Editor’s note: NHL free agency was fast and furious, and the moves that teams did (and did not) make set the tone for next season. All week, we’ll examine the Sharks’ Pacific Division rivals, and whether their free-agency approach put them in better, worse or the same position. Today, we dive into the Anaheim Ducks.
The Kings may have been the worst team in the Pacific Division last season, but the Ducks really weren't much better.
After starting their 2018-19 campaign off plagued by injuries, the Anaheim squad went on a long losing streak, fired coach Randy Carlyle, and missed the playoffs for the first time since before the most recent lockout.
Sure, games between the Sharks and Ducks were still contentious. They just didn't hold a ton of weight given how far down Anaheim was in the standings.
Now the Ducks have made a few headlines since the free-agent market opened, parting ways with Corey Perry and picking up a few UFAs along the way. Although much of the team's core remains the same, they're clearly in a transition period where they are looking to get younger and usher in a new crop of players under new bench boss Dallas Eakins.
Is it enough to make them a playoff contender next season?
Here's a look at what the Ducks have done since free agency opened up.
Players who signed
Anaheim took care of their own free agents quickly, signing forward Derek Grant, defenseman Korbinian Holzer and goaltender Ryan Miller to one-year extensions before the market opened on July 1.
Miller is the most interesting of those signings, in part because he was considering retirement. But despite dealing with a knee injury halfway through the season. Anaheim clearly likes having the veteran netminder backing John Gibson, who the Ducks leaned heavily on last season.
Anaheim also brought back defenseman Michael Del Zotto, who was traded to St. Louis last season after playing just a handful of games in Anaheim -- although the team clearly liked what they saw from him. From the looks of things, the Ducks are trying to beef up their blue line, which could take some of the pressure off of Gibson to stand on his head every night.
Players who left
Of course, the big story here is that Perry got bought out and signed with the Dallas Stars at the start of free agency.
Despite being a core piece of the Ducks for over 10 seasons, Perry's production was heavily hampered by a knee injury and only tallied 10 points over a 31-game span (not to mention registering a minus-16 in the plus/minus). Moving on from Perry could probably do the Ducks some good.
Other than that, the Ducks really haven't lost much since the free-agent market opened and it doesn't seem likely they'll make any big trades before getting a look at how the current group functions under Eakins. Anaheim appears to have faith in a core of young players coming up such as Sam Steel and Troy Terry. Anaheim seems confident they can fill in the holes.
Better, worse, or the same?
From what the Ducks have done so far this offseason, they look ready to have a bounce-back season. Of course, that's going to depend on two big factors: The team's overall health, and how they respond to having Eakins as their coach. The Ducks' fate next season is also going to be determined by how some of their younger players step up.
If Anaheim can't function in these areas, keeping up with teams like the Sharks is going to be difficult.