There have been no 11th-hour deals by the Ducks (a la the Kings trading Lubomir Viznofsky last night to the Oilers) on the eve of the NHL free agency period. But since free agency begins at midnight, we haven’t technically hit the 11th hour yet, have we?
Everyone’s waiting for word from Teemu Selanne, who is supposedly in Finland (although Brian Burke has repeatedly referred the media to check the side of a milk carton). One rumor has him signing with Montreal, although the prevailing wisdom is that it’s the Ducks or retirement. Waiving Todd Bertuzzi was done with one eye toward Selanne, who is no longer under contract as of midnight. The team will have close to $6 million in cap room to play with; an exact figure hadn’t been nailed down the last time I spoke with assistant GM David McNab. Of course, the Ducks are also looking to sign Corey Perry first.
That still leaves Drew Miller, Jason King, Stephen Dixon and Geoff Platt on the chopping block; all of them had been tendered qualifying offers, making them restricted free agents. How much interest the Ducks and the other 29 teams have in these players — who, with the exception of Dixon, shuttled between the NHL and AHL last year — will be learned in no fewer than three hours.
And it’s worth noting that GM Brian Burke said the other day he may not be done making moves to clear cap room. As mentioned before, no news on this front as of yet.
So, here’s the big picture:
The Ducks have six good-to-great NHL defensemen under contract.
They have enough forwards under contract to fill a third and fourth line.
They have two good NHL top-6 forwards under contract (Kunitz and Getzlaf) as well as Bobby Ryan, whom Burke considers a top-6 forward. Perry is expected to sign (again, in no fewer than three hours. It’s a “tagging room” thing).
That leaves the team in need of a second-line center as well as a second-line winger. If Selanne signs, you can cross the second-line winger off the list. But is $6 million enough to squeeze both Perry and Selanne under the cap? Maybe. But unless both players are willing to sign for some kind of discount, you’d have close to no money left. The Ducks would have to make one more move if they think Selanne is willing to sign — and Burke has said (quite loudly, I might add) that it’s anyone’s guess what Selanne wants to do. He’s been incommunicado, as they say in Helsinki.
How long do they wait for an answer from Selanne? Are they waiting for an answer?
More likely, Plan A involves a trade. Burke said last week, with respect to acquiring those two much-needed forwards, “we might have to do this the old-fashioned way” — meaning via trade. Chris Pronger, J-S Giguere and Scott Niedermayer are untouchable, Getzlaf and Kunitz are damn close, and anyone else could be dangled as trade bait to improve the second line. The running theories involve trading any one of the team’s bottom 4 defensemen — Mathieu Schneider, Kent Huskins, Sean O’Donnell and Francois Beauchemin — with someone from the AHL level stepping up to take their place.
Plan B involves buying out another contract, similar to what they did with Bertuzzi last week. Again, you’re looking at a bottom-4 defenseman as the most likely candidate here.
Plan C probably involves pitting veteran minor-leaguer Andrew Ebbett (who made a guest NHL appearance late last season as a second-line center) against Ryan Carter (signed through 2011) in training camp; winner centers the second line, loser centers the fourth. The remaining cap money goes to acquiring the winger. This route is the easiest, and the least sexy.
What will they do in Anaheim? The clock is ticking …