This post is part of Ducks Day on PHT…
Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry carry big-time pressure into every Anaheim Ducks season as the team’s dynamic, highest-paid duo. There’s a strong chance Cam Fowler will feel some of that heat after signing a big extension that kicks in starting in 2018-19.
Still, as much as those guys might sweat being under the microscope, their contracts run for quite some time.
John Gibson, on the other hand, will see his future determined by how he - and his team - performs during the next season or two.
Now, technically, 2017-18 isn’t a contract year for Gibson.
When it comes to prominent players, it often feels like they face the possibility of two contract years, at least if they falter during that penultimate one. The logic is simple enough: if a team views you as a part of its core, then it will often get an extension settled as early as possible, frequently when said player still has a year remaining on their current deal.
(Connor McDavid is the splashiest, most recent example. Fowler is the latest Ducks player to get that nod, with some surprise considering the many trade rumors that followed him.)
Let’s consider the many factors that could influence Gibson’s outlook and his future with the Ducks.
Strong - but limited - showings
As a second-round pick (39th overall in 2011, by Anaheim), Gibson has come along nicely. He played three games in 2013-14, 23 in 2014-15, 40 in 2015-16 and then 52 last season after Frederik Andersen was sent to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
(You could say Gibson “won” the goalie battle with Andersen, but Andersen’s accountant would probably beg to differ.)
At 24, Gibson has shown strong signs of being legit. His 2016-17 campaign was his best with a 25-16-9 record and a strong .924 save percentage, and it was in stride with his very impressive .922 career mark.
Still, he hasn’t shown that he can carry the workload of a big-money, top guy yet considering his 52-game peak. Sure, 118 NHL games is a reasonable body of work, but especially fickle types might say that the jury is still out. At least if Gibson wants that big franchise money, especially since he’s been solid but unspectacular in the postseason so far.
“What have you done for me lately?”
It’s also worth noting that you could claim that the Ducks can be a little fickle with their goalies.
With the threat of an expansion draft looming, it was understandable that GM Bob Murray decided to make a choice, opting for the cost-controlled, higher-pedigree Gibson over Andersen.
Still, whether it has to do with an organizational mindset or life as a budget contender, it’s remarkable how disciplined the Ducks have been when it comes to avoiding huge commitments to their goalies. Whether it be Jean-Sebastien Giguere leaving despite a Stanley Cup ring, Jonas Hiller’s failed reign, Andersen losing the joust with Gibson, or even Brian Burke staying true to his word in trading Ilya Bryzgalov, the Ducks aren’t afraid to switch gears in net when other teams might panic.
Right now, Gibson seems like the guy in net, and a good one in that. He can’t rest on his laurels, though.
Ryan Miller factor?
When the Ducks signed Ryan Miller, it seemed like a smart move, and also a clear case of getting a once-proud goalie to wind down his career as a backup.
Even so, Miller instantly becomes the most qualified backup in the NHL; he’s not that far removed from being a respectable starter. Anaheim likely views its window of contention as vulnerable with Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, and Corey Perry all at age 32 already. If Gibson falters, he could conceivably lose significant stretches of starts to Miller.
The two goalies even have matching two-year terms and are carrying nearly identical cap hits, so it’s not as though Miller lacks any staying power, even if his advanced age limits the threat to Gibson overall.
Again, Gibson’s numbers and potential shine brightly right now, and every sign points to him being an important part of the Ducks’ future.
The franchise’s recent history indicates that he’d be foolish to assume it’s a done deal, though.