John Gibson

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Under Pressure: John Gibson

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This post is part of Ducks Day on PHT…

Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry carry big-time pressure into every Anaheim Ducks season as the team’s dynamic, highest-paid duo. There’s a strong chance Cam Fowler will feel some of that heat after signing a big extension that kicks in starting in 2018-19.

Still, as much as those guys might sweat being under the microscope, their contracts run for quite some time.

John Gibson, on the other hand, will see his future determined by how he – and his team – performs during the next season or two.

Now, technically, 2017-18 isn’t a contract year for Gibson.

When it comes to prominent players, it often feels like they face the possibility of two contract years, at least if they falter during that penultimate one. The logic is simple enough: if a team views you as a part of its core, then it will often get an extension settled as early as possible, frequently when said player still has a year remaining on their current deal.

(Connor McDavid is the splashiest, most recent example. Fowler is the latest Ducks player to get that nod, with some surprise considering the many trade rumors that followed him.)

Let’s consider the many factors that could influence Gibson’s outlook and his future with the Ducks.

Strong – but limited – showings

As a second-round pick (39th overall in 2011, by Anaheim), Gibson has come along nicely. He played three games in 2013-14, 23 in 2014-15, 40 in 2015-16 and then 52 last season after Frederik Andersen was sent to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

(You could say Gibson “won” the goalie battle with Andersen, but Andersen’s accountant would probably beg to differ.)

At 24, Gibson has shown strong signs of being legit. His 2016-17 campaign was his best with a 25-16-9 record and a strong .924 save percentage, and it was in stride with his very impressive .922 career mark.

Still, he hasn’t shown that he can carry the workload of a big-money, top guy yet considering his 52-game peak. Sure, 118 NHL games is a reasonable body of work, but especially fickle types might say that the jury is still out. At least if Gibson wants that big franchise money, especially since he’s been solid but unspectacular in the postseason so far.

“What have you done for me lately?”

It’s also worth noting that you could claim that the Ducks can be a little fickle with their goalies.

With the threat of an expansion draft looming, it was understandable that GM Bob Murray decided to make a choice, opting for the cost-controlled, higher-pedigree Gibson over Andersen.

Still, whether it has to do with an organizational mindset or life as a budget contender, it’s remarkable how disciplined the Ducks have been when it comes to avoiding huge commitments to their goalies. Whether it be Jean-Sebastien Giguere leaving despite a Stanley Cup ring, Jonas Hiller’s failed reign, Andersen losing the joust with Gibson, or even Brian Burke staying true to his word in trading Ilya Bryzgalov, the Ducks aren’t afraid to switch gears in net when other teams might panic.

Right now, Gibson seems like the guy in net, and a good one in that. He can’t rest on his laurels, though.

Ryan Miller factor?

When the Ducks signed Ryan Miller, it seemed like a smart move, and also a clear case of getting a once-proud goalie to wind down his career as a backup.

Even so, Miller instantly becomes the most qualified backup in the NHL; he’s not that far removed from being a respectable starter. Anaheim likely views its window of contention as vulnerable with Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, and Corey Perry all at age 32 already. If Gibson falters, he could conceivably lose significant stretches of starts to Miller.

The two goalies even have matching two-year terms and are carrying nearly identical cap hits, so it’s not as though Miller lacks any staying power, even if his advanced age limits the threat to Gibson overall.

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Again, Gibson’s numbers and potential shine brightly right now, and every sign points to him being an important part of the Ducks’ future.

The franchise’s recent history indicates that he’d be foolish to assume it’s a done deal, though.

It’s Anaheim Ducks day at PHT

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When Randy Carlyle began his second stint as Anaheim Ducks head coach, many wondered if there would be a big drop-off from Bruce Boudreau.

One season doesn’t make a coach’s run – unless you’re an unfortunate soul like Dallas Eakins – but so far, Carlyle’s been a solid success. The Ducks won the Pacific Division for the fifth season in a row and fell to the Nashville Predators in the 2017 Western Conference Final.

Granted, that’s not to say that it was all good, as the Ducks will surely pour over the way their playoff run ended. There’s also concern that the Ducks’ core could be aging out, at least in all of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Ryan Kesler being 32.

The summer ended up being interesting.

GM Bob Murray let backup Jonathan Bernier walk in favor of Ryan Miller, while Reto Berra provides additional depth behind Miller and John Gibson. They didn’t lose Sami Vatanen or Josh Manson to the expansion draft, but Shea Theodore‘s absence is likely to sting. Simon Despres’ days with the Ducks are now over, too. Murray also brought in veteran and familiar face Francois Beauchemin.

The biggest move on defense likely ends the seemingly endless Cam Fowler trade rumors, instead signing Fowler to an eight-year, $52 million extension that kicks in starting in 2018-19.

