Pandemic Punts: Anaheim Ducks should embrace rebuild in 2020-21

Pandemic Punts: Anaheim Ducks should not fight rebuild in 2020-21 Bob Murray as GM coach
Getty Images

Introducing: Pandemic Punts

Tanking isn’t a pretty thing to do, but in a normal NHL season, several teams should at least consider it.

Yet, in a 2020-21 NHL season that figures to be even more unpredictable than usual — it remains to be seen if the season even happens — just about every front office should at least have that conversation. “What if we punt on the 2020-21 NHL season altogether?”

Of course, some punting opportunities will be more obvious (Red Wings/Senators) than others (Lightning/Golden Knights).

However strong the attraction might be for each team to tank, “Pandemic Punts” could be a worthwhile thought experiment for all 31 NHL teams. Pondering why the Lightning and other teams may not punt under any circumstances could be a way to forecast future problems or opportunities.

Starting in alphabetical order, PHT’s Pandemic Punts begins with … the Anaheim Ducks’ 2020-21 season. Luckily, they’re a pretty good first run for “Pandemic Punts.”

State of the Anaheim Ducks heading into 2020-21 NHL season

Rebuild denial is a real thing in sports. In the case of the Ducks, it still feels like the team has one webbed foot in, and one foot out.

For every move to build for the future (trading Ondrej Kase to land a first-round pick from Boston), there are moves to maintain a fleeting grasp on contention. In a vacuum, signing Kevin Shattenkirk to a solid bargain contract would be smart … for a team that’s on the cusp. The Ducks seem closer to the cellar than the playoff bubble in 2020-21, though, so that otherwise smart signing instead smells of desperation. (Or at least rebuild-denial.)

Perhaps some of that denial comes from the Ducks not being that far removed from their glory days. After all, they’ve only missed the playoffs for the past two season. (Granted, you can zoom in and pick that apart, as it’s been a while since they even won a playoff game, as the Sharks summarily swept the Ducks in 2017-18.)

But life comes at you fast, and sometimes that means you need to quickly rebuild. Unfortunately, it seems like Ducks GM Bob Murray did not receive that TPS report.

Try this exercise: realistically, how likely are the Ducks to contend in 2020-21? If so, how?

Most probably answered “John Gibson doing everything.” Indeed, before 2019-20, John Gibson ranked as the best thing going for the Ducks. Yet … even in 2018-19, we saw the limits of leaning on Gibson. In the grand scheme of things, all of Gibson’s saves really only helped the Ducks to save face.

Call it punting or tanking, but the Ducks need to embrace a rebuild now, not later. Just ask their fans.

Punting before the season even starts?

While the Ducks don’t boast the vast cap space of truly committed cellar dwellers (punters?), it’s possible they could still help cap-challenged teams while helping themselves.

Via Cap Friendly, the Ducks are currently close to the 2020-21 salary cap ceiling, but it wouldn’t be surprising if David Backes‘ $4.5M lands on LTIR. From there, the Ducks could open up a little more wiggle room.

If that happened, then the Ducks could consider calling up teams that need a breather. For the short-term pains of taking on a problem contract, the Ducks might land some valuable future pieces of the puzzle.

Embracing a rebuild would allow the Ducks to make that step earlier. But, most likely, it seems like the Ducks will need to pick up the pieces after they get kicked in the teeth …

Getzlaf: the most obvious trade chip if Ducks rebuild

Pandemic Punts: Anaheim Ducks should embrace rebuild in 2020-21 Getzlaf
(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

For quite some time, it’s been curious that the Ducks haven’t tried to trade Ryan Getzlaf.

Yes, he’s a face of the franchise, and their captain. Of course it would hurt to see him go. And there’s no denying that you’d need some buy-in, being that Getzlaf boasts a no-movement clause.

In the grand scheme of things, the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline could open up some avenues.

To start, 35-year-old Ryan Getzlaf would probably ponder a trade, much like Joe Thornton warmed up to the idea during his contract year with the Sharks.

While Getzlaf’s value isn’t peaking, he’s also entering low-risk territory. Theoretically, the Ducks could retain some of his salary in a trade. Also, while Getzlaf’s cap hit is $8.25M, his base salary is just $3M.

A big, veteran who can still produce? One who brings that sort of nastiness teams crave in the playoffs? Getzlaf checks a lot of boxes, and his cheap real-world cost could really appeal to teams who want to contend but not overspend.

Frankly, if Getzlaf signs off on a trade, it would be a major failure if the Ducks don’t pull the trigger.

Ducks punting conundrums: Trade young (but not that young) players?

