Everyone put down your pitchforks. I want to make it explicitly clear that I write this from nothing but a position of love. The Flash is a legend in every sense of the word and has often been the lone bright spot that kept the Ducks relevant to the rest of the hockey world. But even though it might be an unpopular position, his time in the NHL should be coming to an end.
Reason #3: The Money
In all fairness to Teemu Selanne, this is not a problem of his making. When the Ducks signed Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry to mega-money extensions this year, it meant that hard decisions would be looming in the future. At present, the Ducks have committed nearly $54 million in salary ($57.7 million in cap space) to 11 forwards, 7 defenseman, and 2 goaltenders for the 2013-2014 season. Though the NHL salary cap for 2013-2014 will be $64.3 million, giving the Ducks some space, the truth of the matter is that the Ducks are a budget team. In my Stat-urday post from way back in February, I noted that the Ducks typically spend between $54 and $58 million per year. As of today, the team is at the low end of that range. And that’s before you sign Kyle Palmieri and Matt Beleskey, who are RFAs, or Saku Koivu, who’s a UFA.
Over the past three years, Teemu’s salary has averaged nearly $4 million per year. Resigning Selanne will likely be an expensive proposition for the Ducks and unless they’re able to unload some of their more expensive contracts, they may not have the money or cap space to pay him after factoring in any other moves they may make this off-season. So unless Teemu is coming back on a significantly cheaper deal, I have a hard time seeing how Murray makes the money work (thanks again, Souray and Allen).
Reason #2: The Roster Space/Ice Time
Going back to my point above, the Ducks already have 11 forwards under contract for the 2013-2014 season, and that doesn't include Beleskey, Palms, or Koivu. Ice time is already looking thin, and you have to think that guys like Palmieri and Emerson Etem are due for some serious upgrades in terms of ice time. And while Teemu’s average TOI of 15:42 last year was his lowest ever for a full season (at least going back as long as Hockey Reference keeps those figures), it was still good for 7th best on the team. I have a hard time seeing that dip too much farther. If Teemu does come back, there’s no way he does it for significantly reduced ice time. The team would never do that to him, but it really starts to create a problem in terms of getting younger guys the time they deserve. Etem and Palmieri need to be in the top-six next season, and that gets a lot harder if #8 is still suiting up.
Reason #1: The Legacy
This is the most painful of all the reasons, but the fact of the matter is that Teemu is finally starting to look human. After leading the team with 66 points in the 2011-2012 season, Teemu’s production fell off sharply in the 2012-2013 season to a pedestrian 24 points that ranked 5th best on the team. His 0.52 points per game was the second lowest in his career, as was his 0.26 goals per game. Further complicating matters was his -10 rating, his worst rating since 2001-2002. Teemu even struggled on the power play, racking up only 3 goals on the season, which is well off his normal pace in that category.
Of course, this could have all been an outlier. The compacted season undoubtedly affected Teemu more than it probably did the younger players, and he did get off to a red-hot start before fading dramatically. But my concern is that Teemu just didn't look like himself for the better part of the season and the playoffs. There is absolutely a chance that he could bounce back and defy his age (he’ll be 43 in July), but I don’t want to risk watching a once great player struggle. I want my memories of Teemu to be the speedy, dangerous player he’s been his entire career. His legacy means too much to risk another season like this one.
I love Teemu. It’s been a privilege and an honor to watch him and meet him at various points over the past four years. I just think it’s finally time that we see #8 in the rafters rather than on the ice.