They also kept Patrick Eaves around after a successful would-be “rental” at the trade deadline, handing the hugely bearded forward a three-year deal carrying a $3.15M cap hit.

So, the Ducks endured some changes, yet they also haven’t endured the sort of seismic alterations Anaheim experienced last summer. They now stand in an interesting spot, especially when it comes to the Pacific: will they hold off the Edmonton Oilers and other opponents once again? Will they remain legitimate Stanley Cup contenders or slip closer to the wild card?

PHT will break down the Ducks from several angles on Wednesday.

Report: Berra leaves Switzerland without playing a game, signs with Ducks

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Back in April, we passed along word that Florida goalie Reto Berra was returning to his native Switzerland, having signed a three-year deal with Fribourg-Gotteron.

How quickly things change.

Per the club, Berra has opted to return to the NHL for next season, reportedly for a deal with the Anaheim Ducks. Fribourg-Gotteron classified it as a surprise development that led to the 30-year-old exercising the out clause in his contract.

If the report is accurate, landing in Anaheim would make sense. The Ducks are in a state of flux when it comes to goaltending — while John Gibson and newly-signed Ryan Miller are entrenched as the Nos. 1 and 2, there’s uncertainty behind them.

Last year’s No. 2, Jonathan Bernier, has signed with Colorado. Last year’s No. 3, Jhonas Enroth, is also a UFA and has reportedly received interest from a number of teams.

Anaheim still has Dustin Tokarski under contract, so it’s possible Berra’s being brought in as a veteran presence to work in tandem. He’s had some good success at the AHL level previously.

In signing with Anaheim, Ryan Miller chooses family and chance to win

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Ryan Miller was one of the busiest goalies in the NHL last season, when he routinely faced over 40 shots per game as the Vancouver Canucks’ starter.

But things should change considerably next season, after the 36-year-old signed with the Anaheim Ducks today.

Miller is well-aware that his role is going to be different, since the Ducks already have a starting goalie in John Gibson.

For Miller, though, the opportunity is two-fold. First and foremost, he’ll be closer to his wife, actress Noureen DeWulf, and their young son. Second, he’ll get the chance to win something he’s never won.

“I really wanted to maximize my time and maximize my chances in winning a Stanley Cup,” Miller told reporters, per Eric Stephens of the O.C. Register.

The Canucks did want to keep Miller, who may have left money on the table in agreeing to a two-year, $4 million deal with Anaheim. Vancouver signed Anders Nilsson instead. Nilsson will compete for starts with Jacob Markstrom.

In Anaheim, it’s possible that Miller ends up playing more than a typical backup. After all, Gibson has had trouble staying healthy, and Miller did play well last year.

In fact, Miller was often Vancouver’s best hope for a win. He finished with three shutouts and a respectable .914 save percentage.

Expect a busy July 1 in goalie news

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Some teams, like the Calgary Flames, have already addressed their goaltending vacancies.

But many others haven’t, so expect tomorrow (July 1) to be a busy day in that regard.

The Philadelphia Flyers are one team to watch. They reportedly won’t be bringing Steve Mason back, leaving some to predict the signing of Brian Elliott.

Elliott, of course, was the guy the Flames hoped could solve their problems in net. Alas, it didn’t work out, and GM Brad Treliving acquired Mike Smith and Eddie Lack instead.

The Winnipeg Jets are another team to watch. Last season, the Jets waived Ondrej Pavelec and went with a tandem of Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson. Which didn’t go all that well. Pavelec’s contract is now done, but expect GM Kevin Cheveldayoff to try and land a veteran netminder to pair with Hellebuyck. The Jets have been linked to Mason, but also Elliott.

A number of other teams need backups. The Anaheim Ducks need one for John Gibson — quite likely Ryan Miller. Which brings us to the Vancouver Canucks, who’d then need a backup for Jacob Markstrom. The Canucks have been linked to Anders Nilsson.

Let’s move on to the defending champs, who don’t have have an obvious backup for Matt Murray after Marc-Andre Fleury was lost to Vegas. The Penguins would like to keep Tristan Jarry in the AHL a little while longer, which explains the speculation surrounding Antti Niemi.

The Colorado Avalanche: They lost Calvin Pickard to Vegas, opening a spot behind Semyon Varlamov. Perhaps Jonathan Bernier could fill that role?

The Buffalo Sabres: There’s been talk Chad Johnson could be on his way back. Would make sense if they don’t re-sign Nilsson.

The Boston Bruins: They’ve still got Anton Khudobin under contract for another year, but GM Don Sweeney may look for an upgrade behind Tuukka Rask.

The Toronto Maple Leafs: They could always re-sign Curtis McElhinney to back up Frederik Andersen, but GM Lou Lamoriello may try to do better.