Anaheim Ducks

Kesler says Ducks letdowns are ‘not going to happen again’

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Anaheim Ducks management stepped up to the plate in handing Ryan Kesler a hefty six-year, $41.25 million contract extension. Now it’s up to Kesler & Co. to prove that it’s all worth it.

The 30-year-old told the team website that he believes the Ducks “have all the pieces, we just need to put them together.” Kesler also said that falling short of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final ultimately serves as a valuable learning experience for the team.

At what point do you need to put those lessons together for an even deeper playoff run, though? Kesler looked back at the Ducks’ inability to put the Chicago Blackhawks away, including a 5-2 loss in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final:

“We needed a killer instinct in Game 6. We didn’t have it,” Kesler said. “There are two ways we can go about it: We can sulk about it or we can learn from it. I’m gonna make sure, just like all the other leaders on this team, that we learn from this and we learn not to let it happen again. That’s our job as leaders on this team. That’s not gonna happen again, I’ll tell you that.”

One cannot help but wonder how wide open the window really is for the Ducks, actually.

Wrong side of 30

Look, the West remains brutal, particularly with the ascension of Anaheim’s old nemesis, the Dallas Stars.

Still, this may just be the Ducks’ best chance to go all the way. The Blackhawks suffered some significant losses during this summer, and many others seemed to idle or even get worse. On paper, Anaheim might just be the favorite in its conference.

Beyond that, the team’s big names aren’t getting any younger, and the days of having a glut of cap space might be fleeting.

As of this writing, Kesler, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are all 30 years old. According to many, that’s roughly the age where big scorers start to see diminishing returns.

Costly contracts coming

The Ducks will also see a squeeze in contracts, particularly if they don’t get some other extensions done early (like they did with Kesler).

They still have some haggling to do with Carl Hagelin* and Jakob Silfverberg before the 2015-16 season begins. Gearing up for 2016-17 may prove costly, too, as their three goalies (Frederik Andersen, John Gibson, Anton Khudobin) and significant young defensemen Sami Vatanen, Simon Despres and Hampus Lindholm will all need new contracts.

Even with the bright side of Khudobin being the only UFA in mind, the Ducks seem rapidly shift from being a contender with a startling salary cap cushion to another championship hopeful with little room to breathe.

***

Kesler can shrug off the pressure to win all he wants, but with that big new deal, he’ll shoulder a lot of the blame if the Ducks fall short once more.

* – Sorry, had to do it.

Ducks give Kesler six-year extension worth $41.25 million

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The Anaheim Ducks have signed center Ryan Kesler to a six-year contract extension worth a reported $41.25 million, the club announced today.

That means Kesler, 30, will have a cap hit of $6.875 million starting in 2016-17 and through 2021-22. He still has one year left on his current deal, with a cap hit of $5 million.

Kesler had 20 goals and 27 assists last season with the Ducks, his first in Anaheim after being traded there from Vancouver. A former Selke Trophy winner, he added seven goals and six assists in 16 playoff games.

The Ducks are gambling that Kesler, a veteran of 736 NHL games, can maintain his level of play, along with fellow 30-year-old forwards Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, each of whom are signed through 2020-21 for a combined cap hit of almost $17 million.

Related: Boudreau has ‘never coached a team in the NHL’ with a 2C like Kesler

Etem, acquired in Hagelin trade, signs one-year, $850,500 deal with Rangers

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The New York Rangers have locked in the key piece acquired in the Carl Hagelin-to-Anaheim trade — on Tuesday, the club signed Emerson Etem to a one-year deal worth $850,500, per the New York Post.

Etem, 23, is a former first-round pick (29th overall, 2010) that never seemed to fit in Anaheim. Despite lightning-quick skating ability and a nice skill set, the California native never played more than 45 games in a single season for the Ducks, and never scored more than 11 points. He did show some flashes this postseason, however, scoring three goals in 12 games for Anaheim, including this beauty against Winnipeg in the opening round:

In New York, Etem will get a fresh start — something Ducks GM Bob Murray said the youngster might need at this stage of his career — and should get a decent shot at minutes on a Rangers team that’s been thinned out up front. Hagelin is gone, Martin St. Louis retired and UFA James Sheppard remains unsigned.

