With the flat salary cap in play, several NHL teams are finding themselves up against it moneywise. And the league is feeling it, with more unrestricted free agents still available than normal and a whole lot of conjecture about next season – and the season after that.
That brings us to the Anaheim Ducks, one of those many teams up against it.
The Ducks have no cap space and that puts general manager Bob Murray in a tough position because he’s without a backup goalie to John Gibson.
Murray and Co. are contending with the buyout to Corey Perry, which will carry through until 2022-2023 to the tune of $6.625 million a year. Sticking Ryan Kesler on long-term injured reserve helps a little, as does the dumping of Erik Gudbranson to the Ottawa Senators, but that doesn’t change the issues plaguing Anaheim in the immediate future.
Murray says his Ducks are retooling and that’s all well and good if you have a little more wiggle room than, I don’t know, nothing.
Things will remedy themselves somewhat next season, when Ryan Getzlaf and David Backes hit free agency. Those are two over-35 skaters whose best years are clearly behind them.
Anaheim is contending with an average forward age of 28.1.
The blueline fares better, financially and otherwise, although Cam Fowler’s penned until 2026-2027.
The good news is that Kevin Shattenkirk was available and interested. He’ll aid the power play and gives Anaheim a bump in all kinds of statistical categories, so it stands to reason Murray thinks of his club as getting a jumpstart to success.
“We’re a better team,” said the GM. “We’ve got a lot of good teams out West, so we got to get going here. I think it’s time and I think you’re going to see improvement with some of our young guys. And if we get improvement in some of the young guys, which it’s time for, and you get a little bit more consistency from the middle-age guys, I think we can be right there fighting for a playoff spot. There’s no reason we can’t be.”
But that still doesn’t change the money situation. The Ducks have got to do something to help out Gibson in goal and, while they deserve praise for the Shattenkirk move and some creative salary-clearing, Murray sure has his work cut out for him.