Anaheim Ducks general manager Pat Veerbeck spoke to the media on Friday just days after the team got the number ten overall selection in the 2022 NHL Draft to look back on the 2021-22 season and speak on what could happen in the future. The Ducks finished the season 31-37-14, which was the second worst record in the Pacific Division behind the Seattle Kraken (27-49-6). It was their fourth straight season where they missed the playoffs.
Veerbeck was pleased at the start of the season but knew the Ducks' finish wasn't good enough. "[We] were in a playoff spot in February. And then obviously things took a turn in the sense that the team lost four pretty good players out of the lineup," Veerbeck told reporters. "I think that was probably the hardest part going through that process of trading those players away. But I felt...we couldn't let guys walk away. And this was a chance to really set up the franchise to be put in a good position down the road to build a lot of depth through the entire organization, whether it's in the minors and up top with the Anaheim Ducks."
Some of the players Veerbeck was referencing were alternate captain Josh Manson, Hampus Lindholm and Nicolas Deslauriers. Those three players at the deadline netted Anaheim a 2022 first round pick, two 2023 second round picks, a 2023 third round pick and a 2024 second round pick along with Drew Helleson, Urho Vaakanainen and John Moore.
Veerbeck admitted that now he has all of these picks, "it's gonna be the responsibility of us to draft well, and to set this franchise up to be good down the road to really start to look at being a winning team, a contending team and eventually, hopefully, a championship team." Veerbeck said he is looking for players through the draft who have "hockey sense and compete".
In addition to the draft, there's still the opportunity to add some pieces via free agency and Veerbeck knows there will be many avenues the team can take. "There are lots of possibilities, whether we're gonna be able to execute them, that's another [factor]," Veerbeck continued. "There's gonna be lots of people competing for the same players that we are, so at the end of the day, the players are gonna decide. We're gonna sell and make our pitch. But at the end of the day, the free agent market players are gonna decide."
Some of those pitches Veerbeck will be making will be to defensemen and forwards. "Obviously we have some spots [on] defense that are open. We're gonna have some spots that are open on the forward side. So we're gonna look to fill those slots as best as we can."
Not that the Ducks will be at the top of these players' lists in the offseason, but some of the notable free agents include Evgeni Malkin, P.K. Subban, Claude Giroux, Kris Letang and Patrice Bergeron.
Veerbeck also knows there will be trade proposals out there but isn't sure exactly what they will be. "Will there be other opportunities as far as trades? Absolutely. There will be opportunities, but I can't tell you what they are. There's gonna be things that are there. There were teams that came forward that I had no idea would come forward at the trade deadline, and that's gonna be the same thing that's gonna happen just prior to the draft."
With this many draft picks, the Ducks could use some of them to acquire players in trades to accelerate their rebuild process but based on Veerbeck's comments about making good draft picks, it doesn't seem like he is trying to take that avenue.