The 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers and Round Robin tournament are almost underway, but this episode has almost nothing to do with that!
35-37-10, 80 points, 6th in the Pacific Division
Missed the postseason for the first time in seven years
Additions: F Andreas Martinsen, F Blake Pietila, F Andrew Poturalski, D Michael Del Zotto, D Jani Hakanpaa, D Chris Wideman, G Anthony Stolarz
Subtractions: F Adam Cracknell (KHL), F Kalle Kossila (signed with TOR), F Corey Perry (bought out, signed with DAL), F Kevin Roy (signed with FLA), F Ben Street (signed with NJD), D Jake Dotchin (signed with STL), D Jaycob Megna (signed with VGK), D Trevor Murphy (KHL), D Andrej Sustr (KHL), D Andy Welinski (signed with PHI)
Still Unsigned: D Keaton Thompson, G Chad Johnson
Re-signed: F Chase De Leo, F Justin Kloos
Offseason Analysis: The Anaheim Ducks have about $8.500 million in cap space currently with no restricted free agents unsigned and not a worry in the world.
Well, except for the fact that their core is aging, Ryan Kesler may be shelved on the long-term injured reserve for the season and there’s a new head coach in town to try to spur a bounce back after the team missed the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
After Corey Perry’s offense dried up, injuries piled up and a dismal season carried on, General Manager Bob Murray made the difficult decision to return to his front office post only and leave the double duties as GM and head coach in the past.
Dallas Eakins returns to the NHL head coaching scene after posting a 29-44-9 record in 2013-14 with the Edmonton Oilers, prior to a 7-19-5 start in 31 games the following season before being fired.
The Oilers were 6th in the Pacific Standings at the time of Eakins’ dismissal in the 2014-15 season, which was technically better than their 7th place finish in the Pacific a season prior.
Eakins turned his career around enough to earn this second chance behind the bench of an NHL team after coaching the San Diego Gulls (Anaheim’s AHL affiliate) since the 2015-16 season– leading them to a 36-24-5-3 record last season and an appearance in the Calder Cup Playoffs’ Western Conference Final against the Chicago Wolves.
Though the Gulls lost in six games to the eventual runners up to the Calder Cup champion, Charlotte Checkers, Eakins carries the deep postseason run coaching experience and much of the same young players with him to the big show on the Ducks roster.
Anaheim is at a crossroads.
John Gibson is too good of a goaltender to go through a rebuild, while the rest of the roster screams “wild card at best”.
Cam Fowler, Josh Manson and Hampus Lindholm are all that remains from the days of one of the most underrated defenses from year-to-year, while Anaheim’s offense is going through growing pains.
This team will either exist in mediocrity as they did last season or be worse until it gets better. There doesn’t see to be much indication otherwise, based on the lack of moves made in just one offseason.
The Ducks acquired Nicolas Deslauriers– a bottom-six forward that’s probably better suited in the top-six in San Diego– in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens that saw Anaheim sending a 2020 4th round pick to the Habs in return.
Perry’s buyout costs Anaheim $2.625 million against the salary cap this season, $6.625 million next season and $2.000 million from 2021-22 through 2022-23.
At least if things get tight and Kesler isn’t good to go the LTIR will eat up Kesler’s $6.875 million cap hit through 2021-22 (if his career is in jeopardy as it very well might be).
For now, the Ducks are hoping for Troy Terry to have the breakout season everyone’s waiting for, as well as the emergence of Max Jones, Sam Steel and Maxime Comtois as NHL regulars (hopefully) sooner rather than later.
Anaheim needs more speed, skill and most importantly more goals for and fewer goals against.
Offseason Grade: D+
There’s really no pressure heading into this season for the Ducks. They won the Cup in 2007, became dominant in the regular season from 2012-15 (and, as a result, a Cup contender) and have been cooling ever since (with the exception of their 2017 Western Conference Final run– losing in six games to the Nashville Predators).
Since then, Murray hasn’t done anything to stop nature in its course as age has caught up to the big and burly roster Anaheim crafted to (almost) perfection. That said, there were no major additions or subtractions this offseason– even with the loss of Perry (who’s cap hit left him un-tradable).
