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Ducks Give Qualifying Offers To Four; Make Two Hirings
By Thomas Harrington
On Monday, the Anaheim Ducks announced that they were giving qualifying offers to four players: defenseman Simon Benoit, goaltender Olle Eriksson Ek, center Isac Lundestrom, and Urho Vaakanainen. It was also announced that they did not give qualifying offers to seven players: center Jack Badini, goaltender Roman Durny, winger Lucas Elvenes, defenseman Brendan Guhle, defenseman Jacob Larsson, winger Sonny Milano, and center Sam Steel.
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. 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. Sometimes teams will not qualify a player in the hopes of re-signing them to less than they would have made with the qualifying offer. 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.
Giving a qualifying offer to Lundestrom and Vaakanainen was an easy call to make. Lundestrom was Anaheim’s first round pick in 2018 and set career highs in goals, assists, and points this past season. The hope is he’ll be their shutdown center with some offensive flair going forward. He’s not there yet but made great strides towards that this season. Vaakanainen was one of the major pieces Anaheim received in the Hampus Lindholm trade and there was no way the Ducks were going to let him walk. I expect both to be re-signed to relatively short deals, as neither has done enough to warrant a long term extension. My best guess is both get two- or three-year deals.
Benoit is an undrafted defenseman who made his NHL debut in the 2020-2021 season before becoming a full-time NHL player this past season. He’s a sixth or seventh defenseman with limited offensive upside but plays a physical game. I think he’ll probably get a one- or two-year deal. Eriksson Ek was a fifth round pick from 2017 and was San Diego’s backup goaltender this past season. He struggled at times and I thought there was a chance Anaheim wouldn’t qualify him, especially after picking up Calle Clang from Pittsburgh at the trade deadline. Depending on how the goaltending situation shakes out in Anaheim this year, he’ll probably be the Gulls’ backup again this season, though he may end up playing more than the 26 games he did last year.
A third round pick from 2022, Badini hasn’t really progressed much since being drafted. He’s primarily a defensive center with little offensive upside. He’s a good player, and it wouldn’t shock me if he ends up signing an AHL-only deal with the Gulls. Durny has primarily played in the ECHL since being drafted in the fifth round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. He simply hasn’t played enough for the Ducks to retain him and he was probably the least surprising player to see not qualified. The Ducks claimed Elvenes off of waivers from Vegas and he played well for the Gulls, but he’ll be returning to Europe to continue his hockey career.
The Ducks acquired Guhle from Buffalo as part of the Brandon Montour trade. Since arriving from the Sabres, Guhle has bounced back and forth between Anaheim and San Diego, never getting more than 30 games with the Ducks. Earlier this month it was revealed that he’s signed in Germany to continue his career. The Ducks chose Larsson in the first round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Initially, he seemed like a good pick and even made his NHL debut in the 2016-2017 season. However, injuries and inconsistent play plagued him over the next few years. I thought he was playing some of the best hockey of his career before the league was shut down because of the pandemic, but when play resumed the following season it seemed like much of his progress was gone. He spent most of this past season in the AHL and it was unsurprising to see him not qualified. He’s another player the Gulls may try to keep on an AHL deal.
There was perhaps no bigger surprise than the Ducks not qualifying Milano. They acquired him from Columbus in exchange for Devin Shore. Milano’s career has been marked by injuries and inconsistent play, and his time in Anaheim was no different. The highlight of his time in Anaheim was scoring off of Trevor Zegras’ ridiculous pass from behind the net. The two found chemistry together partway through the season, but Milano’s play tailed off as the season went along.
Steel was Anaheim’s first round pick from 2016. After being drafted, he put up a ridiculous 131 points in 66 WHL games. He made his NHL debut in the 2018-2019 season, scoring a respectable 11 points in 22 games. However, the following season, he just seemed to hit a wall, recording 22 points in 65 games. In an odd statistical twist, he scored six goals in each of his four NHL seasons, despite seeing his games played range from 22 to 68. For whatever reason he just never found that consistency with the Ducks, and hopefully he does with another team.
Free agency is just around the corner, and the Ducks have plenty of cap space and now even more open roster positions than before. It’ll be interesting to see what moves the Ducks make when free agency starts on Wednesday.
Ducks Name Jim Johnson Director of Player Development
Jim Johnson joined the Ducks and will help prepare the prospects for developing a career in professional hockey.
He spent 24 seasons in the NHL, 11 as a coach and 13 as a player. He served as an assistant coach for the Phoenix Coyotes (1999-00), Tampa Bay Lightning (2008-10), Washington Capitals (2011-12), San Jose Sharks (2012-15), Edmonton Oilers (2015-18) and St. Louis Blues (2020-21).
Jim Johnson played in 829 career games with the Penguins, Minnesota North Stars/Dallas Stars, Washington and Phoenix, recording 195 points(29 G + 166 A) and 1,197 penalty minutes.
Ducks Name Craig Johnson as an Assistant Coach
Craig Johnson was part of the Los Angeles Kings organization for the past four seasons, serving as assistant coach of the Ontario Reign (2020-22), a professional scout (2020-21) and development coach (2018-20). He was also the head coach of Santa Margarita Catholic High School in the Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League (ADHSHL) from 2011-20, leading the team to three national titles in 2013, 2018 and 2019.
He played in 557 NHL games with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (2003-04), Washington, Toronto, Los Angeles and St. Louis. He recorded 175 points (75 G + 98 A) with 260 penalty minutes.
Craig Johnson replaces Geoff Ward, who had left for personal reasons.
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July 11th, 2022