The Anaheim Ducks enter the 2022-23 NHL season with a fresher start than in seasons past. Following an active free agency, Anaheim is entering a new era. Young stars are emerging and fan favorites are slowly leaving. All of this mixed with a fresh face in the front office leads to multiple storylines heading into the season opener against the Seatle Kraken.
Getzlaf's Retirement Pushes Ducks Into New Era
After a historic career in Anaheim, Ryan Getzlaf has decided to hang up his skates and enter retirement. Playing his entire career with the Ducks, Getzlaf leads the franchise in games played, assists and points. In addition to these accolades, he also was instrumental in Anaheim's Stanley Cup Championship run in 2007.
With Getzlaf out of the lineup, this creates a void in the Anaheim roster. The captain was strong in every situation he was put in and exemplified class and leadership. He was a mentor to young players and played hard no matter the score of the game. Moving forward, Anaheim must find another player that can take on the responsibility of leading a team through success and hardship. The 2022-23 season will be key in determining who will take on this responsibility.
Let the Kids Play
If anything was made clear by Anaheim last season, it is that they are committed to the development of their younger players. This was most notably seen by Trevor Zegras and his ability to create offense from nearly impossible angles. Coming up just short of the Calder Trophy, Zegras did create excitement surrounding the future of the organization.
However, Zegras was not the only young player to make his mark on the roster. Jamie Drysdale proved that he could produce at the NHL level despite being one of the youngest players on the team as he finished second in points by a defenseman during the 2021-22 season. Other young players that can see more responsibility in the upcoming season also include Max Comtois, Mason McTavish and Isac Lundestrom.
Verbeek's First Full Season
Last season, Ducks fans got a small taste of what the new general manager, Pat Verbeek, would bring to the table. It is clear that his plan included the continuous development of Anaheim's younger stars while setting the team up for future success. In his short tenure leading the front office, he traded away a few fan-favorite players for a large return of prospects and draft picks.
These moves also allowed Anaheim to be aggressive in free agency for the next few years. Currently, the Ducks have just under $19 million in available cap space with a strong free agent market following this season. It will be interesting to see how Verbeek guides the team now that he has a full season to work with.
Fresh Faces Flock to Anaheim
This offseason, free agency seemed to carry a bit more weight for the Ducks. Entering the signing period, Anaheim needed to spend money in order to reach the cap floor. In addition to this, it was also Verbeek's first free agency where he was in control. He did not disappoint as on day one, Anaheim announced that Ryan Strome and Frank Vatrano signed with the team. Last season, Strome produced a career-high in goals with 21 and registered 54 points. Vatrano is coming off of a season where he split time between the Florida Panthers and New York Rangers where he produced 18 goals and 32 points in 71. Both of these players bring a veteran presence as well as depth scoring.
These were not the only splashes the Ducks made as the team announced the signing of defenseman, John Klingberg, to a one-year, $7 million dollar deal. The 8-year veteran comes to Anaheim after spending his entire career with the Dallas Stars. Last season, he produced 47 points which immediately boosts the Ducks' blueline offense. Klingberg also brings playoff experience to a young Anaheim roster.
Building Off of His Success
Coming off a career-best season, eyes turn to Troy Terry as the Ducks prepare for the 2022-23 season. Last year, everything seemed to click for him as he scored 37 goals, made the Pacific Division all-star team and led the Ducks in scoring. This was great news for Anaheim because, despite their struggles during the season, the team's development of Terry proved to be paying off.
However, with Getzlaf's retirement, Terry is losing his linemate and mentor. This has the chance to impact the rising star as he was the primary beneficiary of Getzlaf's playmaking ability. Luckily for Terry, the announcement did not come as a surprise so he had the entire offseason plus training camp to build up chemistry with potential linemates.
As the season nears, fans should be on the lookout to see how these stories progress. Anaheim finds itself in a transition period, but this new era has a feeling of excitement surrounding it. With a young roster eager to prove themselves and a new general manager, the future is starting in Anaheim.