As the Stanley Cup playoffs come to a close it seems that everyone not named Vancouver or Boston (including Anaheim Calling) has begun talking about offseason trade and free agent predictions. Rather than specifically focus on one player or issue I thought I'd do a general overview of the duck's financial situation, designated team needs, and potential options looking forward.
Part 1: Current Finances
Let's start with the ducks current financial situation. If you haven't already I recommend looking at Capgeek as I got all of my information from their site. This last year the ducks had 26 players, and paying $55,676,424 which was just over 3.5 million UNDER the cap. Now if you don't know already, the Ducks are not a big spending team and will not be spending up to the cap next season. Currently the ducks have 17 players under payroll for next season and about 9.5 million in cap space. If we take away the 3.5 "buffer" that ownership had last year, we're looking at around 6 million in cap space for about 6-9 players. The only contracts over a million dollars are Teemu's (at 4.5 mil), Ruutu (at 1.3 mil), and Marchant (1.125 mil).
Part 2: Team Needs
Forwards: Bottom 6 Depth and potentially 2nd line sniper. There are only 9 forwards who had substantial time in the NHL last year signed for next season. Teemu Selanne is not one of those forwards, and if he chooses not to return would put the Ducks in need of a highly talented second line sniper. If he does return that dips into that 6 million in free space, and is probably looking for a contract between 3-4 million. The Ducks also need to greatly improve their bottom 6 forwards, as Carlyle rarely used them last year which led to fatigue for the heavily used top 6 forwards. Among those returning include 4th line enforcer George Parros, 3rd line two-way center Brandon McMillan, and inconsistently used young forwards Matt Beleskey and Kyle Palmieri.
Defense: Top 4 Defenseman if possible. Unlike last year, the defensive core of the team will remain intact for next season. Visnovsky, Lydman, Beauchemin, Sbisa, and Fowler are all locks for the top 5 defenseman next year. Much like last season, the question remains who will win the 6th spot. Still under contract are Sheldon Brookbank and Andy Sutton, neither of who were able to find success in the team's rotations last year. Without an upgrade to the defensive corps, someone who can play top 4 minutes, the team will once again have to rely too much on young players like Sbisa and Fowler to win games.
Goaltending: Complicated. Easily the most difficult situation the Ducks will have to address over the off-season is the health of Hiller and the future goaltender of the team. If Hiller's health improves then the team will most likely keep his as their number 1 option. Dan Ellis is also under contract for next year, and late season starter Ray Emery becomes a free agent. If Hiller's health doesn't improve then the club will have to find another goaltender to play for the team with Ellis.
Part 3: Options
Forwards: The team will mostly focus on re-signing Teemu Selanne and signing at least one two-way forward to play on the 3rd line. If Selanne does retire, the Ducks will likely go for UFA's Simon Gagne, Jussi Jokinen, or Micheal Ryder. Carlyle and Murray have expressed their desire to build a shutdown third line much like the one the Ducks had during the cup year. UFA Two-way Forwards include: Maxim Talbot, Rob Niedermayer, John Madden, Brooks Laich, Brendan Morrison, Kyle Wellwood, Eric Belanger, Jeff Halpern, Marcel Goc
Defense: Defensemen always seem to be a premium during the off season (see last year) and this year will be no difference. The Ducks could get involved in who ever Vancouver doesn't sign (Salo, Ehrhoff, and/or Bieska) but they could be too expensive for them. James Wisniewski is an option, but there is still some bad blood probably between him and the organization. Ian White and Anton Babchuck are also options but are likely to resign with the Sharks and Flames respectively. The Duck's best option could come in the form of Joni Pitkanen, 27 year old two way vet, who is Finish and in his prime.
Goaltending: We all have our fingers crossed that Hiller returns 100% next season, but if not the Ducks will most likely just sign Emery and continue with him and Ellis until a younger goaltender is ready to take over.
Now I specifically did not mention trades or RFA's because I don't want to get any Ducks fan's hope up. The likely hood of the Ducks making any sort of major trade or offer towards a high end RFA are slim to none. That means no Doughty and no trading Bobby Ryan. The team has expressed a strong desire to keep together the "best line in hockey" and aren't looking to make any radical changes.
Part 4: Prediction
Forwards: The Ducks resign at least one of their younger forwards (Sexton, Chipchura, Bonino) and one of their big checkers (Winchester or Ruutu) to cheap contracts and then make a move for a 2-way forward. Todd Marchant probably retires, but if not definitely resigns with the team (Carlyle loves him!). This gives the team the combination of Palmari/Beleskey - McMillan - (2 way UFA) and (Checker) - (Young Guy) - Parros. The team will also resign Selanne......there is no way he retires after a season like that!
Selanne: 3.5 million
Two Way: 1.5 million
Defense: The Ducks wont be able to be bigger spenders, but could grab a guy like Pitkanen, or someone similar, for around 3-4million. But unless the Ducks are able to shed unnecessary salaries (Sutton and Blakes) the team will have to settle for a Brookbank/Sutton combination as the 6th and 7th defenseman.
Goaltending: If Hiller returns, then they let Emery walk and give him a chance to get a starting job else where. If Hiller doesn't then the Ducks sign Emery to a 2-3 million deal and have a little bit more spending room.
Well I hope this was helpful for anyone looking to get into the conversation about the Duck's offseason and heres hoping everything works out for the team!!!