Anaheim Ducks offseason: Who stays, who goes from the roster?

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Fourteen NHL head coaches have been hired since Greg Cronin took over the Anaheim Ducks on June 5, 2023.

It speaks to the amount of coaching turnover that can happen in the league when Cronin is already near the middle of the pack in terms of seniority. The San Jose Sharks still have an opening. Unless you’re Jon Cooper or Jared Bednar, an NHL job is not one you can count on for long-term stability.

The 60-year-old Cronin guided the Ducks to a 27-50-5 record in his first year, but the pressure figures to be turned up a notch or two for 2024-25. General manager Pat Verbeek, who needs to start pushing his club forward, has talked of seeking a top-six winger and a top-four defenseman. Injuries, the lack of discipline and numerous self-inflicted mistakes all played a role in a season that went off the track in November and couldn’t be rescued.

But it’s not as though the Ducks are devoid of talent. There are promising pieces – including those that could be the cornerstone of the franchise – and Cronin will be expected to boost the win total in Year 2. Before we look at who Anaheim could be targeting, let’s comb through the roster and see who’ll be back and who could be leaving as the roster is shaped and molded this summer.

The untouchables

Leo Carlsson

Playing the first part of his rookie season as an 18-year-old, Carlsson still managed 0.53 points per game despite missing chunks of time because of injury and occasionally being held out of games early on for off-ice development. He’s big, has loads of talent, drives play and can defend. More production is almost guaranteed. It’s hard to imagine him not being the No. 1 center going forward.

Cutter Gauthier

Untouchable after playing only one NHL game? Maybe. There’s a reason why he was drafted at No. 5 in 2022. The Ducks moved a top-four defender in Jamie Drysdale to get Gauthier out of a distressed situation in Philadelphia and they got him signed, so that’s a major investment by the team. They didn’t waste any time pairing him with Carlsson. He’ll get the opportunity to show that he can be a first-line forward.

Pavel Mintyukov

Even if it’s unlikely he would have challenged Brock Faber or Luke Hughes as the top point-producing rookie defenseman if he stayed healthy, Mintyukov still finished third behind them. More importantly, the 20-year-old only trailed Cam Fowler in Ducks defenseman scoring despite missing 19 games. Mintyukov defended better than anyone anticipated, and he still has a lot of raw ability to tap into.

Not going anywhere

Troy Terry

Terry is now a $7 million winger, and 20 goals and 54 points are underwhelming at that price point. But the 26-year-old just started a seven-year deal. He’s in his prime years, and a healthier top-six forward group with young upside should allow him to level up. He must take advantage of that.

Alex Killorn

The first half of his season was a struggle as he broke a finger in the preseason and then dealt with a bum knee that he needed to get work on. Killorn, 34, scored 12 of his 18 goals in the 29 games he played in after returning from surgery. That’s more in line for what they’re paying him for.

Frank Vatrano

The Ducks didn’t move Vatrano at the trade deadline, even though there was interest. They’ll have another attractive trade chip at the deadline next year, as he’ll be working on an expiring deal. But they also like his feisty play, and his shoot-first mentality resulted in a career-high 37 goals – including three hat tricks – and an All-Star season.

Mason McTavish

McTavish, 21, went from 0.54 points per game as a rookie to 0.66. He scored at a clip to suggest that 20-goal seasons are in his future. He’s also showing that he can be a force in the faceoff circle. But Year 3 must be about finding more consistency and improving his defensive game, in which he often struggled.

Radko Gudas

Gudas, 33, is inching up there in age but he delivered everything you expected in the first year of his contract. He brought snarl on the back end and was their most consistent defender. He’s helping to give them a tougher identity. The only rub is, he battled injury over the second half, which is what you get with him.

Lukas Dostal

The 23-year-old rode the momentum of getting the bulk of starts in net down the stretch into a stellar performance at this year’s World Championships. Dostal was the tournament’s top goalie with three shutouts for Czechia, including one of Switzerland to win the gold medal on home ice. Solid work for a “no-name,” as he was once referenced by the Toronto Sun.

Tristan Luneau

If he didn’t suffer a knee infection, Luneau would have played in the world juniors and rejoined the Ducks for what would have been valuable experience learning to play NHL defense as a 20-year-old. Even though he played only seven games in Anaheim, Cronin raved about his potential. It’s why they felt comfortable trading Drysdale.

Staying put, almost certainly

Ryan Strome

Strome, 30, had an effective first four weeks of the season but struggled through prolonged scoring droughts the rest of the way. At $5 million per season, you’d like to see him deliver more than 11 goals. Three years left is too much to buy him out. (It would be six years of a $1.67 million cap charge.)

Jackson LaCombe

This blueliner is due for a new contract, but it figures to be a cost-effective bridge deal for the Ducks given that he just finished his rookie season and hasn’t shown yet that he’s a long-term bet. But the 23-year-old has some intriguing ability, even if he’s got some real wrinkles with his defensive game to iron out.

Brock McGinn

McGinn’s performance isn’t what lands him in this category. It’s his contract, as he has another year at $2.75 million. The 30-year-old was bugged by injury and ultimately had season-ending back surgery in March.

