Ducks Interim GM Jeff Solomon Faces Important Decisions

The Bob Murray era ended in Anaheim this week after 13 seasons. After being placed on administrative leave by the Anaheim Ducks, due to creating a hostile work environment, Murray turned in his resignation letter to owner Henry Samueli and will be enrolled in an alcohol abuse program.

Jeff Solomon Anaheim Ducks
Jeff Solomon Anaheim Ducks (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Assistant general manager Jeff Solomon will assume the role of interim general manager as the team begins the search for a replacement. They expect to complete the process by “no later than next summer.” In the meantime, Solomon will have several franchise-altering decisions to make for the Ducks during the course of his on-the-job audition for the permanent role.

An Introduction To Jeff Solomon

Solomon’s career in the NHL began as a player agent before joining the Los Angeles Kings in 2006. His experience on the negotiation side of the sport made him an asset to the Kings’ front office, where he spent the next 15 seasons as their vice-president of hockey operations and legal affairs. His knowledge of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and management of the salary cap played a pivotal role in the team’s two Stanley Cup Championships in 2012 and 2014.

Related: Kings’ Longtime Executive Jeff Solomon Heads to Anaheim

Solomon joined the Ducks in May when Murray hired him as assistant general manager and vice president of hockey operations. It was a promotion from Solomon’s previous position, but his same areas of expertise would be utilized as before. Now with Murray gone, it remains to be seen whether Solomon is given the final word in decisions.

Mason McTavish and the Entry-Level Slide

Solomon’s first big decision surrounds Mason McTavish’s entry-level contract (ELC). The third-overall pick in the 2021 Entry Draft has played five NHL games this season. If McTavish were to play 10 games, the first year of his ELC would be used. If he were to be sent back to the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) before 10 games, his ELC would “slide” a year. This is essentially a tool at the disposal of general managers that allows them to hold onto a really cheap contract for an extra season while the player continues to develop in a lower league.

With Solomon’s role not guaranteed beyond this season, whether or not McTavish becomes a restricted free agent in 2024 or 2025 probably won’t factor into his decision making. Even at 18 years old, McTavish looks like an NHL-ready prospect right now. Peterborough and the OHL may not have much to offer him in terms of further development, and if his services help Solomon now, it’s reasonable to believe he plays beyond the 10-game threshold.

Pending UFAs and the Trade Deadline: Rakell, Lindholm, Manson

The Ducks were expected to be major players during last season’s trade deadline, but failed to make any significant moves. With Solomon in charge and an added layer of urgency, this year’s trade deadline may be more active. Rickard Rakell, Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson, Nic Deslauriers, and Ryan Getzlaf are all unrestricted free agents (UFA) after this season.

Josh Manson Anaheim Ducks
Josh Manson, Anaheim Ducks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Getzlaf would likely only be traded under special circumstances — that being the captain himself walking into Solomon’s office and requesting it. But the other upcoming UFAs can be typecast as desirable deadline assets; Rakell is a play-driving forward capable of filling the net, Lindholm and Manson are “defensive” defensemen who can utilize finesse and physicality, and Deslauriers plays with an edge that many talented teams feel like they lack heading into the postseason.

The risk of failing to trade any of these players would be that they leave the Ducks organization in the offseason with nothing coming back as compensation. If Solomon determines that these UFAs don’t factor into the long-term plans for the Ducks, they should be moved for assets that would better suit the team during their competitive window.

The Future of the Ducks

Regardless of Murray’s departure, this was going to be a bellwether season for the Ducks. The youngest group of players, the likes of Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale, are just beginning their NHL careers. Then there’s a larger group of players in their early-to-mid-20s, players like Sam Steel, Troy Terry, and Max Comtois, who need to shed the “prospect” tag and become the next group of reliable NHL players.

Then, of course, the older group. Not everyone over the age of 28 is going to be traded, but roster spots need to be opened up for some near-future Ducks playing in the Ontario and American Hockey Leagues. Actions have been taken to make the Ducks a competitive team within a few years, but decisions have to be made by Solomon that will affect the team’s trajectory.

Based on his past experience as a money manager and player evaluator, Solomon can earn the full-time general manager position based on how he navigates the rest of this season. His areas of expertise should be used to help continue building an already promising future for the Ducks.

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