52-20-10, 114 points, 2nd in the Central Division
Lost in Western Conference Final to VGK, 4-1
Subtractions: F Joel Armia (traded to MTL), F Chase De Leo (traded to ANA), D Toby Enstrom (signed, SHL), F Matt Hendricks (signed with MIN), G Michael Hutchinson (signed with FLA), D Jan Kostalek (signed, ELH), G Steve Mason (traded to MTL, subsequently bought-out, current UFA), D Julian Melchiori (signed with FLA), G Jamie Phillips (signed with Charlotte Checkers, AHL), F Buddy Robinson (signed with CGY), F Michael Sgarbossa (signed with WSH), F Paul Stastny (signed with VGK)
Still Unsigned: F Jimmy Lodge, F Shawn Matthias
Re-signed: G Eric Comrie, F Marko Dano, G Connor Hellebuyck,F Nicolas Kerdiles (acquired from ANA and re-signed), F JC Lipon, F Adam Lowry, D Josh Morrissey, F Nic Petan, D Tucker Poolman, D Cameron Schilling, F Brandon Tanev, D Jacob Trouba
Offseason Analysis: For a city with the word “win” in its name, the Winnipeg Jets sure did a lot of winning last season. Paul Maurice coached his club to a 52-20-10 record– good enough for first place in a normal year, but the Nashville Predators were just three points better in the Central Division. Winnipeg finished second in the Central with 114 points.
They won their first playoff series in franchise history, eliminating the Minnesota Wild in five games in the First Round, then upset the Predators in a Game 7 on the road in the Second Round.
The Jets didn’t just set franchise records, they established the bar for future benchmarks of success (minus a Cup), but while Winnipeg soared into the Western Conference Final, they were in for a crash landing in five games against the Vegas Golden Knights despite having home-ice advantage.
Three wins. Just three wins shy of their first Stanley Cup Final appearance for both renditions of the Jets.
Connor Hellebuyck emerged as a legitimate starting goaltender and General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff made sure to lock him up by re-signing the 25-year-old goaltender to a six-year extension worth $6.167 million per season.
Hellebucyk’s deal is a manageable cap hit and carries him through his mid-prime, leaving Cheveldayoff’s options open for more in the future, let alone vitally important cap space in the now as there’s kind of a big deal in Winnipeg this season.
Patrik Laine‘s entering the final year of his entry-level contract. Based on his abilities alone, he’ll see upwards of $9.000 million per season. Based on his comparison in play to Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel and more– he could be seeing John Tavares money (in the $11.000 million AAV ballpark).
Oh yeah, Matthews is a pending-RFA in July 2019 too.
Laine’s play was elevated in the postseason by offseason departure, Paul Stastny, after Stastny was acquired by the Jets at the trade deadline. Winnipeg wanted to retain his services, but Stastny chose the Golden Knights over a return to Manitoba.
Despite losing a quintessential playmaker in the short run, the Jets gained an edge on cap space in the long run. Cap space that will come in handy for Laine and other pending-RFAs including Kyle Connor, Marko Dano, Jacob Trouba and trade deadline depth pickup turned playoff scoring bottom-pair defender, Joe Morrow.
Trouba went through arbitration this offseason as the ongoing saga continues with his future in Winnipeg– whereas the last couple of seasons it appeared he was on his way out in a transaction, the Jets and the 24-year-old defender have mulled things over on a mutual relationship.
It’s just taking one little step at a time, as the defender was awarded a one-year, $5.500 million extension this summer.
Backing up Hellebuyck this season is Laurent Brossoit, who’s coming off of a career-worst (min. 10 games played) 3.24 goals against average and .883 save percentage in 14 games with the Edmonton Oilers last season.
While Brossoit was with the Oilers (of all teams), that doesn’t scream breakout season by a backup goaltender. In fact, it’s on par with Michael Hutchinson’s 3.26 GAA and .907 SV% in three games with Winnipeg last season and Steve Mason’s 3.24 GAA and .906 SV% in 13 games with the Jets.
Unless Brossoit taps into the once-touted potential he had in his WHL days of Junior hockey, Cheveldayoff’s made a lateral move behind Hellebuyck on the depth chart and lends Maurice to over-rely on his starter to compensate for goaltending struggles.
That’s where things can get ugly.
Otherwise, the Jets should be just fine in 2018-19.
Offseason Grade: C
The Jets introduced an alternate sweater for the first time in Manitoba since the franchise relocated from Atlanta in May 2011. It’s not the low-point of the offseason, however, it will take off a few grade points for such a bland script font as its crest.
Otherwise, Winnipeg’s offseason was par for the course for a roster that has the potential to go just as far– if not further– this season as they did last season. However, next summer is where things could get muddy.
44-25-13, 101 points, 2nd in the Pacific Division
Swept in the First Round by San Jose, 4-0
Subtractions: D Francois Beauchemin (retired), G Reto Berra (signed, Switzerland), F Jared Boll (retired), F J.T. Brown (signed with MIN), F Derek Grant (signed with PIT), F Chris Kelly (retired), F Nicolas Kerdiles (traded to WPG), F Mike Liambas (signed with MIN), F Andre Petersson (signed, KHL), F Corey Tropp (signed with San Diego Gulls, AHL)
Offseason Analysis: Despite finishing one point ahead of the San Jose Sharks in the final standings at the end of the regular season, the Sharks took a bite out of the Anaheim Ducks in the First Round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. So much of a bite, in fact, it swept the Ducks off their feet.