As clear as trading Getzlaf feels, the most pivotal questions revolve around tougher judgment calls.

Over the years, we’ve seen the Ducks go a number of ways with similar conundrums.

Back in February 2019, it already seemed questionable to extend a player like Jakob Silfverberg. But, with Ondrej Kase, the Ducks showed at least some willingness to move a prime-age player. They might need to do so again.

  • Rickard Rakell is a nice player, especially at a cheap $3.8M cap hit. That bargain only runs through 2021-22, however, and Rakell is 27. By the time the Ducks are competitive again, Rakell’s likely to be older and more expensive.
  • For years, Hampus Lindholm ranked as one of the most underrated defensemen in the league. Even after taking a troubling step back recently, he’s still a 26-year-old gem at just $5.205M per year. But the Rakell example lingers again: that contract runs out after two seasons.
  • Josh Manson ranks as another player with just two years left on his deal ($4.1M AAV). He’s a little older at 29, but right-handed defensemen are in high demand.

Ideally, the Ducks would convince someone to shake loose some real assets for scary contracts in Silfverberg (30, $5.825M through 2023-24) and Adam Henrique (also 30, also with a deal [$5.25M] through 2023-24). Realistically, teams would be more interested in the sort of trades that would sting.

(Truly, it’s tough to avoid wincing when picturing the Ducks coughing up someone like Lindholm.)

Ducks should get ready for a future fight, rather than going down swinging meekly

No, the Ducks don’t have to trade away every Rakell/Lindholm-type player to rebuild. Still, it seems like their window to compete might not match up very well with the peak years for those players.

Taking your best shots in the future sometimes means retreating today. In the Ducks’ case, it also might mean selling off some of your best ammo.

Overall, the Ducks would be wise to punt — early, and often. Rather than going for it on Fourth and Long, the Ducks must commit fully to a rebuild.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Scroll Down For:

    Devils rally from two goals down to beat Rangers 5-3

    Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
    1 Comment

    NEW YORK – Jack Hughes and Michael McLeod scored in the second period, Vitek Vanecek stopped 35 shots and the surging New Jersey Devils rallied from an early two-goal deficit to beat the New York Rangers 5-3 on Monday night.

    Yegor Sharangovich had two goals and Tomas Tatar also scored to help the first-place Devils win their third straight since having their 13-game winning streak snapped last week. New Jersey has won 10 straight road games and has only one loss since starting the season 3-3-0.

    The Rangers raced to a 2-0 lead just three minutes into the contest but the Devils scored twice to tie it later in the first period to tie it and then scored twice in the second period to take the lead.

    “We stayed with our game. There was a calmness on the bench,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said of his team’s early deficit. “All I said on the bench was ‘let’s get the next goal and we’ll be back in the game.”‘

    Vanecek improved to 11-2-0 as scattered chants of “Let’s Go Devils” were heard at Madison Square Garden.

    The Devils have made the playoffs only once – in 2018 – since beating the Rangers in six games in the 2012 Eastern Conference finals.

    “It was great to hear the fans here on our side,” Devils forward Miles Wood said. “We can’t thank them enough.”

    Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and Vincent Trocheck scored and Chris Kreider had two assists for the Rangers, who fell to 4-5-3 at home. Igor Shesterkin had 33 saves.

    New York also lost its second straight at home in a disheartening fashion. The Rangers squandered a 3-0 third-period lead against Edmonton on Saturday to lose 4-3. Last season, they won 27 of 41 games at the Garden.

    “When one thing goes wrong it starts to snowball on us,” Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren said. “We keep saying we have to play a full 60. You can’t keep talking about it, you have to go out and do it.”

    Rangers coach Gerard Gallant credited the young and hungry Devils with playing a superior game.

    “They put lots of offense at you, they play fast and they showed that,” Gallant said. “Tonight they were the better team.”

    Tatar narrowed the deficit to 2-1 at 7:31 of the first with a nifty high backhand shot past Shesterkin for his sixth of the season. Jesper Bratt had an assist on the play, giving him a point in 18 for the Devils’ 23 games this season.

    Sharangovich tied it with an unassisted goal with 6:35 left in the first.

    Hughes put the Devils ahead at 5:44 of the second after he gained a stride on Lindgren before sliding the puck past Shesterkin for his 12th of the season and fourth in the last two games.

    McLeod made it 4-2 at 9:40 with his third goal after Wood hit the crossbar behind Shesterkin.

    “I have to play better,” said , who was also in goal for Saturday’s meltdown against Edmonton and has lost three of his last five games.

