The once-powerful Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings were the first clubs eliminated from the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs. The Kings bowed out to the upstart Vegas Golden Knights in four games, followed by the Ducks being swept by the San Jose Sharks.
Both clubs were hamstrung by a lack of speed, youth and scoring punch. In the aftermath of their swift postseason exits, there’s media speculation suggesting the Ducks and Kings could face significant offseason changes.
The respective managements of both teams acknowledged improvements must be made. Ducks general manager Bob Murray told Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register his club has to get faster. Meanwhile, Robert Morales of the Los Angeles Daily News reported Kings GM Rob Blake admitted his team needs more secondary scoring.
Some pundits wonder if Murray might shake up the Ducks’ core. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman speculated over the possibility of center Ryan Getzlaf, right wing Corey Perry or center Ryan Kesler getting shopped this summer.
In a subsequent interview with Calgary’s Sportsnet 960, Friedman wondered if Perry might be approached about accepting a fresh start elsewhere. Meanwhile, TSN’s Darren Dreger felt there could be interest around the league in Getzlaf or Perry.
Trading Perry, Getzlaf or Kesler is easier said than done. Cap Friendly indicates the trio carry expensive, long-term contracts with full no-trade protection. Assuming one of them is willing to accept a trade, his list of acceptable destinations could be limited to legitimate playoff contenders.
Their hefty salaries are also sticking points. Perry’s earning over $8.6 million per season through 2020-21, Getzlaf over $8.2 million annually through the same period and Kesler over $6.8 million per season through 2021-22.
Getzlaf and Perry both turn 33 in May while Kesler will be 34 in August. Given their ages, interested clubs could be reluctant to take on their full cap hit.
Factor in Getzlaf’s injury history, Perry’s declining production and Kesler’s recent hip surgery, and the Ducks could find moving any of them a difficult undertaking.
As for the Kings, the Los Angeles Times‘ Curtis Zupke reports Blake’s top priority is re-signing superstar Drew Doughty. The 28-year-old defenseman has a year remaining on his contract ($7-million annual cap hit) and is eligible next July for unrestricted free agent status. He could seek an eight-year deal worth over $10-million per season. Contract discussions can officially begin on July 1.
Re-signing Doughty should be a no-brainer but the Kings already have over $32 million tied up in Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Quick, Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter and Dion Phaneuf. Adding another expensive long-term deal could hinder Blake’s efforts to bolster his secondary scoring.
Indeed, both clubs could be handcuffed by salary-cap constraints this summer. The Ducks have over $65.7 million tied up in 17 players, with restricted free agents Nick Ritchie, Ondrej Kase and Brandon Montour to re-sign. The Kings, meanwhile, have over $70.7 million committed to 20 players, with winger Tobias Rieder their sole noteworthy RFA.
Don’t expect Murray or Blake to go the buyout route to shed one of those expensive contracts. Given the lengthy periods remaining on each, the cost over the long term would prove problematic.
The Kings could find it a little easier to free up cap space than the Ducks. Carter, 33, lacks no-trade protection on his contract, which has four years remaining with an annual cap hit of over $5.2 million. Perhaps Blake could explore his trade value.
Earlier this season, there was speculation the Kings were exploring the possibility of moving a defenseman such as Alex Martinez or Jake Muzzin ($4-million each) for a scoring forward. Maybe Blake will revisit that option this summer.
The Ducks could draw upon their blueline depth for trade bait. Montour, Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson are 26-or-younger. Fowler, Lindholm and Manson are all signed beyond next season.
With promising defenders Jacob Larsson and Marcus Pettersson waiting in the wings, perhaps Murray could shop one of his established young rearguards for a speedy scoring forward.