Get it? Because they got swept in the postseason.
Despite winning the Cup with Randy Carlyle behind the bench in 2007, Anaheim needs to recognize just how much has changed in the last 11 years. The Ducks got back with their ex and fell into their old habits in a new-age game.
Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler aren’t the players they used to be. It’s not that Perry can’t score, it’s just that he’s not as effective. As for the Ryans (Getzlaf and Kesler), one’s still existent (Getzlaf) though he’d be much better on the second or third line– or at least flanked by youth on his wings– and the other (Kesler) has become irrelevant.
Brian Gibbons and Carter Rowney are fourth liners, so depth down the bottom-six is covered, at least. Meanwhile Luke Schenn and Andrej Sustr provide excellent coverage as sixth defensemen fighting for the last spot on Anaheim’s blue line, which is one of two bright spots for the Ducks heading into 2018-19.
Anaheim’s defensive core is strong with Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson, Cam Fowler and Brandon Montour as their top-four defenders. As one of the most under-the-radar defensive core, they’ve kept John Gibson‘s workload to a manageable– wait, actually, Gibson faced 435 shots more in eight additional games last season than he did in 2016-17.
For the record, Gibson faced 1,437 shots against in 52 games (25-16-9 record) in 2016-17, while he faced 1,872 shots against in 60 games (31-18-7) last season. Though the workload increased, Gibson’s save percentage improved from a .924 to a .926. He also won over half the games he played in last season.
So Anaheim’s main strong point is the best American goaltender in the game, while having one of the better than average defenses in the game. Meanwhile, Nick Ritchie remains an unsigned RFA that Murray has to manage carefully.
Quintessential to the transition from the 2000s/2010s style Ducks to the 2020s era Ducks, the 22-year-old left winger is Anaheim’s biggest blue chip roster player outside of the crease. Ritchie is just waiting to emerge with a breakout year as Troy Terry joins the fold on offense.
The fact of the matter remains– play the kids more.
It can only help manage the workload of the physically worn out Ducks that have been around for the last decade. Perry might still produce, but it’s time to break him free from Getzlaf on the first line.
Ondrej Kase could move up a line, but Jakob Silfverberg isn’t actually the problem on the second line.
Anaheim’s in the middle of something– middle of the road, middle of a transition or middle of mediocrity. Whatever it is, they didn’t do much this offseason to fix it this season, but there’s still time to turn things around in the next few years– wait, Perry, Getzlaf and Kesler all have NMCs in their contracts that have three, three and four-years remaining respectively?
Offseason Grade: D+
No you can’t get an “A” by default after having Francois Beauchemin, Jared Boll and Chris Kelly retire in one offseason from your roster.
John Gibson might be the closest thing to Dominik Hasek that we’ve seen since Dominik Hasek led the nonchalant 1999 Buffalo Sabres (seriously, look up the scoring leaders for that team, it trails off after Miroslav Satan— shouts Puck Soup) in the dead puck/trap era to the Stanley Cup Final– that’s if Gibson single handedly leads the Ducks to the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, mind you, and the mountain looks too steep.
Our offseason previews for all 31 National Hockey League teams continues with the Winnipeg Jets and their outlook for the summer.
The Winnipeg Jets soared high in 2017-18, amassing 114 points on the season with a–franchise best– 52-20-10 record to finish 2nd in the Central Division and 2nd in the Western Conference (both in the regular season and postseason, by virtue of having been eliminated by the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference Final).
General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff went all-in on a potential Stanley Cup run at the trade deadline, acquiring Paul Stastny from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Winnipeg’s 2018 first round pick and prospect, Erik Foley.
Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine and Dustin Byfuglien were great at their positions as always, while Connor Hellebuyck backstopped the team to glory. Meanwhile, Kyle Connor had one of the quietest sensational rookie seasons in recent memory, scoring 31 goals and 26 assists (57 points) in 76 games played.
Things are only looking up for the Jets despite their Western Conference Final defeat in five games to the expansion Golden Knights.
Both Winnipeg and Vegas were dominant teams in the West and if one of them hadn’t made the Stanley Cup Final, the Nashville Predators probably would have, but the Jets defeated the Preds in seven games in the Second Round after easily finishing off the Minnesota Wild in five games in the First Round.
Paul Maurice got to the Conference Finals for the first time since 2002 as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes head coach, while the Jets made the third round for the first time in franchise history dating back to their days as the Atlanta Thrashers (R.I.P.).
2018 NHL Entry Draft
Winnipeg doesn’t have a selection in the first round currently, thanks to Cheveldayoff’s deadline acquisition bargain hunting.
