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Corey Perry leaves lasting legacy with Ducks

The former Hart winner ends career in Anaheim after 14 seasons.

NHL: Anaheim Ducks at Los Angeles Kings
Nov 25, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Anaheim Ducks right wing Corey Perry (10) scores in a shootout against Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick (32) at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

While it’s not totally unexpected, Corey Perry’s buyout by the only NHL organization the four-time All-Star has ever known is still making waves.

Perry’s contract, which had two seasons at a cap hit of $8.625 million per year remaining, was bought out by the Anaheim Ducks Wednesday, signaling another page being turned as the franchise continues its path to a new direction.

Perry ends his Ducks career after 14 seasons, which started in 2005-06 as a 20-year old with a bright future and ends after a 2018-19 season in which the 34-year old played only 31 games and scored six goals and 10 points, both career-lows.

Along the way, Perry established himself as one of the NHL’s best goal scorers. He captured the Hart Trophy and Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy in 2010-11 as the league’s most valuable player and top goal scorer. He was twice named a first-team NHL All-Star (2010-11 and 2013-14). He was a key player as the Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007, and he won a pair of gold medals as a member of Team Canada in 2010 and 2014.

Perry exits Anaheim as the franchise’s all-time leader in games played (988) and penalty minutes (1,110), second in goals (372), and third in assists (404) and points (776). None of those numbers accounts for how much punishment Perry took all over the ice, particularly in front of the net, to set up opportunities for his teammates.

He helped define the Ducks’ legacy in this era following the 2004-05 lockout, helping to cement Anaheim as one of the NHL’s most successful — and most detested — franchises.

Perhaps the writing was on the wall. Since 2015-16, Perry’s age 30 season, the once-gifted goal scorer has seen a sudden downturn in productivity. Perry scored 34 times that season, but that total decreased to 19 in 2016-17 and 17 in 2017-18.

On the eve of the 2018-19 season, it was announced that Perry would miss a significant portion of the year after tearing his MCL and meniscus in his right knee. Perry returned for the final 31 games, but it was an ineffective cameo from the former All-Star, who saw his role and production continue to dissolve.

Perry’s average time on ice dipped to 14:49, his lowest since 2006-07.

Even when Perry struggled to only tally 19 goals in 82 games in 2016-17, there was reason to believe better days were ahead for the then 31-year old. His shooting percentage dropped to 8.8% — tied for the lowest of his career — but he still peppered opposing nets with nearly 400 shots on goal. It’s possible Perry’s bad year was due to bad luck and not deteriorating ability.

Perry’s shooting percentage did climb to 10.1% in 2017-18, but that was still well below his career average of 13%. His total shots on goal went down by nearly a hundred, while his shots-per-game average decreased for the fourth straight year.

Those alarming signs signaled that Perry was not just the victim of bad luck, but that he wasn’t generating the same amount of chances for himself anymore. However, that doesn’t erase how good Perry was during his prime.

Consider that from 2007-08 (Perry’s breakout season) to 2015-16 (Perry’s last 30-goal season), only Alex Ovechkin (427 goals) and Steven Stamkos (312 goals) scored more times than Perry (300).

Expanding that frame to all seasons since the lockout ended, Perry still ranks 10th among all players and second among right-wingers in goals; depending on which side of the ice you think Ovechkin plays most, there’s a case that Perry is the best right-winger of this era.

Will that be enough to propel him into the Hockey Hall of Fame? Based purely on goals, his Hart and team accomplishments, he has a decent case. Perry will need a serious resurgence to hit certain career plateaus like 500 goals and 1,000 points (both are extremely unlikely), but confined to his era, he’s certainly one of the best goal scorers in recent memory.

Unfortunately, part of Perry’s Ducks legacy coincides with Anaheim’s post-season failures from 2013 to 2016. When the Ducks fell to Detroit in the first round seven games in 2013, Perry failed to record a single goal during the series. When the Ducks lost to Nashville in the first round in seven games in 2016, Perry failed to record a single goal during the series.

Still, he did have a flair for the dramatic. In overtime of Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals in 2015 against Calgary, it was Perry’s winner in sudden death that sent Anaheim on to the Conference Finals. When the Ducks rallied with three goals in the final 3:16 of regulation against Edmonton in Game 5 of the second round in 2017, it was Perry’s beautifully patient goal that completed one of the most iconic comebacks in franchise history.

Is Perry the Ducks’ greatest draft pick ever? Based on the value of where he was selected, it’s possible.

Ryan Getzlaf (19th overall in 2003) and Paul Kariya (fourth overall in 1993) are superior players to Perry, but both were highly-regarded entering their draft years. Despite a strong OHL season with the London Knights in 2002-03 (78 points in 67 games), teams were wary of Perry entering the 2003 draft, mainly because of his poor skating. He wasn’t even ranked within the top 30 North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting.

In 2003, after selecting Getzlaf at No. 19, the Ducks traded back into the first round for the 28th pick and gambled on Perry. He rewarded their faith with two stellar seasons in the OHL, scoring 113 points in 2003-04 and 130 in 2004-05, topping 40 goals both years. In the process, Perry established himself as one of the NHL’s top prospects.

Like Kariya and Teemu Selanne, Perry and Getzlaf will be forever linked in Ducks lore. The pair were drafted nine spots apart; they entered the NHL during the same season and endured being sent down to the AHL together; they spent the better part of the next 15 years as linemates, and despite the revolving door on Perry’s opposite wing, made up two-thirds of one of the best lines in hockey during that span.

They won a Stanley Cup and Olympic gold medals together. Someday, No. 10 and No. 15 will share space in the Honda Center rafters together.

Perry might not be Anaheim’s greatest player, but he represents everything that the Ducks aspired to be for the last 15 years. He was skilled and had a knack for scoring goals, but he also had an innate ability to get under his opponents’ skin. Perry has been suspended a time or two during his career, but it’s a stretch to call him a “dirty player.” He’s an annoying pest that fanbases around the NHL love to hate, but would gladly take on their own rosters.

Now they’ll have their chance.