Sharks

NHL free-agency review: How Anaheim Ducks stack up in Pacific Division

sharksducksus.jpg
USATSI

NHL free-agency review: How Anaheim Ducks stack up in Pacific Division

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.

[RELATED: Sharks re-sign RFAs Gambrell, Suomela to contracts]

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.

How to watch 2020 NHL Trade Deadline Show for Sharks live online

1920x1080_nhltradedeadline_promographics_cal.jpg
NBC Sports California

How to watch 2020 NHL Trade Deadline Show for Sharks live online

The NHL trade deadline is upon us, and rumors are flying everywhere. The Sharks are well out of the Western Conference playoff picture, and might be looking to sell off some of their best assets ahead of Monday’s deadline at noon PT.

It has been a nightmare season for San Jose, who almost certainly will miss the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2015. Significant injuries to captain Logan Couture, forward Tomas Hertl and defenseman Erik Karlsson, along with teamwide underachievement, plant the Sharks firmly in the “sellers” bucket heading into the deadline.

General manager Doug Wilson already has traded defenseman Brenden Dillon to the Washington Capitals and could be looking to make more moves as the deadline approaches.

“Sharks Pre and Postgame Live” host Brodie Brazil will join NHL experts from the NBC Sports regional networks to analyze the trade deadline on the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline Show, which will stream on the MyTeams app and on NBCSportsBayArea.com. The show will air Monday at 11:30 a.m. PT, and you can join the conversation on Twitter using the hasting #NHLtradeNBC.

[RELATED: Everything Sharks fans need to know before trade deadline]

Here’s how you can watch the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline Show online.

Date: Monday, Feb. 24
Time: 11:30 a.m. PT
Live stream: MyTeams app and Desktop Stream

Sharks' Joe Thornton scores two goals amid NHL trade deadline rumors

Sharks' Joe Thornton scores two goals amid NHL trade deadline rumors

Certain names live in Bay Area sports lore, and Sharks legend Joe Thornton is one of them.

On Saturday, he reminded us why.

Thornton, 40, admitted earlier in the day to The Athletic's Kevin Kurz that he's tempted at the thought of joining a contender at Monday's NHL trade deadline. With the Sharks well out of the playoff picture, the team could look to help a franchise icon finally become a champion by dealing him elsewhere. 

“You know, it is [tempting],” Thornton said to Kurz. 

Thornton made it clear in his conversation with Kurz that he isn't ready to hang up his skates after this season, too. And in the Sharks' 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden later that night, Thornton showed he still has plenty left in the tank.

The 22-year veteran snapped a 50-game streak in the regular season without a goal on the road when he found the back of the net in the second period to tie it up at 1. The goal also was his first at MSG against the Rangers since Dec. 8, 2002, when he was 23 years old.

Throughout his career, Thornton has been known as an assist specialist as opposed to potting goals. He's the Sharks' all-time leader in helpers with 803, but he was thinking goal the whole way in the first period.

"Yeah, I saw the D-man just kind of sliding over a little bit for Timo [Meier], so I just wanted to make it hard, make it on the net. You never know what's gonna happen," Thornton told NBC Sports California's Jamie Baker during the first intermission. 

Thornton entered Saturday with a career-low two goals this season. In the second period, he doubled his season total with his second goal of the night to give San Jose a 2-1 lead.

Thornton's two-goal performance made him the oldest to do it since Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins in October 2018. Thornton also became the third player in NHL history to be at least 40 years old and have a two-goal game at MSG. 

[RELATED: Thornton tempted to join contender at NHL trade deadline]

"The second one just -- Burns' shot just tipped off my knee pad, so just at the right place at the right time," Thornton humbly told reporters after the game.

Whether it's to help mentor San Jose's young roster during an injury-plagued season or if he joins a contender before the deadline, Thornton proved under the brightest lights that this Shark still can skate with the best of them. The legacy lives on, and it's far from over.

Programming Note: The "2020 NHL Trade Deadline Show" is coming your way Monday at 11:30 a.m. PT on the MyTeams app and on NBCSportsBayArea.com! How will the Sharks be impacted heading into the noon deadline? Don’t miss it!