After resting some of their marquee players for two games, the Ducks have arguably seen the post Niedermayer/Selanne area, and it ain't pretty. The team will obviously reinsert Getzlaf, Visnovsky, Marchant and Lupul next year, not to mention young players like Luca Sbisa, but they may not be enough to turn this roster back into a playoff team.
Daniel, based on these two games, how much trouble are the Ducks in if they lose every single pending UFA in July?
I don't really know. My instincts say serious trouble, but the fan in me is really good at talking his way out of that assessment. As far as defensemen, Sbisa looked fantastic in camp, and even in his first few games. I still think it was a big mistake sending him down. He was only going to get better, and we would have been able to move Boynton or Eminger earlier, before everyone realized they were completely useless. On top of that, Matt Clark has done nothing but impress, and now he's signed. I expect that kid to have a cup of coffee early on next year, maybe more.
Basically, we'd have Sbisa, Visnovsky, Festerling, Wiz and Mikkelson, assuming we keep the RFA's in order to avoid depleting our D numbers too drastically. After that, there are plenty of serviceable defensemen on the free agent market: Volchenkov, Sutton, Salei, Kubina, Pothier, Hamhuis, Leopold, O'Brien or even Gonchar and Lidstrom if we get crazy. Any of those guys could help fill out our Top 4. From that point, the D will only get better as the kids improve. If the Ducks can find a way to overpay just one of those guys, they can save the blue line from oblivion.
For the forwards, Bonino is showing great promise, and Sexton and Beleskey will get better. That might be an effective second line in and of itself. Murray has made it clear that Bobby Ryan is staying, and that means we can at least spread the offense around. Deschamps was pretty promising in camp as well, and Sharp had a good stint as a Bottom 6 guy. We have young players who can rise to meet the challenge is what I'm saying.
I suppose this list of possibilities is actually my response to the question. If we lose all of our UFAs this summer, we are in pretty deep trouble, just by virtue of not knowing where we'll be or what kind of team we can make without them. We won't have anything that could be considered consistency up and down the lineup, a slump could come from anywhere, and honestly, who wants to pin playoff hopes on the potential emergence of rookies. Still, there is a lot of talent in this organization, and if the Ducks shop for just a little bit of help, they won't be asking for all their young talent to become NHL caliber at the same time.
I think we're in deep trouble, and I absolutely think it's possible that we lose every pending UFA. I just don't have a lot of faith in Murph's negotiating ability. And can you blame me? After the Beauchemin fiasco, the threatened arbitration then inflated trial contract offer to Wisniewski and now three more rejected contract offers this season (Ryan, Wisniewski and Broobkank), he doesn't appear to be the most renewal-friendly GM. Granted, Ryan and Wiz are RFA's, and he managed to ink Niedermayer and Hiller to generous contracts, but he's had some colossal missteps after his predecessor was able to re-sign Perry and Getzlaf without stopping and starting negotiations on multiple occasions.
But Murph recently said he was willing to give to get when it came to adding a blueliner, and I think that opens up the field. It also enhances the likelihood of losing a Dan Sexton or a Matt Beleskey, but if it means we get the right player, maybe we cast our lot with Joffrey Lupul and Jason Blake. The latter has performed of late, and weren't we willing to cast our lot with Joffrey Lupul at the beginning of this season anyways? That's at least one scenario where we end up with the right player without pinning our hopes to the free agent market.
The team's undoubtedly in trouble, and I keep thinking of something you said to me this week: "This is going to be an important offseason." I replied, "We said that last offseason." It feels like we're getting more and more desperate in the Bob Murray era, and I think this team, more than ever, is extremely sensitive to the slightest misstep. I don't think it can survive another Ryan Whitney or undervaluing another Beauchemin, and if it does, we might be talking 2011 Draft Lottery trouble, not just missing-the-playoffs trouble.