He’s got No. 11 in his official Twitter name and that’s available so … look for the Ducks to make whatever it is a big reveal. It could come when Zegras gets back in town. (Word is he’s been choosing among four numbers.)
Hi Eric, do you think the Ryan Donato and Danton Heinen contracts are legitimate comparatives for what Sonny Milano might get on the open market? If so, why have the Ducks not signed him yet? Thanks for your insight! – Raphael D.
Raphaël, it’s not going to happen with Milano. I asked early on if they were going to circle back and try to sign him for less after not qualifying him. I believe Verbeek wants a different player for the spot he’d occupy.
What is Jakob Silfverberg’s health situation? Is he expected to be ready for the drop of the puck in October? – Bob F.
Bob, I’ve asked more than once and I’ll get a better read when I run into him at the rink but the answer I continue to get is he’s been recovering well and is expected to be good for camp.
Are there any arenas/cities/teams you are particularly excited to visit or watch this upcoming season? Or any favorite food stops while on the road? Appreciate your work helping to keep us all informed! -David F.
Thank you, David. I’ve been to every NHL city now so I can’t say that there’s one I’m especially anxious to return to. It was great to be in Montreal for the draft and I had never been there in the summer. Wonderful weather and some good eating. I love Seattle, and the Kraken did a sparkling job with their extensively renovated arena. Vancouver is a favorite and there’s a great sushi place in addition to the ramen joint I’ve often hit up. Faneuil Hall in Boston and Reading Market in Philadelphia. Ironically, I haven’t been to San Jose in a good while. Maybe that changes in a few weeks?
(Photo by John Klingberg: Will Navarro/NHLI via Getty Images)