Ducks begin life after Getzlaf with 4-year playoff drought

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ryan Getzlaf’s retirement from the Anaheim Ducks signals the start of a new era, both for the star center and for the organization he’s leaving behind.

While Getzlaf works on his golf game and increases his family time, the Ducks hope next year is when they’ll finally be contenders again.

“I feel like we’re making the progress, even if it’s not always coming through in the results,” Getzlaf said. “There’s better days ahead for this franchise, and I’m going to be happy to see it.”

The Ducks have missed the Stanley Cup playoffs in four consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history, but their increasing wealth of young talent suggests they’ll soon have the players who can end the drought. They showed that capability intermittently this season, but ultimately fell well short of every preseason goal while finishing 31-37-14 and in seventh place in the Pacific Division.

The Ducks were in playoff contention until the All-Star break, and then they flopped mightily. Anaheim lost 27 of its final 35 games overall, and an 11-game losing streak in March erased the Ducks from playoff contention before the skid ended one short of the franchise record.

The season wasn’t all disappointment, however.

Trevor Zegras cemented his status as one of the most exciting young players in hockey with his franchise-record 61 points as a rookie. The playmaking center and master of the lacrosse goal is a Calder Trophy candidate and one of the NHL’s top must-watch players.

Most Ducks fans hope Zegras will be lining up more often next season alongside Troy Terry, who capped his breakthrough All-Star season with 37 goals — the most by an Anaheim team leader since Corey Perry scored 43 in the 2013-14 season.

Anaheim has a decent mix of youth and experience across its roster. New general manager Pat Verbeek has the assets to add much more of both to the mix this summer, putting the Ducks in position for more sustained success.

BIG PIECES

Verbeek acknowledged the Ducks are still in rebuilding mode when he got the job in February, and he hopes he accelerated it at the trade deadline when he dealt defensemen Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson and forwards Rickard Rakell and Nic Deslauriers after determining he couldn’t sign any of the pending free agents to new contracts. All four were veteran contributors to Anaheim, but all four brought in picks and players that could be useful in the Ducks’ next era. How Verbeek deploys his assets will determine Anaheim’s fate.

HE’S BACK

Verbeek already resolved a major offseason question last month when he announced coach Dallas Eakins would return for a fourth season behind the bench. Eakins has never had a winning record in parts of six seasons as an NHL coach, and he has little success to show for his work with the Ducks. But Verbeek saw enough to pick up Eakins’ contract option for 2022-23, keeping continuity for a franchise making major changes in other areas. Eakins’ three assistant coaches — Mike Stothers, Geoff Ward and Newell Brown — are also returning.

IN NET

John Gibson’s future remains a tantalizing question. The longtime Ducks goalie is under a long-term contract paying him $6.4 million in each of the next five seasons. His value on the trade market is unclear, and he has a no-trade clause. He is among the NHL’s best when healthy and in form, but backup Anthony Stolarz posted superior statistics this season. Gibson, who turns 29 this summer, has yet to express any significant disappointment about spending the prime of his career on a losing team.

DEFENSIVE GAPS

Verbeek must bolster an unimpressive defense that struggled after Lindholm and Manson were traded. Cam Fowler and inconsistent Kevin Shattenkirk are under contract for next year, and youngster Jamie Drysdale continues to develop. Nearly every spot on the blue line could stand an upgrade, and Verbeek will have multiple paths to do it.

NEXT CAPTAIN?

The Ducks must choose a team captain for the first time since 2010, when Getzlaf took the “C” following Scott Niedermayer’s retirement. Fowler is the obvious choice with his 12-season career spent entirely in Anaheim, but the team could pass leadership to a new generation by choosing Zegras or Terry.

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    Capitals sign Dylan Strome to five-year, $25 million extension

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    FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Washington Capitals signed forward Dylan Strome to a five-year extension worth $25 million.

    The team announced the contract during NHL All-Star Weekend, which is taking place in South Florida – the place Strome was drafted third in 2015.

    Strome will count $5 million against the salary cap through the 2027-28 season. He was set to be a restricted free agent this summer.

    “Dylan is an intelligent and skilled center and has been a great addition to our organization,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “We are pleased to sign him to a long-term contract. We feel his skill set is a great fit for our team as he enters the prime years of his career at an important position.”

    Strome is getting a raise from the $3.5 million deal he signed with the Capitals after the Chicago Blackhawks opted not to tender him a qualifying offer and made him a free agent. Strome has 11 goals and 25 assists in 36 games this season and ranks third on Washington’s roster with 14 power-play points.

    The Mississauga, Ontario, native who played his junior hockey alongside Connor McDavid with the Erie Otters has 206 points in 325 regular-season NHL games with the Arizona Coyotes, Blackhawks and Capitals.

    Golden Knights captain Mark Stone undergoes back surgery

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    LAS VEGAS — Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone is out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery in Denver, the club announced.

    The Knights termed the procedure as successful and that Stone “is expected to make a full recovery.”

    This is the second time in less than a year that Stone has had back surgery. He also had a procedure May 19, 2022, and Stone said in December this was the best he had felt in some time.

    But he was injured Jan. 12 against the Florida Panthers, and his absence has had a noticeable effect on the Knights. They have gone 1-5-2 without Stone, dropping out of first place in the Pacific Division into third.

    Stone is second on the team in goals with 17 and in points with 38.