    It was the fourth time in their last six games the Devils scored at least four times and New Jersey improved to 9-0-0 when the 21-year-old Hughes – the top overall pick by the Devils in the 2019 draft – has a goal.

    Trocheck scored his eighth goal on the power play for the Rangers with 6:42 left in the third to pull within one, but Sharangovich added an empty-netter with 16 seconds remaining to seal the win.

    The Devils improved a franchise-best 13-1-0 in November and an NHL-best 16-0-0 when leading after two periods.

    “It’s fun playing here,” Hischier said. “It feels great to beat the Rangers,?

    Panarin scored 1:20 into the game to end a personal 12-game goal-scoring drought with his sixth of the season and first since Oct. 30 at Arizona.

    Zibanejad made it 2-0 at 3:01 with his team-best 11th of the season.


    Devils: Host Nashville on Thursday night.

    Rangers: At Ottawa on Wednesday night.

    Stamkos lifts Lightning past Sabres 6-5 in OT

    Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

    BUFFALO, N.Y. – Steven Stamkos scored his second goal of the game 2:44 into overtime to give the Tampa Bay Lightning a 6-5 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night.

    Brayden Point also had two goals, Brandon Hagel had a goal and an assist, and Corey Perry also scored for the Lightning, who rallied from two goals down in the third period to force overtime. Nikita Kucherov and Mikhail Sergachev each had three assists, and Stamkos added one for a three-point night.

    Brian Elliott had 32 saves to get the win.

    “We got the breaks at the end to pull us back, some big-time players got us back into it,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said.

    Tage Thompson had a goal and an assist, and Tyson Jost, Jeff Skinner, Jack Quinn and Dylan Cozens also scored for Buffalo. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 19 saves.

    “You allow good players a little bit of extra time and a little bit of extra space, they’re going to make plays on you,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “We had hesitation in our game and it was only the last 10 minutes.”

    In the extra period, Stamkos got the winner on a blast from the right circle for his 12th of the season.

    “There’s going to be games where we don’t deserve the two points and tonight was probably one of those, but we’ve been on the other side of that too,” Stamkos said.

    With the score tied at 3-3 to open the third period, the Sabres appeared to take control in the third with two goals for a 5-3 lead with a little more than 5 1/2 minutes remaining.

    Cozens put Buffalo ahead at 9:37, ripping a shot from the right circle under the crossbar and beating Elliott on the glove side. Skinner made it 5-3 with 5:41 remaining, finishing from a tight angle after an odd-man rush was initially stopped.

    However, the Lightning answered back with two goals 3 1/2 minutes apart.

    Stamkos scored just 16 seconds after Skinner’s goal to get the Lightning within one. Hagel tied it with a power-play goal with 2:02 remaining. With Elliott pulled to create a 6-on-4 advantage, Kucherov’s shot from the right circle was deflected by Hagel past Luukkonen.

    Point opened the scoring 7:54 into the game with a power-play goal from close range for his ninth.

    Perry made it 2-0 with 3:12 left in the first off a cross-ice pass from Stamkos.

    Thompson put Buffalo on the board with 2:06 left in the first, beating Elliott with some nifty stick-handling after forcing a turnover in front of the Tampa net.

    Quinn evened it 59 seconds later, finishing a nice feed from JJ Peterka on a quick offensive rush.

    Jost gave Buffalo a 3-2 lead midway through the second period, scoring his first goal with the Sabres after he was acquired off waivers from Minnesota on Nov. 19.

    Point tied it 3-3 on the power play with 3:34 left in the second after getting a pass from Kucherov.


    Each team had one player return from a recent injury. Sabres center Rasmus Asplund returned after missing two games with an upper-body injury. Tampa Bay forward Cole Koepke returned after missing three games with an upper-body injury.


    Lightning: At Boston on Tuesday night.

    Sabres: At Detroit on Wednesday night.

    Hughes has first NHL hat trick, Devils beat Capitals 5-1

    Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

    NEWARK, N.J. – Jack Hughes had his first career NHL hat trick, Vitek Vanecek made 38 saves against his former team and the New Jersey Devils beat the Washington Capitals 5-1 on Saturday for coach Lindy Ruff’s 800th victory.

    “It’s exciting,” Hughes said. “Couple of two-goal games in my career, so nice to cap it off with the third one tonight.”

    Ruff became the fifth NHL coach to reach the 800-victory mark. The former Buffalo player won 571 games with the Sabres from 1997-2011. He had 165 wins in five seasons with Dallas and has 64 in two-plus seasons with New Jersey.

