Free agency begins this morning at 9 AM PST. For the first time in his career, Ryan Getzlaf will be a free agent. The center has spent his entire NHL career with the Anaheim Ducks up until this point and while it initially seemed a foregone conclusion that he would return to Orange County, this scenario appears to be slightly murky now.
This isn’t the first time this year that Getzlaf has been rumored to leave. Anaheim and the Vegas Golden Knights came close to reaching a deal that would have sent Getzlaf to his in-division rival, but inevitably the captain decided that the return wasn’t good enough.
One Last Shot at the Cup?
The Ducks have an ample amount of cap space, so financial implications won’t be an issue for bringing Getzlaf back. It’s a matter of whether he wants one last shot at the Cup. The Ducks are in no position to be a contender, with or without Getzlaf.
The Nashville Predators and the Boston Bruins are just two teams that have displayed interest in signing the 36-year-old once he hits free agency. The Montreal Canadiens and Dallas Stars–teams that have housed former teammate and longtime friend Corey Perry–would also be fits, reports The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun. Getzlaf has mentioned recently how seeing Perry get back to the Stanley Cup Final gave him the itch to be on a playoff contender. He’s also said how miserable this past season’s performance was and that it wasn’t fun.
“It definitely has created an itch for sure seeing what he’s been able to go and do and be part of other organizations and see how the hockey world is outside of Anaheim.”
-Ryan Getzlafvia The Cam & Strick Podcast
The Ducks have never had a star spend their entire career with the team in their 27-season existence. Perry had a chance at potentially being the first but was bought out. That leaves Getzlaf. The possibility of having the longtime captain finish out his career—whenever that will be—with the team that drafted and developed him into the player he is now would be a mark of achievement. Very rarely is it the case nowadays that a franchise player spends his entire career with one team.
No One Up Next
Getzlaf isn’t the player that he once was. He’s clearly lost a step since holding the role as No. 1 center ahead of Ryan Kesler during the Ducks’ number of consecutive playoff runs. Head coach Dallas Eakins even began resting him toward the end of this season during back-to-back games as “maintenance days.” But he still has something to give. The vision and strength are still there, despite the many years of wear and tear.
The Ducks’ center depth is fairly shallow and without Getzlaf, it becomes even scarcer. Trevor Zegras is the proclaimed No. 1 center of the future but needs a couple more pro seasons under his belt before reaching that point. Adam Henrique figures to be gone this offseason, given how much his name has swirled around the rumor mill.
That leaves Isac Lundestrom, Sam Steel and Derek Grant. Not necessarily bad players, but they aren’t going to get you to the playoffs currently. Lundestrom showed flashes of an improved player this season compared to past NHL stints, while Steel continued to regress and found himself either on the fourth line or in the press box on some occasions.
Grant captured the hearts of Ducks fans with his versatility during the 2017-18 season, which sparked the “Elite 1C” moniker that has followed him on social media ever since. He’s found success in Anaheim, but at best, he’s a reliable bottom-6 forward.
Keep the Captain
Not only would retaining Getzlaf keep a valuable veteran leader in the locker room, but he’s also one of the most popular players in franchise history. The departure of Perry also disappointed fans, but it came when the organization felt that younger players were ready to take the next step and could replace the production that an injury-wrought Perry had brought.
Getzlaf is just 18 points away from the prestigious total of 1,000 and 21 goals away from 300. By reaching 1,000 points, he would be the first player to do so with the Ducks. He also sits seven points behind Teemu Selanne for the franchise lead in career points. For fans to return to Honda Center in a full capacity fashion and witness Getzlaf accomplish both of these feats would truly be a sight to behold, regardless of the team’s performance as a whole.
“I’m not much of a numbers guy, but it would be nice to pass Teemu and go down the street and give him a little jab.”
-Ryan Getzlafvia interview with Adam Brady
LeBrun reported that the Ducks did indeed make an offer to Getzlaf, but at this point, it looks like he will be testing free agency. There were doubts at the end of this season about whether Getzlaf would even return to hockey next season or call it a career.
But it appears that he’s rearing to go and is ready to continue his journey with a different team, perhaps. Previously, he had said that he would be very hard-pressed to find himself in a different uniform, but things can change instantly. It would be quite unfortunate if Getzlaf were to pull on the jersey of another NHL team and the Ducks need to do everything they can to make sure that doesn’t happen.