By Thomas Harrington
In a surprising move, the Anaheim Ducks made not one, but two rounds of roster cuts earlier today. First, this morning, the Ducks sent Julius Nattinen and Ondrej Kase to San Diego and placed Clayton Stoner on waivers. Then, this evening, the Ducks assigned Shea Theodore, Kalle Kossila, and Brandon Montour to San Diego, and also released Sean Bergenheim and Kyle MacKinnon from their tryout agreements. MacKinnon will now report to San Diego since he is already signed to an AHL contract.
Morning Roster Moves
With two sets of roster moves to go over, I’ll start with this morning’s moves before moving onto what happened this evening. Nattinen and Kase being cut isn’t a surprise, nor was Kase being assigned to San Diego. However, Nattinen’s assignment was a bit surprising, since he played in the OHL last year and was traded from Barrie to Windsor over the summer. He was expected to be an integral part of Windsor’s team this season. However, Nattinen is not your typical CHL player. Since he was drafted out of Europe, he’s considered a European player and can, therefore, join the AHL before he turns 20, even if he spent time in Canadian juniors. Given how well he’s performed in camp, he’s definitely earned his spot in San Diego. In fact, this morning, San Diego had a preseason game and Kase and Nattinen were on the same line and by all accounts played great together.
Stoner was signed to a four-year deal two years ago with a cap hit of $3.25 million per season. While he is overpaid, Stoner is a decent option on the third pairing. However, he’s clearly been pushed out by Anaheim’s up and coming defensive prospects. By placing him on waivers, the Ducks are hoping that another team will pick up Stoner and have him on their roster for the next two seasons. With the expansion draft a year from now, Stoner wouldn’t be a bad option for a team to leave exposed for the new Las Vegas team. According to generalfanager.com, there are several teams who could absorb Stoner’s full cap hit: St. Louis, Vancouver, Dallas, Boston, Tampa Bay, Ottawa, Nashville, Calgary, Winnipeg, Buffalo, Edmonton, New Jersey, Florida, and Carolina. However, some of those teams clearly don’t need another defenseman (Nashville) or are trying to sign their own restricted free agents (Tampa Bay) and wouldn’t be able to take on Stoner’s contract. However, Stoner could be a fit on some of the other teams listed.
If he is claimed, Stoner’s contract will come completely off the books, which should give Anaheim enough cap space($10.77 million approximately) to sign both Hampus Lindholm and Rickard Rakell. If Stoner is unclaimed, the Ducks could assign him to San Diego, but they would only receive $950,000 of cap space per the CBA. That may not be enough($8.5 million approximately) to get the two Swedes signed. If it’s not, then expect the Ducks to make another move in order to get Lindholm and Rakell under contract. If necessary, the Ducks can also add another $1.6 million to the cap by placing Nate Thompson on long-term injury reserve. What is certain is that it looks like Stoner’s time with the Ducks is done, opening up a roster spot in Anaheim for one of their many young defensemen.
Evening Roster Moves
Anaheim’s second round of roster cuts was much more surprising than the first. Kossila was expected to go to San Diego, but it’s great how long he was able to last in camp. MacKinnon was also San Diego bound, seeing as how he was already signed to an AHL contract. It’s not surprising to see Bergenheim released, though I was hoping he would sign with the Ducks. He’s had a very strong preseason, and I think it likely that he gets a contract somewhere in the league.
The shock was Theodore and Montour being assigned to San Diego. Both have had very strong preseasons and played well throughout camp. Their assignment does not mean that they will not be in the NHL this season. Depending on what happens with Stoner, Lindholm, Rakell, and other potential roster moves, either one of them could be brought back up for the start of the season in a week. Even if they aren’t, I’m confident that both Theodore and Montour will make their way to Anaheim this season.
With Theodore and Montour gone, Jacob Larsson is still in Anaheim and may have made Anaheim’s roster. It’s too soon to know for sure, but he definitely has a very strong chance. However, if he doesn’t make Anaheim’s roster, he’s likely heading back to the SHL. If the Ducks want him to play in North America this season, they’ll likely have to keep him in the NHL for the entire season. He’s been great in the preseason, and by waiving Stoner, the Ducks certainly have opened up a roster spot for him. Based on his play in the preseason and training camp, I do believe he’s good enough to play in the NHL right now, but I’m not sure if he’s ready for the rigors of a full NHL season. Similar to Theodore last year, or Josh Manson the year before, I tend to prefer giving rookie defensemen spot duty in their first NHL season, giving them more of a chance to adjust to the NHL game. If Larsson does stick around, hopefully, he’ll have a season similar to Cam Fowler’s rookie season several years ago, when Fowler played in 76 games and had 40 points.
Ducks Roster Down To 28 Players
Anaheim’s roster is now down to 28 players; however, it’s a near certainty that Yann Denis and Dustin Tokarski will not make Anaheim’s roster. Combine that with both Nate Thompson and Nic Kerdiles out with injury and Stoner likely San Diego bound if he is unclaimed, this means that the Ducks currently have 23 players to work with, the maximum roster size allowed on opening night. When Rakell and Lindholm are hopefully re-signed, the Ducks will need to cut more two players. Assuming that Nick Ritchie makes the roster, Mason Raymond, Michael Sgarbossa, Nick Sorensen, and Joseph Cramarossa are the four players who are most likely fighting for those final two spots. All four have played well for the Ducks in the preseason. Raymond is an NHL veteran, something Randy Carlyle loves, but if I had to pick right now, I’d go with Sorensen and Cramarossa. Both have been excellent through the preseason. Sgarbossa has been good too, and I’d be happy if he made Anaheim’s opening night roster. Regardless which two of these four stick around, there isn’t really a bad option. None of them will be elite players for the Ducks this season but should supply quality minutes in the team’s bottom six.
The season starts in one week and Anaheim’s roster is almost set. Tomorrow morning at 9 AM, we’ll know what Stoner’s fate is. If he’s claimed, hopefully, Rakell and Lindholm will then be signed soon after that. If he’s not, the Ducks may need to make another move before signing the two Swedes. Either way, this next week should be an interesting one for Anaheim.
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