Ducks Should Consider These 3 Remaining Free Agents

The 2022 Rookie Showcase wrapped up on Monday, Sept. 19 in San Jose, thus ending our first look at some of the young stars of tomorrow in Pacific Division hockey. The Anaheim Ducks featured the likes of forwards Mason McTavish, Jacob Perrault, and Brayden Tracey over the weekend among others. The trio should all be locks to make the jump to the NHL this season. The team has already shored up on skill this offseason, with the additions of John Klingberg, Dmitry Kulikov, Frank Vatrano and Ryan Strome.

Related: Ducks News & Rumors: Miller, Beaulieu & More

Looking at the Ducks’ opening night roster is giving fans a renewed optimism, as the team will be looking to take a step forward this year. However, depth is still a concern as one injury could unravel this team if a key player were to miss considerable time.

With their eyes set firmly on taking this young core to the playoffs, Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek is still looking to make one or two more additions. Here are three remaining free agents he likely has his eye on in hopes of rounding out his troop for the beginning of the season.

Nathan Beaulieu

This is the most likely scenario, as the Ducks signed Nathan Beaulieu to a professional tryout (PTO) back on Sept. 9. He is the ideal candidate to function as a bodyguard to his rookie counterparts and could easily slot in on the third pairing alongside Jamie Drysdale. Standing at a healthy 6-foot-2 and weighing in at 200 pounds, the 2011 first-round draft pick should be a safe play on nights when the game script calls for a heavier presence on the back end. As a defenseman, his numbers offensively will not make him the most eye-popping candidate on this list as he struggled to produce under multiple bench bosses in Winnipeg.

Nathan Beaulieu Winnipeg Jets
Nathan Beaulieu, Winnipeg Jets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In 105 games, spanning four seasons with the Jets, Beaulieu put up just 18 points. Though his offensive numbers never made him an appealing candidate, over the same four-year span the 29-year-old dropped the gloves 12 times, stepping up for young teammates in Winnipeg such as Patrick Laine, Kyle Connor and Nikolaj Ehlers among others.

If the Ducks are to develop their rookies into confident skaters at the NHL level, they will need more players like Beaulieu to give them all the space they need to flourish. Surely head coach Dallas Eakins is chomping at the bit to get a big body like his under contract sooner rather than later, but it will still be beneficial to see how he skates at main camp before making any rash decisions.

Tyler Ennis

One of the more attractive names left on the free agency board, Tyler Ennis proved he has much more to give as a hard-working and savvy winger who is not afraid to play tough in the corners. Last season, the 32-year-old winger amassed eight goals and 16 assists in 57 games with the Ottawa Senators. He played a leadership role skating alongside Tim Stutzle at times and getting in some powerplay time with Josh Norris and Brady Tkachuk. He would likely be asked to play the same role in Anaheim, as the two teams are in similar circumstances in terms of development.

While Ennis will not provide the same level of grit you would get from Beaulieu, the Ducks could benefit from a journeyman talent such as him, who can play up and down the lineup at the NHL level or be a mentor for the American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, San Diego Gulls.

Tyler Ennis Ottawa Senators
Tyler Ennis, Ottawa Senators (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Ennis is a reliable penalty killer as well and could help the Ducks maintain one of the finer aspects of the game from 2021-22, as they finished 10th in the NHL last season on the kill, operating at 80.8%. The real selling point on him is the price tag, as he would cost the team no more than $1.5 million on a two-way deal. Getting him under contract for the start of the regular season would be tight, but kicking the tires on a versatile player is never a bad idea.

Tyler Bozak

Tyler Bozak is a dark-horse pick and is the biggest gamble with the highest ceiling. After all, this is a career clutch performer and a former Stanley Cup champion with the St. Louis Blues. Albeit there’s a risk factor in giving a player like him one final hurrah before he calls it a career.

For example, Bozak ended the regular season last year with the Blues on the injured reserve list nursing a lower-body injury. Then he made a return in the playoffs and scored two goals in six games, including an overtime winner in Game 5 of their series against the Colorado Avalanche.

Like Ennis, the 36-year-old will not be expected to, nor can he produce like he did in his days with the Toronto Maple Leafs. On a talented, young Ducks roster, he would once again take on the role of ‘on-ice mentor’ as he’s done throughout his tenure with the Blues.

Tyler Bozak St. Louis Blues
Tyler Bozak, St. Louis Blues (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Managed properly, Bozak would ideally fill out a fourth-line spot on nights that call for a longer bench. Overall, he is an experienced centerman and great teammate, who can play on the penalty kill or the powerplay and loves to shoot the puck. Taking a chance on a one-year deal keeps the risk low with the potential for a lot of growth. If the goal for the Ducks this season is to make a splash, taking him under their wing is something to consider, though any of these three free agents would bolster their already promising lineup going into 2022-23.

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