    Devils associate coach Andrew Brunette charged with DUI

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    DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — New Jersey Devils associate coach and former Florida Panthers head coach Andrew Brunette was arrested in South Florida while driving home from a bar in his golf cart, authorities said.

    Brunette, 49, was pulled over just blocks from the ocean in the Deerfield Beach area, north of Fort Lauderdale, according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office arrest report. He was charged with one count of driving under the influence and two counts of disobeying a stop or yield sign. Brunette was released on $500 bond.

    The Devils said in a statement that the team was aware of Brunette’s arrest and gathering additional information.

    According to the arrest report, a deputy was in the process of giving Brunette’s illegally parked golf cart a ticket around midnight when Brunette walked out of a nearby bar and told the deputy he was about to leave. The deputy said Brunette seemed unsteady on his feet and slurred his speech, and when he was joined by his wife, the deputy said he overheard the wife tell Brunette not to drive while the deputy was there.

    The deputy remained in the area and reported watching the couple drive away about 17 minutes later, according to the report. The deputy said he watched the golf cart run two stop signs before pulling Brunette over on a residential street about a mile away from his home. According to the report, Brunette had difficulty following instructions during a field sobriety test before eventually quitting and asking for an attorney. He also declined to take a breathe test to measure his blood-alcohol level, officials said.

    Online jail and court records didn’t list an attorney for Brunette.

    Brunette is in his first season as associate coach of the Devils. He was interim coach of the Florida Panthers last season after taking over when Joel Quenneville resigned for his connection to a 2010 Chicago Blackhawks sexual abuse scandal.

    The Panthers fired Brunette after they lost in the second round of the playoffs last spring despite him leading them to the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top team during the regular season.

    The Sudbury, Ontario, native played 1,159 NHL games for Washington, Nashville, Atlanta, Minnesota, Colorado and Chicago from 1995-2012. He was a Wild assistant in 2015-16 and worked on Florida’s staff from 2019-2022.

    Stars aligned with new coach DeBoer, Nill-constructed roster

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    DALLAS — General manager Jim Nill sensed things were coming together for the Dallas Stars even before the season started with new coach Pete DeBoer and a roster mixed with proven veterans, up-and-coming young players, and even a teenaged center.

    At the NHL’s All-Star break, after 51 games together, these Stars are leading the Western Conference.

    “Every year you start, you put a team together, and there’s always going to be question marks,” said Nill, in his 10th season as the Stars GM. “You have ideas how you think you’re going to come together, but there’s always the unknown. . This year has been one of those years where right from the start, you could just see everything was kind of jelling.”

    The Stars (28-13-10, 66 points) have their trio of 2017 draft picks that just keep getting better: All-Star winger Jason Robertson, goaltender Jake Oettinger and defenseman Miro Heiskanen. The seemingly ageless Joe Pavelski, at 38 and already re-signed for next season, is on the high-scoring top line with Robertson and point-a-game winger Roope Hintz. Wyatt Johnston, their first-round pick in 2021 and half Pavelski’s age, has 13 goals.

    There is also the resurgence of six-time All-Star forward Tyler Seguin two years after hip surgery and 33-year-old captain Jamie Benn, who already has more goals (19) than he did playing all 82 games last season.

    The Stars have a plus-40 goal differential, which is second-best in the NHL. They are averaging 3.37 goals per game, more than a half-goal better than last season when they were the only team to make the playoffs after being outscored in the regular season. They are also allowing fewer goals, and have improved on power plays and penalty kills.

    “Where we sit at this break, I think guys are happy with that,” Seguin said, before being asked the keys to the Stars leading the West and on pace for a 100-point season with their new coach.

    “Our style, our team speed, our puck speed, being predictable. All the clichés, knowing where the puck’s going. Really how we play the five-man unit,” he said. “Our pace this year, it’s been a lot quicker. There’s been some solid depth scoring this year while we’ve got one of the best lines in hockey.”

    The Stars went into the break on their only three-game losing streak of the season, all 3-2 overtime losses at home.

    “Those aren’t real losses,” said DeBoer, who twice has gone to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season with a new team. “I’m happy where we’re at. I like how we’re playing.”

    Plus, Dallas won’t have to worry in the playoffs about 3-on-3 hockey, which has been the only real stain on their season so far. Only one team has more than its 10 losses after regulation.

    “We’ve played a lot of good hockey. We’ve made a lot of good strides in our game,” DeBoer said. “We still have another level we have to get to when we get back, but there are a lot of good things that have happened. They’ve worked to have us where we are right now in the standings. Good spot to be in.”

    The Stars have 31 games left in the regular season. The first four after the break at home, like the last four before their week-long hiatus.

    Robertson’s 33 goals rank sixth in the NHL, and the 23-year-old has the same number of assists while averaging 1.29 points a game even after he missed most of training camp before signing a four-year, $31 million contract. Pavelski has 48 points (14 goals, 34 assists) while playing every game, and Hintz 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists) in only 43 games.

    Oettinger, who is 21-7 in regulation, has a .923 save percentage and 2.26 goals against average since signing his three-year, $12 million contract. That deal came after 223 saves in a seven-game playoff series against Calgary last May, capped by 64 in the series finale that went to overtime.

    Nill said Robertson’s production has improved even with the league adjusting to the high-scoring forward, and that Oettinger is proving to be one of the league’s best goalies. But they are just part of what has been a tremendous team effort.

    “They kind of had that mojo right from the start, and it was kind of this team’s got the right mix,” Nill said. “It’s come together well, and it’s shown in the standings. It’s been good to watch.”