Ducks: 3 Potential Landing Spots for John Gibson

The 2022 offseason is destined to be an important one for the Anaheim Ducks franchise. With a flurry of trades around February’s deadline, the retirement of Ryan Getzlaf, and a handful of roster mainstays becoming free agents, the Ducks will enter the 2022-23 season with a much different look than years prior.

The renewed optimism surrounding the club comes on the heels of some recent disastrous seasons. John Gibson’s play, in particular, has been on a downward trend for the last three seasons. Considered an elite goaltender when he’s at his best, he’s been asked to shoulder a heavy burden behind a rebuilding defensive core. As a result, Gibson’s career goals saved above expected (GSAA) dropped from 53.5 in 2018 to an even 34 after three straight seasons in the red.

John Gibson Anaheim Ducks
John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

While Gibson appears capable of playing at an elite level, it’s becoming increasingly unlikely that his remaining prime years can’t perfectly align with Anaheim’s future competitive window. He may have reached that conclusion himself, as Sportsnet’s Nick Alberga is reporting that Gibson’s informed the Ducks that he is open to a trade. Gibson since rebuffed that report, telling The Athletic’s Eric Stephens that he hasn’t asked for a trade and that he wants to win in Anaheim (from ‘Ducks’ John Gibson says he hasn’t asked for a trade: ‘None of that is true,’ The Athletic, June 14, 2022).

There are semantics at play. Alberga mentioned that Gibson was simply open to a move, and Gibson only denied asking for a trade. Regardless of the truth behind the spin, general manager Pat Verbeek has fully committed to a rebuild and will likely take calls regarding his 28-year-old netminder if it can help those efforts. Trading Gibson may not be easy — his contract has five more years at $6.4 million per year, as well as a 10-team no-move clause. Here’s a look at three teams who may take interest in Gibson despite these hurdles.

New Jersey Devils

Similar to the Ducks out west, there’s a renewed sense of optimism in New Jersey after several down seasons. Jack Hughes has begun to look like the superstar he was always going to be, forming a young and exciting core with Nico Hischier, Yegor Sharangovich, and Jesper Bratt. GM Tom Fitzgerald made the big splash of last year’s offseason when he signed Dougie Hamilton to a 7-year deal. The biggest question mark surrounding the Devils as they make the competitive leap forward is the goaltending position. Last year, they had seven different goaltenders play multiple games, with only Jonathan Bernier putting up a save percentage above .900.

Related: Ducks 2022 Offseason Player Reviews: John Gibson

With Mackenzie Blackwood on the books for only one more year and about $25 million in cap space, the Devils have the ability to upgrade the goaltending position immediately. While a trade involving prospects is unlikely, the Devils have a unique bargaining chip with the second overall pick in this year’s draft. They won’t trade the pick unless it’s for a dynamic star. I’m not sure if a goaltender can be considered “dynamic,” but packaging Gibson along with the 10th overall pick might be enough to sway the Devils.

Washington Capitals

From a team just entering their competitive window to a team desperately trying to keep theirs open, the Capitals are also in a position to employ Gibson’s services. As constructed, Washington is expected to have around $9 million in cap space. The roster is largely set in place, but not a single goaltender is under contract for the 2022-23 season. Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov combined to be a fairly average goalie tandem, but both are restricted free agents with arbitration rights.

John Gibson Anaheim Ducks
John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Trading for Gibson would allow the Capitals to have a workhorse goaltender for the rest of Alex Ovechkin’s career; maximizing these final few years should be a priority for the organization. The Capitals don’t have the strongest prospect pipeline in the league, but that shouldn’t discourage Verbeek and the Ducks. The Capitals have draft picks in the first two rounds in each of the next three drafts. Along with a draft pick or two, packaging a veteran player like Anthony Mantha will be an immediate upgrade for the Ducks while giving the Capitals an extra $5.7 million to complete their roster.

Toronto Maple Leafs

The Ducks and Maple Leafs are no strangers to goaltending trades. Six years ago, the Ducks shipped Freddie Andersen up north, giving the path for Gibson to become the franchise goaltender. Andersen was a serviceable workhorse for Toronto, but diminishing returns after each season encouraged a switch to Jack Campbell. Campbell is an unrestricted free agent, and Toronto’s ability to work a deal with him will dictate if they even need to make a deal for Gibson.

Of the teams that could be suitors for Gibson, Toronto’s salary cap situation is the most precarious. The Ducks can offer different forms of cap relief, like taking on the contracts of Petr Mrazek and Jake Muzzin, which would combine for just short of $9.5 million. While neither of them would fit into the Ducks’ long-term plans, the deal would also likely include younger NHL talent like Alex Kerfoot or a prospect like Arcadia-native Nick Robertson.

The Ducks shouldn’t feel any pressure to deal Gibson unless it benefits the franchise moving forward. The conflicting reports about his openness to a trade imply that he isn’t trying to force his way out of Anaheim, and the term on his contract isn’t adding any additional pressure. Even if the Ducks can’t find a trade partner in the offseason, Verbeek could wait until next season’s trade deadline for new suitors in need of a goaltender.

All salary cap info provided by CapFriendly.

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