RALEIGH, NC - FEBRUARY 23: Corey Perry #10 of the Anaheim Ducks celebrates with teammates after scoring the game-tying goal in the third period against the Carolina Hurricanes at the RBC Center on February 23, 2012 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Anaheim won 3-2 in a shootout. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
This is Anaheim Calling to the Hockey World. Recent discussions on the boards about acquisitions was a bit of a frustrating endeavor. The Ducks have $41.06M committed to the cap next year, and $38.572M committed in salary.
The Ducks are pretty much set on D. Lubomir Visnovsky, Toni Lydman, Cam Fowler, Luca Sbisa, and Francois Beauchemin are all signed through next year. Nate Guenin is locked up as a 6th defenseman. As for Forwards, there's Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan, as well as Andrew Cogliano, Devante Smith-Pelly and Matt Beleskey. That's about it, for guys who were consistently on the team last season. Nick Bonino and Patrick Marron are RFAs, and I'm confident the Ducks will re-sign both of them. Peter Holland, Kyle Palmieri, and Brandon McMillan are also signed for next season. Dan Sexton's contract goes from a two-way to a one-way next season, although it seems the Ducks have given up on him (which is probably a mistake).
Using only RFAs and guys on the roster, next year's lineup probably looks a little like this:
It's actually not horrible if the kids step up, although it is also mildly discouraging in that it doesn't address key needs for the Ducks.
At the end of last season, I emphasized our need for defensive forwards. In fact, I laid out a whole list of needs and recommended we move Bobby Ryan for a number one defender. Not a lot has changed. The Ducks need more size and defense from the forward corps, they need a number 1 defenseman, and they could probably use an upgrade in the Top 6. This will be the one time that I say this: It's not a good sign when your shopping list from last summer is the same as your shopping list for this summer. I'm just saying...
Ultimately, the Ducks off-season comes down to 3 main questions. 1) Will Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne return? 2) Will the Ducks be able to sign Justin Schultz? 3) Are the Ducks willing to use Bobby Ryan to solve their problems?
I want to address each question individually and then look at the impact that each answer potentially has on the roster.
1) The Return of Koivu and Selanne: I'd like to preface this by saying I feel Koivu and Selanne are a package deal. Bringing back Koivu is the best way to bring back Selanne. The argument for bringing back Koivu is pretty simple. The devil you know is better than the one you don't. Bruce Boudreau knows and likes Koivu, and he has a good idea of how to use him. Koivu works well with Selanne and we know that he will generate some chances. I've always thought that the problem with Koivu's production wasn't Koivu, but his left winger, or the lack of a consistently good one.
Let's make something clear, Koivu is the stopgap while the centers develop. Having him and another stopgap option simply isn't viable for the Ducks. They won't be able to afford it. If they go for Koivu, their only options are to give up on the prospects and trade for a second-line center, or to acquire another stopgap center and hope that another year of AHL helps Holland. Bonino will not become a better scoring center by playing 10 minutes or less a night on the 4th line. Keeping Koivu means the best option for the Ducks is to roll a 2A and 2B. That will give Bonino enough time to earn the second line job, or to lose it. Either way, the Ducks will know what they've go, and if you saw Tokyo Drift, you know how invaluable that is. Thanks Han! The Ducks have the prospects on the wing to make something like that work. [Ed. Note: Raise your hand if you thought we'd ever have a Tokyo Drift reference on the site. LIARS!]
Koivu wants to come back, and I'm pretty sure Boudreau wants him back. At that point, the Ducks need to focus on getting upgrades for the wing in the Top 6, not finding a second line center.
2) Signing Schultz: I'm pretty confident that Schultz isn't coming back. As a Ducks fan, I just expect bad things like this to happen to us. If Schultz signs, the Ducks still need D upgrades, but he instantly makes our PP better and gives us a great option for the bottom pair, or even a potential top 4 upgrade. He's that good.
I wouldn't hate a Beauchemin-Fowler, Sbisa-Schultz, Lydman-Visnovsky/Free Agent lineup. The Ducks need to get bigger and tougher on the blueline whether we have Schultz or not. If we don't have Schultz, I think two things need to happen. First, we HAVE to draft Matt Dumba so we can have another impact, skill defenseman in the system. Second, we need to consider trading for either a very solid, or top pair defender. I'll do my own post on why we need to draft Dumba, but you can start by reading this.
I know what you're thinking, "Daniel, how do we get a top defender and draft at the number 6 position?" The easy answer is that you have to trade Bobby Ryan. The difficult answer is that you have to trade prospects. Personally, I wonder if New York might part with something in order to get Visnovsky who can probably solve their PP woes. I think Lubo and Lydman should go, but I don't know how feasible that really is.
If Schultz is really gone, then it's time to package Bobby Ryan for Shea Weber or Mike Green. Say what you want about Mike Green, but he and Roman Hamrlik's +5 was tops for the Boston/Washington series. Injuries aside, he's a viable option for permanently upgrading the D, if he can be had. Dumba will still take two years, but the Ducks would have one of the most fearsome bluelines in the league in two seasons.
3) Trading Bobby Ryan: There have been a few arguments for trading Bobby Ryan. I think the most pressing one is that he isn't two superstars. Let's be serious. No one is going to pick Bobby over Getzlaf AND Perry. Ask yourself this: Is a top line of Bobby Ryan-Nick Bonino-Devante Smith-Pelly, what you want in two years? I'm guessing no. If the Ducks choose Bobby over the Twins, that's what they'll get. this organization will be set back years. As such, Bobby is the most sensible choice for being moved. Mix in media slip ups like this, and his affinity for shooting from outside the circles even though he's got the build of a power forward, and you can see what is so unappealing about Bobby. He's not a core piece and that means he should be traded for a better star or for depth.
Personally, I've been mulling a particular trade for a while now, and the more I think about it the more I like it. Bobby Ryan goes to Washington for Brooks Laich, Jeff Schultz and the 11th overall pick in this year's draft. Here's why it's good: Laich gives us flexibility in the Top 6 without forcing out a prospect. He can play the left side with the Twins and be a high energy player who drives that line. He can also fill in at center when needed. Schultz gives depth and size on the backend. He isn't physical, but he is good at using that size to take the puck and move on; he also had his best years under Boudreau. Finally, we get to pick twice in the top 12. We can use the 6 on Dumba and the 11 on whoever we want, or we can trade that pick for with a prospect for something else. It's a deal that gives us a ton of options. My final vision for next year's lineup looks a little like this:
Beleseky-FA Defensive Center-Maroon
Jeff Schultz-Lydman/FA D
That's a young lineup with good scoring potential and a D that is at least solid. If Schultz isn't signed, you can probably keep Visnovsky and still have a good defense. It might not look as sexy as some other lineups, but it has a determination to it that I like. I think it has a better attitude than last year's team. If the Ducks stick with Bobby Ryan, which is probably a mistake given his value probably won't get much higher than it is now due to a shorten contract and impending free agency, then their priority shifts to defense. Bobby should stick with Koivu and Selanne, and the Ducks should put together that third line. It will be here for years, and it will be very productive. The Ducks can find something for Bobby after Koivu and Selanne leave, like a shiny new Jordan Staal. If you want a Ducks lineup to get excited about look at this:
Bobby Ryan-Jordan Staal-??
That's almost enough to get me to second guess trading Bobby Ryan. Almost...
No matter what happens, the Ducks need to get better on the back-end and on the 4th line. They need a defensive center who can win some draws and help with the PK. The top line could use a left winger as well, since Bobby isn't making it work. There's your shopping list, a top defender, a defensive center, and a top 6 LW. Have at it.