Welcome back to another addition of “Meanwhile On The Farm.”
When we last checked in - the Gulls were about to begin their second round series against the San Jose Barracuda.
Sadly, despite starting strong, a culmination of injuries and call-ups to the Ducks proved too much. The Gulls took game 1 on a brilliant breakaway goal in overtime from Kevin Roy, but dropped the next four with no answer. The Barracuda seized on opportunities while the Gulls struggled to keep an experienced lineup intact. The loss of Corey Tropp in the first round was still felt keenly as well as injuries to Nick Sorenson and Max Gortz in Game 3 meant inserting the fresh from juniors/college black aces. The lucky two players used in the final two games were Alex Dostie and Mitch Hultz. Meanwhile, injuries to the Ducks forward core meant a recall for leading playoff scorer Nic Kerdiles who was replaced in the Gulls lineup by recent collegiate signing and local Austin Ortega.
They fought bravely through it all, but were unable to prevent the Barracuda from capitalizing on mistakes. At the other end, Troy Grosenick shut down any glimmer of opportunity whenever it was presented.
Looking ahead to next season, there is likely to be some roster upheaval with 11 players up for Free Agency:
C - Sam Carrick: Proved to be a very valuable depth acquisition having been recalled to the Ducks (but not used) when their forward core took a hit in the conference finals. Carrick finished second on the team in playoff scoring and has had NHL experience with the Blackhawks. As I stated in one my previous pieces, if he can be brought back for cheap on a 2 year deal much like Tropp was, I think it would be smart to do so. He is, however, an unrestricted free agent so he could test the market.
LW - Nic Kedriles: Despite having a rather unlucky history of long term injuries hindering his development, the Irvine-native has catapulted himself up the depth chart, seeing playoff action in the final two games of the Ducks conference final exit. His regular season call ups were a lot more positive and I don’t think its fair to judge him based on his playoff performance. The kid can score and loves to compete. They need to bring him back for those reasons alone.
G - Jhonas Enroth: Not a huge loss if the organisation decides to let him go, given that he was acquired for a 7th round pick. Depth goaltenders are plentiful, but cheap ones? If the Ducks can bring him back for near to his currently salary for depth reasons that would be a smart move. Otherwise, fare thee well Jhonas. Another Gulls vet goaltender stays for but a year. The organization might feel it is time to give Kevin Boyle a shot and, based on his performance in relief earlier this season, they might be right.
RW - Max Gortz: This is an interesting one. He clearly wasn't happy in Milwaukee and reuniting him with childhood friend Sorensen went a long way to potentially keeping him around. But, Sorensen recently signed a deal to return with his old Swedish Club, so I am not sure where that leaves Gortz. He had 2 points and was a -3 through 8 playoff games before his injury. Not the best postseason results, but at the same time the Ducks are a tad short of winger depth until Max Jones is finished with juniors. He was on 55k in the minors so will definitely be looking for a raise but is a restricted free agent so he could follow Sorensen back to Sweden if he doesn’t like the money offered.
RW - Emerson Etem: How is this guy still an RFA? His last deal was signed with the Rangers before they traded him to the Canucks - the Ducks then picked him up off waivers in a weird reclamation project attempt. He was injured in his first game down with the Gulls and, much like Simon Depres, has been completely forgotten about. As I said in an earlier bit on him: if he can be brought back for cheap on a 1 year “show me” deal, it might be a good option as we know he has the skill.
D - Jeff Schultz: Veteran defender signed over from the Reign - his steady presence was a definite help in the development of Montour, Theodore and Megna. As an unrestricted free agent, Schultz could move on but he has stated in interviews that he likes it in Southern California so unless he signs back with the Reign, I don’t see why he wouldn't come back to the Gulls on a similar if not slightly higher deal.
G - Kevin Boyle: He was the number one goaltender for Utah, but when both Gulls starters went down with injury, he stepped up and exceeded expectations. I believe the organization was willing to take their time with him. But, based on how he did in his call-up this season, Boyle might be ready for full-time AHL duty. His entry level deal was worth 70k and he is an RFA. He should hopefully get maybe a 3 year deal to keep him around. The Ducks also have recent collegiate signing Angus Redmond in the system now but it would be good to start building some fresh goaltender depth.
G - Ryan Faragher: Coming to the end of his 3 year deal, Faragher has failed to impress. He split duty with Boyle in Utah but essentially lost the starting job to the rookie. He posted a less than stellar .899 Save Percentage and 3.09 GAA through 38 games with the Grizzlies, compared to Boyles 2.73 and .908 through 16 games. With the signing of Angus Redmond, it is clear the Ducks have given up on Faragher.
D - Jaycob Megna: The next stud in the Ducks already deep blueline pipeline (no I am not forgetting about Larson) the 6’6” hulking shut-down defender is ready for the leap to the NHL. He already proved himself in his regular season call-ups and his AHL league leading +33 speaks for itself. If the Ducks are forced to deal one of Vatanen or Manson while at the same time somehow shifting Stoner and Bieska, Megna would fit in nicely. His entry level deal was worth 2.775 over 3 years so he might look for something in the 3 per range if the Ducks can take his term over UFA status.
LW - Spencer Abbot: As already noted in a previous bit on him, Abbot is the more offensive of the two forwards acquired from the Blackhawks this season. He didn’t do quite as well as Carrick in the playoffs, which speaks more to Carricks hard-nosed style, but he did put up 6 points in 8 games and was among the Gulls top 3 scorers. At age 29, he is quickly becoming a veteran journeyman but his expiring 325k minors contract is affordable if he does not ask for much more. Again, if the Ducks/Gulls can bring him back on a Corey Tropp-esque two-year deal, then I like bringing him back to mentor the incoming youngsters in the coming years. I also eagerly anticipate which minor league player the Blackhawks shed next season in a salary dump deal.
RW - Nick Sorensen: As noted above, Sorensen has already signed with his original Swedish Club and that seems to have been done way before the Gulls and Ducks were eliminated. Not sure what his motivation is here but perhaps he felt he did not have a realistic chance of cracking the Ducks winger depth in the coming years or perhaps did not like the defensive checking forward mold they are encouraging him into. I had already stated that were the Ducks to lose Cogliano in the expansion draft, Sorensen would have been the perfect replacement. The Ducks retain his rights but we likely won’t be seeing Nick for another 2 years.
G - Matt Hacket: The 27 year old veteran only saw 7 games with the Gulls to start the year before going down with a season ending injury. He posted a 3.35 GAA and .898 save percentage in that span, which looks terrible. However, Tokarski had the same save percentage through the same stretch of games. I think it was more on the team in front of them still finding themselves and getting the system. That said, Hacket’s injury this season is one of a long line that dates back to the beginning of his pro career. The guy has never played more than 22 games in a season for the Gulls and I think the writing is on the wall that he is just too injury prone to bring back.
D - Nate Guenin: A depth signing for both the Ducks and Gulls, Guenin’s veteran NHL experience helped go a long way in the development of Montour, Theodore and Megna. He seemed happy in his leadership and mentoring role so hopefully he can be brought back on a similar deal. If Larson comes over and decides this time to play in the AHL, then it might come down to keeping one of Guenin or Schultz. Due to being a UFA he might get picked up by another team looking for veteran depth on defense such as the Coyotes/Roadrunners.
Stay tuned, next time I will cover incoming Gulls and how they might slot into the roster.