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

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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.

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

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

There are certain names that live in the lore of Bay Area sports fandom. Sharks legend Joe Thornton is one of them. On Saturday night, he reminded us why. 

Thornton, 40, admitted Saturday morning 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, San Jose could look help a franchise icon finally become a champion. 

“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. In the Sharks' 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Saturday 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 1-1. 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 nailing goals. He's the Sharks' all-time leader in helpers with 803, but 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 said to 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.

His two-goal performance made him the oldest to do so 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 said to reporters after the game.

Whether it's to help mentor San Jose's young roster in 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 this Monday, Feb. 24 at 11:30am on the MyTeams app and on NBCSportsBayArea.com! How will the Sharks be impacted heading into the Noon deadline? Don’t miss it!

Sharks takeaways: What we learned from frustrating 3-2 loss to Rangers

Sharks takeaways: What we learned from frustrating 3-2 loss to Rangers

BOX SCORE

The Sharks (26-31-4) extended their losing streak Saturday night as they fell 3-2 to the New York Rangers (33-24-4) at Madison Square Garden. 

San Jose found themselves in a first-period hole slightly over nine minutes to go in the first period. But towards the end of the third period, Joe Thornton evened the score at one goal apiece. 

Thornton wound up scoring two goals, however, that wasn't enough in yet another disappointing loss. Here are three takeaways from the Sharks' defeat at MSG. 

Jumbo Joe

As Thornton finds his name in trade rumors, the 40-year-old quieted the noise Saturday night in the Big Apple. Thornton entered the day with two goals this season. He doubled that in the loss. 

Thornton even the score in the first period by hammering one into the back of the net with just over two minutes remaining in the first period. 

He then gave San Jose the lead in a much different way one period later. Thornton deflected Brent Burns' shot attempt to give the Sharks a 2-1 lead in the second period. 

Scoring in New York is quite the rarity for Thornton, too. His first period-goal snapped a 50-game goal-less streak on the road in the regular season, and was his first goal at Madison Square Garden since Dec. 8, 2002. 

Kane's rough return

Evander Kane returned from his three-game suspension and quite rusty. On offense, he missed a short-handed breakaway goal but credit goes to Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin. 

Kane's two turnovers are what really hurt the Sharks. Sharks goalie Aaron Dell allowed three goals on 33 shot attempts in the lost. His first two goals allowed, however, came right after turnovers from Kane. 

Throughout the third period, Kane was nowhere to be found as he stayed on the Sharks' bench. 

Ferraro survives scare

Mario Ferraro has been a bright spot in the Sharks' down year. San Jose's injury-plagued season looked like it would continue in the wrong way as Ferraro left the ice in the second period. 

Ferraro missed a large chunk of the second period. The good news is he returned at the start of the third.

The 21-year-old was credited with an assist on Thornton's first goal as he continues to be someone San Jose can rely on in the present and future. 

Programming Note: The "2020 NHL Trade Deadline Show" is coming your way this Monday, Feb. 24 at 11:30 a.m. on the MyTeams app and on NBCSportsBayArea.com! How will the Sharks be impacted heading into the Noon deadline? Don’t miss it!