Staying put, for another look

Sam Colangelo

Colangelo, 22, played in three games after signing his two-year entry-level contract that expires next summer. He became the 16th Ducks player to score in his NHL debut after having a standout senior season at Western Michigan. There could be an opening on right wing for him to win a job.

Olen Zellweger

Once they brought him up for good in March, the Ducks played the 20-year-old Zellweger for 20 minutes or more 10 times over his final 22 contests – including five times of 22 or more minutes. He was getting looks on the power play’s first unit. It feels like he has a job to lose when camp rolls around.

Staying put … most likely?

Cam Fowler

Fowler didn’t have a good 14th season with the Ducks, and he could be bound for a transitioning role as Mintyukov and Zellweger grab more ice time. The 32-year-old did lead the defense with 39 points, even though he was seeing second-unit duty on the power play for spells. A more effective Fowler could emerge if he isn’t taxed as much in every situation.

Ross Johnston

After six full seasons with the New York Islanders, Johnston’s move to Anaheim via waivers allowed the winger to play in 68 games – more than double his previous high in any season. Verbeek brought him in to act as a deterrent against team taking liberties, and the 30-year-old has two years left on his contract.

Staying put … we think?

John Gibson

With Dostal only boosting his profile as a potential solid NHL starter, Gibson is moving toward being timeshare goalie — or even a 1B. An attempt to boost his diminishing reputation didn’t work out last season, as his numbers steadily plummeted and it became clearer that the Ducks were responding better to Dostal in net. Both sides should be motivated to execute a trade, but there remain three years and $19.2 million still to work around. Will the Ducks retain salary to facilitate a deal?

Brett Leason

Leason, 25, established himself as an NHL player this past season. Although he doesn’t always play to his power forward size, he registered career-highs across the board. He’s an arbitration-eligible RFA, but he could fit on their fourth line.

Ben Meyers

Meyers is another example of Verbeek’s penchant for plucking guys off waivers. Ordinarily, you wouldn’t think a forward who has bounced between the NHL and AHL would have a fixed place with the Ducks. He is a Group 6 UFA (less than 80 NHL games by age 25). But he’s also got a history with Cronin.

The toughest decisions

Trevor Zegras

Social media has put Zegras’s future in Anaheim into overdrive, as his name is constantly bandied about in proposed trades. The Ducks should get the 22-year-old on the ice and see how he works with the collection of other forwards they have. But there’s an unshakeable feeling that if Verbeek gets an offer he can’t refuse, he’ll pull the trigger. The good news is that Zegras finally started to look like the offensive force he can be at the end of an injury-plagued year.

Isac Lundestrom

If their center depth wasn’t what it is, the Ducks could easily look to extend the 24-year-old at a reasonable rate, given that his offensive numbers have depressed since his 2021-22 season. But they could go in a few directions with him. Missing half of last season due to a torn Achilles, Lundestrom made $1.8 million last season and is eligible for arbitration. It feels like they could move on, use him as an asset in a trade or work out a new deal and make him their fourth-line center.

Urho Vaakanainen

Speaking of depth, the Ducks have quite a bit on the left side of their defense. Vaakanainen, who was the Anaheim nominee for the Masterton Trophy, played in a career-high 68 games after injuries repeatedly stalled his development. The 25-year-old figures to get a salary bump from the $900,000 that he made, but he could also be caught in a numbers game.

Gustav Lindstrom

Lindstrom, 25, is also an arbitration-eligible RFA but it feels like he’s got value bringing back as a right-hand shot who can step in and provide some solid minutes. The Ducks aren’t as deep on the right side and the Swede did well, posting a plus-12 rating and solid underlying defensive metrics in 30 games. He could fill a No. 6/7 role or provide depth if the Ducks add an everyday right-shot defender.

Bo Groulx

Groulx played in 45 games with the Ducks but managed only two assists while winning 45 percent of his faceoffs in appoximately 12 minutes of average ice time. The 24-year-old can carve out a role as a defensive center or wing who can kill penalties. But will they offer him another contract?

Difficult to see them back

Max Jones

Jones’s size, skating and snarl has always been a tantalizing concoction, but the payoff from being an impact power forward, even at a third-line scoring level, has been intermittent at best. With the left wing position becoming increasingly crowded, the Ducks may opt to not qualify him and let him walk. The 26-year-old has a place in this league, but it’s wise to remember that he was a Bob Murray draft pick.

Definitely not back

William Lagesson

Lagesson was a late-season claim from Toronto who got into 10 contests with Anaheim after suiting up for 30 with the Maple Leafs. While it’s possible the physical 28-year-old could stick around, he’s also a UFA and the Ducks are stacked on the left side. Being able to play the right side does give him versatility for a team.

Jakob Silfverberg

Silfverberg is heading home to Sweden and his original Brynäs IF club. The 33-year-old’s best days are behind him, and he’s no longer a top-six winger, but he was one of the Ducks’ best defensive forwards in five-on-five play across the board. He was so respected that the entire Vegas team shook hands with him in his final NHL game.

(Photo of Cam Fowler: Zak Krill / NHLI via Getty Images)

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