The Anaheim Ducks entered this year’s playoffs considered a potential Stanley Cup contender, but were bounced from the opening round by the Detroit Red Wings in an entertaining, hard-fought seven games.
While the Ducks and their fans cope with the shock of this upset, there are more pressing issues for GM Bob Murray to consider for next season.
First, of course, is determining the respective futures of pending UFAs Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu. Both played well during the shortened regular season, but could they handle the grind of another 82-game schedule? Selanne, as usual, intends to take some time to decide if he’ll return or retire, which could also have an effect upon Koivu’s future with the Ducks.
Other notable free agents include defenseman Toni Lydman (UFA) and RFA forwards Kyle Palmieri and Matt Beleskey.
Complicating matters is the Ducks have just over $4.7 million in projected cap space for next season. Re-signing or replacing Selanne, Koivu and Lydman, plus re-upping Palmieri and Beleskey will require more than that.
If Selanne and Koivu aren’t re-signed, it could pose a problem for their second line depth. 25-year-old Nick Bonino, 22-year-old Palmieri and 20-year-old Emerson Etem have promise, but it remains to be seen if they’re ready to step up full time into second line duty. Cap constraints, however, could leave Murray little choice.
To free up cap space to re-sign other key players or add affordable depth, Murray could shop Bobby Ryan ($5.1 million per season) and/or goaltender Jonas Hiller ($4.5 million).
During the regular season, the Ducks were either among the league leaders or in the upper half of the league in most team stats, suggesting very few weaknesses to be addressed. Against the Red Wings, however, they struggled on the penalty-kill and in the faceoff circle , finishing 13th out of 16 playoff clubs in the first round in both categories.
If Murray looked outside his system to address those areas it wouldn’t break the bank, but it depends on how he’ll address re-signing or replacing his key free agents.
The Ducks need tweaks rather than an overhaul, but looming over their potential moves is their limited cap space, requiring some finesse on Murray’s part to address his needs without weakening his roster’s overall depth.