The Anaheim Ducks can breathe a sigh of relief knowing both of their super stars, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, are locked up for the next eight years. Aside from that, the team is coming off a surprising season, which saw them finish second in the Western Conference after an abysmal 2011-12 campaign.
What GM Bob Murray and his staff must do now is assess not how the team will make it back to the playoffs, but how will they bring home the Cup in 2013-14? They weren't far off in the playoffs, as losing to a seasoned Detroit Red Wings team is nothing to be ashamed of, especially considering four games went to overtime.
At the same time, you've got to ask yourself, did the team actually underachieve? It wouldn't appear that way, as the Red Wings nearly upset the eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.
With that said, the season is now over, meaning plenty of time to rest, reevaluate and prepare for another potential Cup run. Here's the complete guide to the Anaheim Ducks' 2013 offseason.
According to Capgeek.com, the Ducks have a little under $8.6 million in cap space this offseason. While that isn't the highest number, it shouldn't cause too many problems, as most of Anaheim's core players are under contract.
That could be their biggest concern, as $20 million is committed to just three players (Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Cam Fowler). With the Getzlaf and Perry extensions, it would seem the last player left to secure would be winger Bobby Ryan. Unfortunately, the perennial 30-goal scorer may demand a higher price than Anaheim is willing to offer. This could force a trade, either before the draft or toward next season's deadline. If that's the case, having established prospects should lessen the blow.
Apart from Ryan, the Ducks will have plenty of time before they are forced to commit a ton of money to any of their emerging prospects.
Well, here's at least one category the Ducks won't need to worry about this offseason. There aren't any bad, long-term contracts that Anaheim must urgently address.
With the emergence of Viktor Fasth, Jonas Hiller's $4.5 million cap hit next season seems inappropriate, but with just one year left on that deal, Bob Murray will more than likely choose a different route for the 31-year-old netminder, especially with touted prospect John Gibson waiting in the wings.
The only way Anaheim could consider using their compliance buyout is if one of those long-term contracts sustains a serious injury, but lets not think about that potential disaster. Instead, we'll move along knowing the Ducks have no reason to pay anyone to sit at home.
The biggest question mark for the Ducks heading into free agency is the future of Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu. Both veteran forwards' contracts are up, and after finding the fountain of youth, they could be set to cash in. Selanne may be leaning toward retirement, despite finishing sixth in scoring for Anaheim during the regular season. Koivu, on the other hand, is younger (not by much) and could be in line for a multiyear deal, something Murray may not be willing to commit to. It would probably be best to move toward getting younger, regardless of Selanne's decision and Koivu's asking price.
Aside from those two, Anaheim must address restricted free agents Kyle Palmieri and Matt Beleskey, both key contributors in 2012-13. A 2009 first-rounder, Palmieri managed to break through and notch 10 goals in the shortened season, while Beleskey saw time on the first line with Getzlaf and Perry. Last but not least would be D-man Toni Lydman, a solid depth move that will allow for some prospects to develop.
Fourth-line center David Steckel should be brought back only at the right price, as his only real positive attribute is on the faceoff circle. Thanks for the memories Radek Dvorak, but it's time to get some young blood into the mix.
Anaheim should stay relatively quiet on the open market, as they have plenty of their own free agents to address. It all depends on how Bruce Boudreau and the coaching staff evaluate where each youngster is at. If they don't feel that guys like Peter Holland and Patrick Maroon are ready to be inserted into the regular rotation, a free-agent plug-in could be pursued.
The market will also dictate this decision, as it is far from "elite" in terms of anyone available. It features a mix of one-dimensional skaters and role players, with guys like New Jersey's David Clarkson and Pittsburgh's Pascal Dupuis getting most of the attention. The Bruins' Nathan Horton will also be a hot commodity, as he's a proven playoff warrior and someone who can do a lot of little things for your team. Unfortunately, the Ducks don't play that style of hockey—they need someone who possesses enough skill to create their own offense.
Ex-Flyer Danny Briere is an interesting name, having recently been bought out by Philadelphia. The skillful center may be a bit out of Murray's price range, but if there's one thing the Ducks need, it's someone who can perform big time in the postseason. The 35-year-old has an unbelievable 109 points in 108 career playoff games. If Boudreau and Co. don't want to fizzle out in the first round of next year's playoffs, then Briere makes a lot of sense if they're willing to fork over the cash.
As previously mentioned, Bobby Ryan is the name rolling off of many general managers' tongues this offseason. The New Jersey native has two years left on his five-year/$25 million contract, and if his production stays up to par, he'll be nearly impossible for the Ducks to re-sign in 2015-16.
Therefore, the most likely scenario is some sort of trade, perhaps to move up in this year's loaded draft. The Ducks could dangle their 26th pick along with Ryan to try and land themselves in the top 10.
According to CSNPhilly, the Flyers are interested in the talented winger, wanting to return him to the city he grew up around. A deal including Philadelphia's 11th overall pick and young defenseman Braydon Coburn is what's being tossed around.
It would make a lot of sense for Anaheim, as they expect Emerson Etem to break out next season anyway. They would then save money on Coburn's current deal, worth $8.5 million over the next two years, while also adding another solid defender to pair with Fowler. Oh yeah, and the 11th pick wouldn't be too shabby, either.
I know, I know, you're probably thinking why I've mentioned Etem so little throughout this guide. It's because we all know what his potential is and where he stands in the organization: The next big thing.
Sami Vatanen and Peter Holland both saw some time up with the big club this past season, so expect the former to compete for a fifth or sixth D-man spot and the latter to compete for a third- or fourth-line checking role. Sorry, but it's not quite John Gibson time in Anaheim. Give it another year or two.
The likeliest new face to break through is 2012 first-round selection Hampus Lindholm. The Swedish product went straight to the AHL after being drafted and performed admirably, posting 11 points in 44 games with a plus-five for Norfolk in 2012-13. These numbers don't necessarily pop, but they shouldn't raise any red flags.
Lindholm, having played in the Swedish Elite League, will have no problem dealing with the ups and downs at the NHL level. With the Ducks' blue line aging, look for the 20-year-old to push the veterans for minutes and crack the top six.
With only 48 games, the Ducks managed to surprise...well, pretty much everyone with their impressive finish to the regular season. Fasth was a revelation of sorts, providing All-Star-caliber play while coming out of nowhere to take some pressure off of Hiller. It is especially soothing, as the 30-year-old goalie's emergence prevents the organization from rushing Gibson along.
It will be hard for Anaheim to hold their place a top the Pacific Division, as the Kings and Sharks don't seem to be going away anytime soon. A second-place finish in the West is also wishful thinking, seeing as how in hockey, it is relatively hard to sustain success. In the Ducks' case, though, it could be more likely than not, as they'll almost certainly field a similar team, aside from a few veterans. This should only help the team, as getting younger could spark a flame under some of the proven guys come playoff time. We saw Emerson Etem emerge a bit against the Red Wings, which is as good a sign as any of things to come in the future.
While there are a ton of question marks surrounding Ryan, the Ducks can rest easy knowing they have plenty of young options to replace him with. As their core players sleep safe and sound with shiny new extensions, nothing should stop Anaheim from returning to the postseason. Barring any serious injuries, they certainly have the talent to make a Stanley Cup run starting next April.
Overall, the Ducks' situation is very optimistic, having a mix of veteran, emerging and potential talent. While the first-round loss to the Red Wings may have left a bad taste in the mouths of fans, don't fret, as Anaheim is built not only to win now but to succeed in the future as well.