The Rangers did bring in speedy ex-Preds forward Viktor Stalberg, however, and that could cut into Etem’s opportunity.

In effort to ‘minimize injuries,’ Penguins announce two hirings

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The Pittsburgh Penguins announced a couple of new hires today. Andy O’Brien has been given the fancy title of Director of Sport Science and Performance, while massage therapist Andreas Hüppi has also joined the club.

In addition, the Penguins plan to hire a strength and conditioning coach to work under O’Brien.

“We are excited to add such highly-regarded specialists as Andy O’Brien and Andreas Hüppi to our staff,” GM Jim Rutherford said in a release. “We want to look at all aspects of how we train and prepare our players, how we can maximize performance and hopefully minimize injuries. We want to make sure they receive the best information available regarding training, nutrition, rehab and getting proper amounts of rest during a long season.”

Nobody in Pittsburgh needs to be reminded how many injuries the Penguins have suffered in recent years. In fact, out of all 30 teams, the website Man Games Lost deemed Pittsburgh the “most impacted by injuries” since 2009-10.

Granted, no trainer or massage therapist can keep a player from experiencing some of the serious health issues with which the Penguins have dealt, including blood clots, stroke, and cancer.

But according to O’Brien, it’s all about establishing “a methodology around how we develop and care for our players.”

Despite rumors, Linden says Canucks haven’t tried to trade Higgins

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On Monday, Canucks president Trevor Linden addressed trade rumblings surrounding one of his team’s most veteran skaters, Chris Higgins.

“Chris Higgins is an important player on our team,” Linden said in a statement, per The Province. “We have not talked to any clubs about trading him.

“We value Chris both for his on-ice abilities and his leadership in the locker-room.”

That Linden responded to the Higgins rumors was telling… because, um, Linden’s kinda the reason they’re out there.

Last week, he and Vancouver GM Jim Benning caught heat during a ticketholder event, as fans voiced their displeasure over the club’s offseason moves. Benning was actually booed after revealing he could’ve traded veteran goalie Ryan Miller rather than fan favorite Eddie Lack.

After the event, Linden reportedly pulled aside some of the more vocal attendees for a mini-hotstove.

From The Province:

It was not an easy night for Linden or Benning.

“When you’re sitting in this chair, it’s not as easy as you think,” Linden said.

What he did do, when it was over, was call over the biggest critics of the night for a 10-minute session.

It was a nice gesture, but may have been ill-advised.

In it, Linden revealed several tidbits, including his pitch that the Canucks have been trying to trade Chris Higgins but have found they cannot move his contract.

In short order, the comments were all over social media, and then on the radio. The Higgins trade horse is officially out of the barn.

Maybe they’re hoping something will change in August — unlikely — or people will forget to ask Higgins when he comes back to town in two months. Again, unlikely.

(Take this for what it’s worth, but one attendee apparently recapped meeting Linden on HF Boards.)

It’s hard to know where this leaves Higgins, 32, who’s heading into the third of a four-year, $10 million deal with a pretty affordable $2.5M average annual cap hit. It’s not a Benning contract; Higgins was extended by Benning’s predecessor, Mike Gillis, and the deal includes a Gillis staple — a no-trade clause (granted, it’s a limited NTC.)

As such, it wasn’t surprising to hear rumors of the Canucks trying to move Higgins. Benning’s already shipped out Gllis-era holdovers like Lack, Kevin Bieksa, Zack Kassian, Jason Garrison, Ryan Kesler and Tom Sestito in his attempt to reshape the club — in that light, it would make sense that Higgins, who had 12 goals and 36 points last year, was dangled in potential trade talks.

Unless, of course, he wasn’t.