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The Ducks are done with Corey Perry, so what happens next?

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Anaheim Ducks v Arizona Coyotes Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Corey Perry’s days with the Anaheim Ducks are coming to an end.

Late Saturday afternoon, Pierre Lebrun of TSN and The Athletic reported that Perry’s camp and the Ducks are in communication regarding a possible trade or buyout, despite his full no-move clause. Hours later, Ducks’ beat writer Eric Stephens confirmed the report. To trade Perry is one thing. Salary may have to be retained, but a deal could conceivably be arranged.

A buyout though?

Such a move had long been assumed to be totally outside the realm of possibility. Ducks’ ownership would be loathe to pay out such a large sum to someone who wouldn’t be playing, or so the common refrain went.

For a buyout to be on the table, even as an “Option B”, can indicate only one thing: the Ducks are truly done with Perry.

Anaheim is the only team that the 34-year old has ever known. Drafted in the hallowed 2003 NHL Entry Draft, he helped the franchise hoist its only Stanley Cup in 2007, and claimed the Hart Trophy as league MVP in 2011 on the strength of a 50-goal season.

Perry has been synonymous with the most recent era of Ducks’ success, embodying the perfect combination of skill, size, and nastiness that the rest of the league quickly learned to admire and detest all in the same breath. Whether it was scoring a big goal or agitating his opponent, Perry always seemed to find a way to make a mark during his most successful seasons. Along with linemate Ryan Getzlaf, he really was the Anaheim Ducks to a generation of fans.

As Getzlaf himself stated in the Stephens piece, good things do come to an end. Perry is no longer that electrifying player. A damaged MCL and meniscus limited him to 31 games in the 2018-19 campaign, where he only managed to register 10 points after returning from surgery. Even with very respectable point totals of 49 and 53 in the two seasons prior, Perry is very clearly not the player he once was, nor should anyone expect him to be at age 34. So what value would he have on the trade market?

Comparable deals are hard to find. Valtteri Filppula, carrying a $5 million cap hit, was 32 years old in 2017 when he waived his no-move clause to be traded to the Philadelphia Flyers. The Tampa Bay Lightning had to attach two draft picks to Filppula to even make a deal happen. Not a perfect comparison, but it does confirm what most already assume: the Ducks will have to sweeten any deal to make it happen.

Perry’s contract carries a hefty $8.625 million cap hit with two years remaining, and he still needs to green light any possible trade. The Ducks would almost certainly have to retain the 50 percent allowable under the CBA to create a market for him, which would still leave Perry with a $4.3 million cap hit with term. Convincing a team to take that reduced number is obviously easier, but then you have also have to sell the idea that Perry’s knee shouldn’t be an issue moving forward.

Corey Perry has been in steady decline for a few seasons now, per Evolving Hockey’s Goals Above Replacement model, which factors in five-on-five, special teams, and penalty drawing.
https://evolving-hockey.com/

In any case, the Ducks would presumably want future assets coming back their way. As a team in a re-tool, picks and prospects are at a premium. But how many teams would actually be willing to dance? Making the money work is already challenging enough, yet Murray would still have to find a team that would also be willing to offload futures to help its current lot.

The Philadelphia Flyers come to mind. Even with a number of extensions to sign, they should have the cap flexibility to absorb a Perry contract (with some retention, obviously). Elliotte Friedman has noted that the Flyers are a team hungry to make the post-season on his 31 Thoughts podcast, and that they could be very aggressive in finding ways to do so. Perry could make sense for Philadelphia, who may see itself as needing a little more bite around its younger skilled guys. Perry isn’t a star anymore, but he could be a very good supporting piece on a team looking to make a push.

The Ottawa Senators have been floated as a possibility, but that fit isn’t nearly as obvious. Yes, it is much closer to Perry’s off-season home in London, Ontario, but that’s a team squarely in rebuild mode. Would a proud veteran want to go languish outside of the playoff race there? Maybe that’s not a priority anymore, especially with the opportunity to be closer to family. Who knows. In that scenario, however, Anaheim would most likely have to attach an asset to convince Ottawa to absorb his cap hit, as the Senators are expected to get creative in order fill up the hordes of cap space they have.

The New York Islanders are another possible fit. They want to remain in the playoff picture, and an old-school GM like Lou Lamoriello might be intrigued by the idea of introducing an accomplished veteran like Perry into his younger locker room. The Islanders do have cap space to work with, and perhaps the willingness to part with futures to make a deal work. This is all pure speculation, but there are only so many teams who could feasibly make this work.

In all likelihood, Anaheim isn’t getting a premium asset back in any deal, unless they attach something else of significantly greater value, which makes the decision to move on from Perry this summer all the more strange. His trade value is quite possibly at an all time low thanks to health concerns, father time, and the lackluster season he just had.

From Murray’s perspective, would it not make more sense to let Perry begin the season in Anaheim and see if he can re-coup some of that value with a full off-season of rehab and training? Waiting a little longer would also reduce the financial burden a potential trade partner would have to bear, perhaps expanding the market.

Factor in that a buyout is in play, and it becomes all the more obvious that for one reason or another, the Ducks are simply done with Perry. A buyout would keep his contract on the books an additional two years, but it would also save ownership a little cash, so even in that scenario there would be some financial upside for the franchise.

From a lineup construction perspective, Perry’s departure would clear up some of the logjam at right wing, ensuring that Daniel Sprong would have more than a fair shot at proving that he can be an NHL regular. Kiefer Sherwood would also get a longer look in Perry’s absence. Ondrej Kase and Jakob Silfverberg would occupy the top two slots, while Sprong, Sherwood, and Troy Terry would be left to battle for the remaining three spots. For a team that’s handing the wheel over to its youngsters, that would clearly be a positive.

Murray has to be aware that the market for Perry can’t be that strong, and that he most likely won’t get a game-changing piece in return. Should that option fail, he seems to have the blessing of ownership to simply buy out the contract. Either way, it is abundantly clear Murray is intent on bringing change to his team, and in very symbolic fashion by moving out a franchise icon. It’s certainly not the ending that anyone would have envisioned, but when the winds of change begin blowing, they usually don’t spare even the most celebrated of figures in the process.