By Thomas Harrington
Earlier today, the Anaheim Ducks extended qualifying offers to Hampus Lindholm, Rickard Rakell, and Stefan Noesen. Brandon Pirri, Charlie Sarault, Kevin Gagne, Martin Gernat, and Matt Bailey did not receive a qualifying offer and will become unrestricted free agents on July 1st.
When the Ducks and other teams extend qualifying offers to their restricted free agents, they are essentially signaling that they are planning on retaining that player’s rights. Depending on how much the player made the previous season, the team must offer a contract that pays at least a certain percentage of the previous contract. For example, if a player made less than $660,000 the previous season, the qualifying offer has to be at least equal to 110% of the previous season’s salary. If there is no qualifying offer made, the player becomes an unrestricted free agent and can sign where they want, including back with the team that failed to qualify them. Once an offer has been made, the two sides can work out a longer deal, or the player can take the qualifying offer as a one-year deal. The Ducks also signed Corey Tropp to a two-year two-way extension and Dustin Tokarski to a one-year two-way extension.
Bob Murray is on record saying that he will take his time getting Rakell and Lindholm signed to an extension and that he will match any offer sheet thrown their way. Of the two, I think Lindholm is the more likely to receive a long term extension. In his three seasons in Anaheim, he has become one of the team’s best blueliners and looks like a future #1 defenseman. He’s not there yet, but if he continues to progress, he’ll get there. Even if he plateaus at a certain point, he’ll still be among the best young defenders in the game, so signing him to a long term deal makes a lot of sense. Olli Maatta of the Pittsburgh Penguins recently signed a six-year $24.5 million extension, which could be a good starting point for Lindholm and the Ducks to begin at. If the Ducks and Lindholm came to a six-year deal for a little more money, I would be quite happy.
Rakell has done less during his time in the NHL, but progressed a significant amount this past season, becoming an irreplaceable part of Anaheim’s offense as he had his first 20 goal season. He’ll hopefully have many more to come, but given how he hasn’t done as a much, a shorter two or three year bridge deal makes more sense for him. It will give him a chance to show Anaheim that he deserves a big time raise when the new contract is up, and a cheaper deal for the next couple of seasons will be easier for Anaheim to deal with going forward. He could end up with a five year deal, but Murray is loathe to give out contracts of that length and I don’t think Rakell has done enough to earn a five year deal yet.
Noesen will almost assuredly sign another two-way deal. He’s played a couple of games with Anaheim over the last couple of seasons, but has yet to make an impact in the NHL. After missing a ton of time with injuries over the previous couple of seasons, Noesen was largely healthy last year, but didn’t have a great season. Hopefully he can turn things around this year and fight for a spot in Anaheim. Expect his deal to be one or two years in length.
Tropp was acquired at the trade deadline and played very well for the Gulls down the stretch. He should be among the Gulls’ leading scorers for the duration of his new deal. Tokarski was acquired for Max Friberg last season. With Anton Khudobin leaving the team as a free agent, he’ll become the third goaltender in Anaheim’s depth chart, assuming the Ducks sign a veteran stopper to be the backup in Anaheim.
As for the players who were not qualified, there’s still a chance they end up back in Anaheim. It was announced today that New Jersey didn’t give qualifying offers to a number of its restricted free agents, including former Duck Devante Smith-Pelly. However, New Jersey is still expecting to sign most, if not all of them to extensions before July 1st. By not giving the offer, the team risks losing the player to free agency, but has the potential to sign the player at a lower rate. This is what New Jersey is trying to do, and Anaheim could possibly do that as well.
The other possibility is that Anaheim could bring some of these players back on AHL only deals. Last season, the Ducks did that with Antoine Laganiere. By doing this, they are keeping good players on their farm team, but freeing up contract space for Anaheim, since the NHL teams can only have a maximum of 50 signed contracts at any given time. If a player is on an AHL only deal, that contract does not count towards the NHL total.
Of the players that Anaheim did not give a qualifying offer too, I think the only one they might bring back is Bailey. Bailey played in over 50 games for the Gulls last season as a bottom six role player. If he is brought back, it will be on an AHL only deal to help out San Diego next season. I highly doubt they bring back Pirri, Sarault, Gernat, and Gagne. Pirri is a one-dimensional goal scorer who finds himself on the injured list more often than he’d like. I wouldn’t be opposed to him coming back, but only on a cheap deal and some other team will probably pay him more than the Ducks would even consider. Also, given his style of game, I’m not sure how well it would mesh in a Randy Carlyle coached system. Sarault spent all of last year in the ECHL and clearly will not make it to the NHL with the Ducks. His best bet is probably to sign an AHL deal somewhere, but that won’t be with San Diego. Gernat was used sparingly by the Gulls after the Ducks picked him up from Edmonton, and didn’t play at all in the playoffs. Given the depth on defense in Anaheim and San Diego, he’ll be looking for work elsewhere. Gagne was actually on loan last year and played for Mora IK in the Allsvenskan, a Swedish league. He’s expected to be back there next season.
The Ducks have all summer to get Rakell and Lindholm signed. As long as their new deals are in place by the start of training camp, I’m not at all concerned.
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