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.

Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

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CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.

Lightning donate $2 million to Hurricane Ian relief efforts

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TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning and team owner Jeff Vinik are donating $2 million toward Hurricane Ian relief efforts.

The NHL team announced that $1 million each will be donated by the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation and the Vinik Family Foundation.

“This is a tragic situation for many families and communities across the state of Florida, but especially so in the southwest region of the state,” Vinik said in a statement released by the team. “In times like these the most important thing we can do is support one another, and we hope this donation will help families recover and rebuild in the months to come.”

Ian made landfall Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast, south of the Tampa Bay area. The Lightning postponed two home preseason games and moved the club’s training camp to Nashville, Tennessee, during the storm.

Maple Leafs sign defenseman Rasmus Sandin to 2-year deal

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TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.

The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.

“Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”

The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.

Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.