    “It means I’ve been around a long time,” Ruff cracked. “Great to win the game. Again, you got to do a lot of right things, have good teams, and the way our team is playing I have to give them a lot of credit for getting me there.”

    The Atlantic Division-leading Devils have won two in a row after seeing their franchise-record 13-game winning streak snapped by Toronto.

    Devils captain Nico Hischier and Fabian Zetterlund also scored.

    John Carlson scored for Washington and Charlie Lindgren made 24 saves.

    “Not scoring goals, not capitalizing on our chances,” Carlson said. “We’ve had our chances, especially today, but we only walked away with one goal. We could have had five or six. It’s just not going in right now.”

    Vanecek, meanwhile, was hoping for the shutout against a familiar foe.

    “That would have been nice, but that’s hockey,” Vanecek said, “For sure you’re trying, but not every time; the win is more important.”

    Hischier opened up the scoring with his 10th goal of the season midway through the first period on a power play after Alexander Ovechkin was called for slashing.

    Hughes wrapped the puck around goalie Lindgren’s right leg and the goal post to put the Devils up 2-0 5:59 into the second period. Hughes appeared to have lost his angle on the goal when he ripped a shot off Lindgren’s face mask and into the net midway through the period for his 10th goal of the season to give New Jersey a 3-0 lead.

    The 2019 No. 1 overall draft pick added his third midway through the third period as hats rained down on the ice with New Jersey up 4-0.

    “You want to continue to play the right way, but if an opportunity comes you want to definitely put it in the back of the net with authority,” Hughes said. “So tonight, I was able to cap it off and it was nice.”

    Fabian Zetterlund capped the scoring for New Jersey late in the third period.

    NOTES: The Devils improved to 16-0-0 this season when Hischier has a point. New Jersey’s Nathan Bastain (upper body) did not return after the first period. . Ovechkin is still nine goals away from 800 and 11 from passing Gordie Howe for second place on the NHL goals list.


    Capitals: At Vancouver.

    Devils: At the New York Rangers.

    Bruins set NHL record with 12 straight home wins to start season

    Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    BOSTON — The Boston Bruins set the NHL record for most home victories to start a season with their 12th straight, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime with a power-play goal from David Pastrnak.

    The Bruins broke the mark of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

    “That felt awesome,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said. “We talked about it after the second (period) going into the third. There’s been a lot of great teams in this league and you’re able to set a precedent, break a record. It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen if those guys don’t believe in themselves like they do.”

    Boston, which trailed 2-0 late in the second period, tied it with 9:33 left in regulation when David Krejci scored his second of the game on a shot from the right point.

    “It’s never fun being down going into the third, you’re sitting in here (in the locker room) trying to figure it out,” Krejci said. “You want to come out and do the job, something special on the line. It’s hard to win in this league. To get 12 in a row at home is pretty special.”

    In overtime, Carolina was playing shorthanded after being called for too many men on the ice when Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Brad Marchand inside the far post from above the left circle.

    “It was a big win for us, obviously, coming from behind,” Pastrnak said.

    Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen each scored a power-play goal for Carolina, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 38 saves. The Hurricanes lost their fifth straight.

    In a rematch of last spring’s opening-round playoff series that the Hurricanes won in seven games, Carolina shutout the NHL’s highest scoring team for nearly two periods and jumped ahead a pair of power-play goals in the opening period.

    “We took too many penalties. That’s hurting us right now,” Kotaniemi said. “I think 5-on-5 we’re doing a really good job. We started good tonight and couldn’t keep that up.”

    Boston’s tying goal was originally disallowed because of goaltender interference on Nick Foligno but overturned on a coach’s challenge after it was ruled that he was nudged into the crease by Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce.

    Boston starting goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 saves but had to leave with 13:03 left in the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Teammate Connor Clifton had jumped on him to block a shot during a scramble. Jeremy Swayman made six stops in relief.

    Carolina’s Noesen scored at 6:34 in to make it 1-0. And with five minutes left in the period, Kotkaniemi collected the puck near the side of the net after Seth Jarvis‘ shot bounced off the back glass and slipped it inside the post at 15:05.

    Krejci scored for Boston with 31 seconds left in the second.

    Boston came in with a league-high 82 goals in 20 games (4.10 per game), but it was held to relatively few chances despite getting a 5-on-3 power-play advantage early on.


    The Bruins honored captain Patrice Bergeron, who recorded his 1,000th career point when the team was on the road against Tampa Bay, with a message on the Jumbotron. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

    Bergeron became just the fourth Bruin to reach the mark, joining Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).


    Hurricanes: Host the Calgary Flames.

    Bruins: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning.