The Anaheim Ducks rebuild is a fascinating one. It differs from others in that Anaheim still has several very good players and a solid farm system. They are not especially good right now but they are not that far away from being a wild card contender. The Pacific division also seems weak so the time is ripe for an aggressive retooling of the NHL roster.
Rebuilding the Anaheim Ducks Quickly
Scoring should be the least of the organization’s future concerns. Much of the core is under contract for the next several seasons with the talent to offset any upcoming decline from long-time leaders like Ryan Getzlaf. The team looks especially strong down the middle with Sam Steel developing and prospect Trevor Zegras off to a strong start with Boston University.
The wings should also be in fine shape as most of its top options are under the age of 27. Rickard Rakell, Jakob Silfverberg, and Ondrej Kase are all quality scorers. None of the team’s wing prospects are lights out but there is enough depth that the team could trade one or two to improve other areas.
The only question the team needs to consider for next year is how to balance Ryan Kesler‘s return from injury. They certainly could try to buy him out in a move similar to that used for Corey Perry but that is a financial move that front offices don’t like to employ more often than necessary. Adding a veteran like Kesler can help mentor a young core but it can also cause friction with the difference in age and preferred style.
However, the defence is a relative concern. It is slightly worse than average at allowing shots and only Hampus Lindholm and Cam Fowler are particularly reliable. Injuries and a lack of depth forced the front office to trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins for Erik Gudbranson earlier this season. The team’s other healthy defenders will all reach free agency this summer but Brendan Guhle is likely to return. He is the sole blueliner on the current roster under the age of 25.
Given the lack of talent and depth at the position, it would make sense for the team to use some of their upcoming cap space for a top-tier blueliner. Assuming they aren’t re-signed, names like Torey Krug, Erik Gustafsson, and Tyson Barrie will all draw significant attention. Any of them would improve Anaheim’s offensive output from the point for the next several years. It would also allow them to continue developing more internal options.
The only question Anaheim will have in goal is who will backup star John Gibson after this season? He is among the league’s best but he cannot start every game and the team needs a solid second option. Ryan Miller is the current backup but is 39-years-old and is not a long-term solution at that age. The next best option would be Anthony Stolarz. The 25-year-old has a save percentage of .910 and 2.98 goals-against-average for AHL San Diego.
Beyond those options, there is hope that Lukas Dostal or Olle Eriksson Ek pan out. There is also the possibility that the top goalie prospect in the 2020 draft, Yaroslav Askarov, could go in the top 10. The Ducks would be a late lottery pick if the season ended right now. Such a prospect would be a definite boost to the team’s future options in the net.
How Aggressive Will Anaheim be?
It truly is difficult to say how quickly the Anaheim Ducks rebuild will progress. It would seem there is very little point treading water when a division seems ripe for the taking but teams do not go for it in most years. However, the Columbus Blue Jackets did make a successful push in the 2018-19 playoffs. The Ducks seem to have many of the same building blocks to make a similar push with a few moves. They have a good starting point with $4.86 million in cap space with no major free agents on the horizon. The front office just needs to act.