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Pacific Peeks: Ducks maneuver at margins, lock up core piece

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Checking in on Anaheim’s offseason.

San Jose Sharks v Anaheim Ducks Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Editor’s Note: The boring part of the summer is upon us. Training camps are still about two months away, and arbitration season in winding down. With many teams close to calling it a summer, it’s a good time to check in on what the Sharks’ rivals have done in our newest series: Pacific Peeks. First up are the defending division champions, the Anaheim Ducks.

The first season of the Anaheim Ducks’ second Randy Carlyle era went far better than many expected. None of our writers predicted the Ducks to finish higher than second in the division ahead of the season, nor did any on SB Nation’s panel.

So, of course, the Ducks won the division and appeared in the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2015, and Carlyle signed an extension that will keep him in the O.C. (don’t call it that) until 2019, and potentially 2020.

The Ducks have thus not made wholesale changes this summer, and instead opted to makeover the margins of the roster. They did not have much choice because, as it stands right now, the Ducks will spend close to the salary cap ($4,315,833 in salary cap space), after years of operating on a stricter internal budget.

The biggest change is in net, where veteran goaltender Ryan Miller will now back up John Gibson after Jonathan Bernier, the backup last season, signed a one-year deal with the Colorado Avalanche this summer. Miller will be 37 when the season begins, but posted a .925 even-strength save percentage over the last two seasons, and should be a reliable option if Gibson falters or is injured once again.

The blueline will look a little different, too, after the team traded prospect Shea Theodore to Vegas and lost defenseman Clayton Stoner in the expansion draft. The pair played a combined 48 games for Anaheim last season, as Theodore split time with AHL San Diego and Stoner spent most of the season on injured reserve. Their departures should open up an opportunity for Brandon Montour to see regular playing time, while recently re-signed Korbinian Holzer, Jaycob Megna and and newly-signed Steve Oleksy can step in, too. The Ducks will need every bit of that depth next season, as Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm will still need to recover from surgeries to repair their torn labrums in the early part of the season.

In addition to Theodore and Stoner, the Ducks also lost depth forward Nate Thompson to the Ottawa Senators in free agency. He’ll seemingly be replaced on the depth chart by Dennis Rasmussen, who Anaheim signed to a one-year deal. Assistant Coach Paul Maclean also left the organization at the expiration of his contract.

Anaheim’s biggest moves involved signing their own players. The Ducks brought back the Pacific Division’s third-best beard and re-signed winger Patrick Eaves to a three-year deal. Eaves, acquired at the trade deadline, scored 13 goals in 27 regular and postseason games with Anaheim. If Eaves and Rickard Rakell continue to produce, and Corey Perry bounces back from a disastrous season, the Ducks should improve on the 220 goals they scored last season.

On the same day the Sharks locked up a defensemen to an eight-year deal themselves, Anaheim signed defenseman Cam Fowler to an eight-year, $52,000,000 extension. The Ducks found a way to keep Fowler in the expansion draft, admittedly at the cost of arguably their best defensive prospect in Theodore, and paid him accordingly. Still, Fowler is a flawed defenseman that has struggled away from certain partners, and is not as valuable to Anaheim as Vatanen or Lindholm.

The Ducks did not need to do a whole lot to maintain their status as a contender in the division in the conference, and should be in the mix for titles in both this season. They brought back Eaves and extended Fowler for the long haul, and managed to upgrade their backup goaltending while saving $750,000 on the cap in the process.

They kept the core of a team that’s made it to the Conference Finals in two of the last three seasons and tweaked important surrounding pieces. It’s a sensible approach, and should ensure they’re the division favorite entering next season, as long as Vatanen and Lindholm don’t miss too much time. Whether it’s enough to get out of the West remains to be seen.

Arrivals

G Ryan Miller (two years, $2,000,000), G Reto Berra (one year, $700,000 AAV) C Dennis Rasmussen (one year, $725,000 AAV), D Steve Oleksy (two years, $650,000 AAV), LW Michael Liambas (one year, $650,000 AAV), C Derek Grant (one year, $650,000 AAV), C Alex Dostie (three-year entry level contract, $925,000 AAV)

Departures

D Shea Theodore (Vegas Golden Knights; trade), D Clayton Stoner (Vegas Golden Knights, Expansion Draft), G Jonathan Bernier (Colorado Avalanche; one year, $2,750,000), C Nate Thompson (two years, $1,650,000 AAV), RW Emerson Etem (Arizona Coyotes; one year, $850,000), G Jhonas Enroth (Dinamo Minsk, KHL), RW Nick Sorensen (Linköpings HC, SHL), C Ryan Garbutt (HC Sochi, KHL)

Re-signings

RW Patrick Eaves (three years, $3,150,000 AAV), D Cam Fowler (eight years, $6,500,000 AAV), D Korbinian Holzer (two years, $900,000 AAV), LW Nicolas Kerdiles (one year, $650,000), C Sam Carrick (two years, $650,000 AAV), RW Scott Sabourin (one year, $650,000), D Jaycob Megna (two years, $650,000 AAV), G Kevin Boyle (one year, $675,000 AAV)

Unsigned

D Jeff Schultz (UFA), D Nate Guenin (UFA), G Matt Hackett (UFA), G Ryan Faragher (UFA), LW Spencer Abbott (UFA)

Next up: We take a look at Edmonton’s offseason on Wednesday.