Replacing a future Hall of Fame player like Teemu Selanne is virtually impossible, both in terms of his character and his offensive contribution. Even into his 40s, Selanne is putting up 60-point seasons and leading a team that includes players half his age.
Despite his agelessness, Selanne is being met with the possibility of a canceled season—a season which would have almost certainly been his last in the NHL. If he waits for the 2013-2014 season to begin, he'll be well past his 43rd birthday before the pucks ever drops.
To see Selanne return at that age after having a year off is extremely unlikely, and regardless of whether or not he plays another year, his career is without a doubt coming to a close.
This glaring reality brings the Anaheim Ducks to the seemingly hopeless task of replacing him. As of right now, Selanne is a second-line right winger and a power-play specialist, good for around 50-60 points per year. Even from a purely statistical standpoint, that's going to be hard to replicate.
Add to that the Ducks increasingly obvious lack of depth at the forward position, and you've got some major roster issues for GM Bob Murray on the fast approaching horizon.
The question now becomes: Who could take Selanne's spot moving forward? The choices are slim, but here are a few ideas.
Now I know what everyone is thinking: Bobby Ryan plays on the first line. Let the record reflect, that is not entirely true.
Bruce Boudreau moved Ryan around enough to play time on all four of Anaheim's lines last year. Part of the reasoning was to help their team with an obvious lack of scoring depth.
However, the prospect of giving Ryan his own line has always been on the table—he's even centered the second line on occasion.
Consider as well that the Ducks are top heavy at the right wing position. Both Corey Perry and Ryan are listed as right wings, and are right-handed shots, thus moving Ryan off the first line in favor of a true left winger might be a plausible scenario for Anaheim.
Brandon McMillan had his best campaign in 2010-2011 when he netted 11 goals and 21 points in 60 games. He hasn't had much playing time at the NHL level since then, but he's only 22 years old, and he's been respectably productive in the AHL.
While he's typically more of a fourth-line player, he's spent time on the first and second lines as well. If he matures and develops into a more offensive forward, he could have potential as a Selanne fill-in.
As a long-term solution to Selanne's vacant right wing spot, Rickard Rakell might be Anaheim's dark horse. He was the team's first-round pick in the 2011 entry draft, though he hasn't played at the NHL or AHL level since he's been drafted.
He has seen substantial offensive success with the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL, and if he can translate that into a great training camp, coach Boudreau might have to give him some serious consideration.
Though his NHL experience has been limited, Kyle Palmieri has put up two 50-plus point seasons at the AHL level. Many speculate that he could one of the first in line out of the Ducks current farm system to get major ice time in the NHL.
If Palmieri can be counted on for even just 30-40 points during a full season in Anaheim, he would be a sufficient long-term replacement for Selanne, especially considering the fact that his development has been consistently improving.
Emerson Etem is without question Anaheim's most valuable commodity in terms of prospects. Though he shoots left, he's listed and plays as a right wing. Like Palmieri, he's also on the verge of being NHL ready.
What's especially interesting about Etem are his incredible numbers in the WHL. As a member of the Medicine Hat Tigers, he put up 80 and 107 points respectively over two 65-game seasons.
He certainly left little doubt that he's an offensively capable player.
At only 190 lbs, he's still a bit small compared to the average NHL player. However, with Anaheim's glaring lack of depth at the forward position, he's certainly a favorite to make the team coming out of training camp, purely due to his scoring ability.
While it's always possible that WHL success doesn't transfer into NHL success, you can bet that coach Boudreau will at least give him a chance. If Etem makes the most of it, he could be the Ducks best shot at replacing Selanne with another genuinely pure goal scorer.