It’s not entirely clear if the Jets will take a stab at jumping into the first round, but at least they’ve got some pretty sweet third jerseys finally coming along seven years into their tenure at Bell MTS Place since relocating from Atlanta.
Nic Petan, as always, is on the trade bait list and could yield the club a first round pick as part of a return on a transaction.
Pending free agents
The Jets have almost $20.600 million to spend on free agents this summer with their captain, Blake Wheeler, ($5.600 million cap hit) and young superstar, Patrik Laine, ($925,000 cap hit– final year of his entry-level deal) entering contract years.
In other words, next summer is going to be expensive.
Matthias, 30, had one goal and two assists (three points) in 27 games, while Hendricks, 37, had 5-8–13 totals in 60 games this season. Neither of them have to be brought back for the Jets to remain a contender in the Central Division, but what Cheveldayoff does with Stastny could mean a world of a difference.
Stastny, 32, had clear chemistry with his teammates in Winnipeg from the moment he was on the ice with them, right through the postseason. He’s such a great playmaker and dependable on the faceoff dot that it only makes sense you’d let him be the one feeding Wheeler and Laine for as long as you can.
In 82 games with the Jets and Blues, Stastny had 16 goals and 37 assists (53 points). He then went on to have 6-9–15 totals in 17 postseason games. Re-sign him.
Winnipeg has a lot of cap space and a plethora of pending-RFAs to re-sign or let go.
Tanev, 26, is a solid bottom-six forward. Armia, 25, goes hand-in-hand with the rest of the glue guys. Meanwhile, Dano, 23, and Lowry, 25, have made a case for one to be preserved over the other (it’s Lowry, obviously).
On defense, Toby Enstrom, 33, already knows he’ll be hitting the waters of the open market as he has both price himself out of a Jets jersey and been bumped out of contention for ice-time with the likes of Byfuglien, Tyler Myers, Dmitry Kulikov and Ben Chiarot holding down the fort.
24-year-old Jacob Trouba’s bridge-deal is expiring and he’ll need a raise. Poolman, 25, emerged as a top-6 quality defender. Morrow, 25, was acquired at the deadline from the Montreal Canadiens and should return as a top-6 guy that came in clutch under Maurice’s instructions.
Morrow was never really utilized under Claude Julien in Montreal and Boston. Prior to that he was a journeyman from the Dallas Stars and Pittsburgh Penguins (where he was originally drafted). Winnipeg seems like it should be home for the 25-year-old blueliner.
Make of Morrissey what you will, but the 23-year-old defender had 26 points this season setting career highs in goals (7), assists (19) and points (26). He’ll be sticking around.
The real problem with Winnipeg is what they’re going to have to do with their goaltenders.
Starter, Connor Hellebuyck, is a pending-RFA. The 25-year-old solidified his status as a clear number one goaltender with a cut above the rest in the league, winning 44 games out of 67 appearances this season. He had a 2.36 goals against average and .924 save percentage.
Hellebuyck’s earned a raise, but the only problem is it leaves the Jets paying 30-year-old, Steve Mason, his $4.100 million cap hit in his final year of his two-year deal. In 13 games as a backup, he wasn’t great, amassing a 3.24 GAA and .906 SV%. Good luck trying to convince a team to take on his contract at full value.
Cheveldayoff will likely have to ship Mason out while retaining close to 50% of his remaining salary (the maximum allowed per the collective bargaining agreement).
28-year-old, Michael Hutchinson, in the meantime is a pending-UFA and regressed in 2017-18. Though he only played in three games, Hutchinson had a 3.26 GAA and .907 SV%.
For much less than Mason, Hutchinson could rebound back to a goals against average under 3.00, which is the least you expect from a backup– anything between 2.50 and 3.00 is right on target, anything better than 2.50 is godlike (for a backup) and anything over 3.00 is usually a poor investment in an easily overlooked position.
Sure, Eric Comrie is developing in the system, but wait, he’s a pending-RFA this summer too.
Winnipeg looks like they finally have this goaltending thing figured out, but Cheveldayoff cannot afford to mess any part of it up or else he risks long-term success, a la the Ondrej Pavelec saga from Atlanta to Winnipeg until Hellebuyck and Hutchinson overtook him.
Buyouts on the books: Mark Stuart at $583,333 through the end of 2018-19.
Other pending free agents throughout the organization include:
Buddy Robinson (UFA), Michael Sgarbossa (UFA), Chase De Leo (RFA), Jamie Phillips (RFA), Cameron Schilling (UFA), Jan Kostalek (RFA), James Lodge (RFA), Eric Comrie (RFA), Nic Petan (RFA), JC Lipon (RFA), Julian Melchiori (UFA)