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John Gibson Deal a Major Win for Ducks

While not without some risk, Anaheim keeps its franchise goaltender.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Anaheim Ducks at San Jose Sharks John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

This weekend, the Anaheim Ducks made a statement about how the organization feels about its goaltending situation.

Anaheim announced an eight-year, $51.2 million deal with John Gibson, which will keep the Ducks’ franchise goaltender in town through the 2026-27 season.

Gibson has one more year on a three-year, $6.9 million deal before the extension kicks in. The new contract will count for $6.4 million against Anaheim’s salary cap; the deal also includes a modified no-trade clause, which Gibson can specify 10 teams he cannot be traded to.

When his deal kicks in for the 2019-20 season, the 25-year-old Gibson will become the fifth-highest paid goalie in the NHL, with his AAV trailing only Carey Price ($10.5 million), Henrik Lundqvist ($8.5 million), Tuukka Rask ($7 million) and Marc-Andre Fleury ($7 million). Gibson will earn slightly more per year than Connor Hellebuyck ($6.166 million) and Braden Holtby ($6.1 million).

The contract is well-deserved for Gibson, who established himself as one of the NHL’s top goaltenders in 2017-18. Among goalies that played at least 50 games last season, Gibson’s SV% of .926 was second to Pekka Rinne. Gibson also finished second in Goals Saved Above Average at 25.30, behind only Rinne.

For his efforts, Gibson finished sixth in voting for the Vezina Trophy, though there’s a strong case to be made that he warranted a finalist nomination.

An eight-year deal, especially for a goaltender, isn’t without some risk. As Gibson detractors are quick to point out, there have been some issues with injuries since becoming a full-time NHLer in 2015. Recall during the 2016-17 season as Anaheim was pushing for the Pacific Division title that Gibson played only one game from Feb. 21 to April 1. In the postseason, he was knocked out of Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals and missed Game 6 as the Ducks were promptly knocked out by the Nashville Predators thanks to a sorry performance by Gibson’s backup, Jonathan Bernier.

In 2017-18, Gibson started 60 games, which tied for eighth-most in the NHL. Despite that, injury concerns have remained for some; Gibson had to leave a handful of those games early and was replaced by veteran Ryan Miller.

The circumstances behind Gibson’s departures were broken down by our own C.J. Woodling back in April — as C.J. pointed out, most of Gibson’s ailments were due to collisions with opposing players, and not the groin/hip injuries that plagued him in years past.

General manager Bob Murray told Sportnet’s Elliotte Friedman that he was unconcerned with Gibson’s durability, pointing out that many times his removal was for “precautionary reasons.”

That certainly makes sense — the Ducks had enough confidence in Miller (.928 SV%) not to be foolish and push their starter when he was less than 100 percent.

Consider that over the last three years, Gibson has started 147 games. That’s only one less than Jonathan Quick, seven more than Corey Crawford and 25 more than Carey Price. And recall that in one of those years, Gibson was still sharing the Ducks’ net with Frederik Anderson.

That doesn’t include the 20 playoff games Gibson has started, which is fifth-most in the NHL over the last two years.

For whatever reason, despite all this, Gibson still carries the tag of being injury-prone. That designation remains ignorant.

What’s perhaps most interesting is Murray’s willingness to hand out such a large deal to a goaltender, because the Ducks have been mostly reluctant to do so since the salary cap was installed in 2005-06.

Consider the comparables — Jean-Sebastien Giguere was given a four-year, $24 million deal ($6 million AAV) after the Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007. That deal took up over 13 percent of the salary cap.

It was also signed by Brian Burke, as Murray didn’t take over the general manager position until over a year later.

The biggest goaltender contract from Murray went to Jonas Hiller, and that was a four-year, $18 million deal ($4.5 million AAV) that started in 2010-11. Ryan Miller (two years, $4 million), Ray Emery (one year, $500,000), Viktor Fasth (two years, $2.9 million) and Frederik Andersen (two years, $3.55 million; two years, $2.3 million) are some examples of other contracts Murray has given to goalies. He also traded for Jonathan Bernier, who had one year and $4.15 million remaining on his deal when the Ducks picked him up.

Particularly with Hiller, Andersen and Gibson (under his previous deal) the Ducks received above-average goaltending at a bargain price, allowing Murray the extra cap space to fill out the rest of the roster with talent.

He won’t have that luxury now, and it’ll be on Murray to figure out how to build a contending team with less money to spend on forwards and defense. This is something that many teams who have committed large sums to franchise goaltenders, like the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers, have yet to figure out.

Fortunately for the Ducks, all the young members of their core are signed to team-friendly deals for the foreseeable future (Rickard Rakell’s contract remains Murray’s magnum opus). It’ll be important for Murray to remain flexible with the rest of his roster and resist signing role players to deals three years or longer (Andrew Cogliano and Patrick Eaves would probably be casualties under this standard).

This contract is a win for both sides.

For John Gibson, this is a statement from management that it believes he is a core member of the team. As mentioned above, the Ducks have been reluctant to hand out these types of deals to goaltenders, so the fact that Murray went against his norm is a major vote of confidence.

For the Ducks, they’ve locked down a franchise goaltender for all of his prime years and they’ve done so at a manageable price. It’ll force the front office to make some tough decisions with the rest of the roster, but that is a problem they can live with if Gibson continues his stellar play.

It’s important to note that, now with Gibson under contract, this Ducks team has little room to maneuver in the short term. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are still under contract for three more seasons, Rickard Rakell and Ryan Kesler still have four seasons left, and Adam Henrique only recently inked his five-year deal that kicks in after this season.

On defense, Anaheim has Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson under contract together through 2021-22 (Lindholm’s and Manson’s deals expire after that season).

Can the Ducks win big with that group? Time will tell, but at least they’ll have one of the NHL’s best in net for the long haul.