Ducks -- Summer Planning

The Kings have made an early summer splash by giving up some future to acquire Mike Richards.  The Sharks have made an early summer splash by giving up some future to acquire Brent Burns.  And the Ducks?

Well, as usual we're sitting by the phone waiting for a call from Teemu Selanne.  Inactivity's certainly not the worst thing in June (no imminent games on the schedule or anything), and for sure the Ducks will be filling roster holes as the calendar turns to July -- but what's the plan?  Let's take a look at where CapGeek says we sit for next season -- as usual for Anaheim, the "Cash" column matters much more than the "Cap" column.

Player Cap Cash Yrs Remaining
Ryan Getzlaf $5.3 $5.8 2
Corey Perry $5.3 $5.4 2
Bobby Ryan $5.1 $5.6 4
Jason Blake $4.0 $3.0 1
Saku Koivu $2.5 $2.5 1
George Parros $0.9 $0.9 1
Brandon McMillan $0.9 $0.9 2
Matt Beleskey $0.7 $0.6 2
Lubomir Visnovsky $5.6 $5.0 2
Francois Beauchemin $3.8 $3.7 1
Toni Lydman $3.0 $3.0 2
Luca Sbisa $2.2 $1.2 4
Andy Sutton $2.1 $2.3 1
Cam Fowler $1.4 $1.4 2
Sheldon Brookbank $0.8 $0.8 1
Jonas Hiller $4.5 $4.5 3
Dan Ellis $1.5 $1.5 1
Buyout - Nathan Oystrick $0.2 $0.2 1
Total 8 F 7 D 2 G $49.8 $48.0

RFAs: Dan Sexton ($0.6), Nick Bonino ($0.8)
UFAs: Teemu Selanne, Jarkko Ruutu, Todd Marchant,
Brad Winchester, Kyle Chipchura (*), Andreas Lilja, Ray Emery

I've included qualifying offer amounts for Sexton and Bonino, another $1.4M combined -- some thoughts about the roster after the jump.

What is the plan for the third line? If Teemu signs, the top six forwards should be pretty well set from last year -- Getzlaf-Perry-Ryan and Koivu-Selanne-Blake.  Beyond that it's fairly open -- Bacon McMuffin will certainly play a role on the third line and Parros will fill a spot on the fourth; Sex Offender and the Hound of Beleskeyville can play for spots as well.  But one of the Ducks' failures from last year was finding any third- or fourth-line production; now with some real openings in the bottom-six it's Barstool's chance to remedy that.  Whether it's by pure acquisition, internal promotion, or by renewing the Bobby-Ryan-to-the-third-line strategy, that remains to be seen, but forging a third line does seem to be the summer's focus.

What happens if Teemu retires? That would definitely be a huge blow -- even though he's unlikely to fully match last year's health and totals, Selanne's crafty sniping is still an incredible weapon in today's league.  Should Teemu go the way of the Niedermayer, that would suddenly become another summer priority -- Koivu and Blake would definitely need a scorer to complement their doggedness.  Last season, Teemu signed a contract worth $3.25M plus $1.25M in unknown bonuses (I'd assume he achieved them?); should he retire I'd guess that $4 - $5M would be the budget to fill his spot.  I'm not sure that the UFA route would be the best way to replace Teemu, though -- I'd probably wait for the July 1st aftermath and then try to trade with a cap-crunched team.

That's definitely not the plan, though -- if Teemu wants in, he's in.  There's nobody more popular available.

Can any of the already-signed players be upgraded via trade? Mostly this is a question about Jason Blake or Francois Beauchemin, I think -- both have high enough cap hits that they could probably be replaced with similar or better players.  However, Jason Blake is making $3M this season -- the low point of his contract -- and I think he provides enough hustle that he deserves that, and similarly I don't really know that anybody's complaining about Beauchemin's effort.  I suppose that it's possible to see them traded out at some point -- both are going to be UFAs after next year -- but I don't know there's any urgency for it.  As for Andy Sutton, he's a no-brainer -- if any other GM is willing to take him, the offer should be considered.

What happens if Jonas Hiller doesn't recover? This is really a daunting question, and while I understand the salary cap repercussions if Hiller stays hurt (they won't really matter to the Ducks until Anaheim spends near the cap ceiling, so probably irrelevant), I don't know the money mechanics.  If Jonas Hiller can't play at all, then insurance will pay some of his salary, but I don't know how much, and that's important.  I'm going to guess that if Hiller's injured, the Ducks end up paying maybe $1M with insurance covering the rest, but that's all made up.  Whatever the difference, that's probably the budget for Plan C -- a capable replacement goaltender.  Because I don't like the idea of Plan B -- Dan Ellis.  He'll be fine as a backup, but I'm glad his deal's expiring soon. 

Now I'm not overly worried, despite the enigma of Hiller's ailment -- Ray Emery showed last year that there are capable netminders available, and money would be available for a solution if needed.  I'm hoping Hiller can recover, obviously, but if not, there's another project for Barstool -- we shall see.

How big a role will Nick Bonino and/or Kyle Palmieri potentially have next season? With openings among the bottom six, it's possible the Ducks go young in an effort to re-create the 4th-line environment that Getzlaf and Perry started their careers with.  If so, it seems that Bonino and possibly Palmieri would be candidates for such sheltered minutes; both got a decent taste of NHL action last season, and while it only yielded one point between the two of them, generally they were capable players a bit too young for the league.  But it may be time for one or both of them to become regulars with a Fedoruk-type babysitter -- if they can pop in some goals against other fourth-lines, it'd be a nice fit.  Now I'm not really sure if either one is really up to it, but as of now it remains an option that could be pursued.

Could someone like Emerson Etem make this team? I'd guess the Ducks avoid going that young, but the environment is right for some young forward to make a jump -- it's not like the NHL-bound forwards are cast in cement like they have been in other summers.

What do the Ducks really plan on spending next year? Here's the key question, and it governs decisions made on all the above.  I'm guessing that the Ducks are looking to spend salary for pretty much one spot, on Selanne or his replacement, and then the rest of the bodies will come cheaply -- that'd bring the total cash spending to about $55 - 56M, with about $2M of that in potential bonuses for Selanne, Fowler, and McMillan.  Without really knowing anything except my own ticket price and a cursory glance at attendance, I'd guess that this is about where the Ducks' spending level ends up being.

Now I have no real insight into Ducks operations, or even whether things like a new NBC deal for the league puts any money in Anaheim's pockets, or on what Samueli wants to spend (Is Honda Center getting an NBA team?  Does that factor in at all?).  It's possible the Ducks intend on spending more than $56M, which then opens new upgrade possibilities, but I'm never over-optimistic about these unknowns.

For now, we wait -- wait for Teemu, wait on Hiller, and wait to see what Barstool has in store for the bottom-six.  More to come as the plan unfolds...

Go Ducks.

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