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Which of the Ducks’ free agents will return next season?

May 21, 2024, 5:30 PM ET [18 Comments]
Ben Shelley
Anaheim Ducks Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT




Unlike last year, the Anaheim Ducks enter the offseason without many high-profile free agents.

While Troy Terry, Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale were all due for new contracts last summer, this year, most of the Ducks’ top players remain under contract. Adam Henrique would’ve been the team’s biggest name needing a new deal, but he was dealt at the trade deadline as a result.

That said, the team still has some minor business to take care of, in the form of some pending restricted and unrestricted free agents. Below, we take a look through any of the Ducks’ free agents who played at least 20 NHL games this year, and whether or not we can expect them to return next season.


BENOIT-OLIVIER GROULX (RFA)

After being drafted by the Duck six years ago, Groulx finally got his chance with the team this season. Unfortunately, he didn’t do much with it.

The forward got into 45 games with Anaheim, going goalless with just two assists. Now 24 years old and being passed over by others on the depth chart, it seems extremely unlikely he’ll be part of the team’s long-term plans.

The Ducks could opt to bring the forward back at a low cost to compete for a spot in training camp, but any offseason additions would just push him further down the depth chart, and there’s a good chance Anaheim just chooses to move on this summer.

PREDICTION: Not Re-signed


MAX JONES (RFA)

Jones’ return seems up in the air. He’s coming off a three-year contract, and is the longest-tenured Duck of any of the free agents.



Despite never reaching 10 goals or 20 points in a single season, Jones has often managed to make his way too high up the lineup. The winger has elements to his game to like: he’s physical and brings some intensity when he’s on the ice. At the same time, Jones just doesn’t have the skills to be in the top-nine, and if he returns, it needs to be with the clear goal in mind of having him as a fixture on the fourth line.

His return doesn’t seem certain though, especially given his ice time has slipped in recent years. He’ll also require a qualifying offer of $1.5 million, and is arbitration-eligible.

I think this one could really go either way, but we could see him back as a depth piece on the fourth line next season.

PREDICTION: Re-signed


JACKSON LACOMBE (RFA)

LaCombe’s rookie season may not have gotten as much attention as other defenders on the team, but he was still able to take on a large role, beginning the year at just 22 years old. Unless he’s packaged as part of some type of larger trade, LaCombe will have a spot with the Ducks next season.

The bigger thing with LaCombe will be trying to carve out a long-term role with the team. Pavel Mintyukov and Olen Zellweger will both be part of the defense group long-term as other left-handed blue liners, leaving LaCombe’s status a little less certain. But we can expect the defender to return on a bridge deal.

PREDICTION: Re-signed


WILLIAM LAGESSON (UFA)

I’ll keep this one brief: he played 10 games with the Ducks after being claimed off waivers from the Toronto Maple Leafs. At 28 years old, Lagesson is still trying to earn a role as a full-time NHLer, and it’s hard to imagine a situation where Anaheim has him on their opening night roster. Perhaps he’s brought back anyways and ends up back in the AHL, but the Ducks probably would’ve had to really like what they saw from a limited sample size for that to be the case.

PREDICTION: Not Re-signed


BRETT LEASON (RFA)

Another Ducks’ waiver claim – this one from the 2022-23 season – Leason has been a depth forward with the team for two years now.

Standing at 6-foot-5, Leason can bring intensity and some physicality in his game, while also seeing a jump in production this season. The winger has more of a scoring touch than a traditional depth forward, and registered 11 goals and 22 points this year. He also had a great stretch from late February to early April, where he scored five goals and 10 points across 19 games.

Leason should still only really spend time in the bottom-six, but as a low-cost option, he could provide some value in a limited role again next season.

PREDICTION: Re-signed


GUSTAV LINDSTROM (RFA)

Lindstrom was yet another waiver claim, coming to the team in January from the Montreal Canadiens.

Over that time, he actually had some decent results. While he only managed six assists in terms of his production, he managed a plus-12 rating across 32 games. Considering the only other player on the team with above a plus-5 rating was Radko Gudas, it’s a positive sign at least.

At the same time, Lindstrom will be turning 26 years old in October, and was still only averaging 15:27 per game with Anaheim. The Ducks’ blue line situation looks pretty clear-cut, where they’ll likely have five returning defenders as part of their regular members of the blue line in Cam Fowler, Pavel Mintyukov, Olen Zellweger, Radko Gudas and Jackson LaCombe, and will likely look to add a right-shot blue liner to round out their top-four.

This leaves Lindstrom on the outside looking in. Both he and fellow pending RFA Urho Vaakanainen could be spare defenders, but if one is returning (as will be talked about later), it’s probably not Lindstrom.

PREDICTION: Not Re-signed


ISAC LUNDESTROM (RFA)

Lundestrom missed significant time to start the season, but ended up getting into 46 games with the Ducks, registering 11 points.

Unfortunately, Lundestrom has failed to really take a step since signing his bridge-deal two years ago. Prior to re-signing with the team in 2022, he had averaged an 82-game pace of 12 goals and 24 points across 151 NHL games. Since signing, those numbers have actually slipped a bit, to an 82-game pace of seven goals and 19 points across 107 games.

While Lundestrom is a far more well-rounded player than Jones, his situation is fairly similar. At this point, he could be used down the lineup, but an ideal spot would be centering the fourth line. I do still think he could be a very good fit in the bottom-six if he can find a little more consistency, and he should be back on a short-term deal.

PREDICTION: Re-signed


BEN MEYERS (UFA)

It may be a hot take to say that the Ducks will re-sign a 25-year-old UFA who spent more time in the AHL than NHL, but there’s some reasoning behind this.

Meyers played just 14 games with Anaheim after being acquired from the Colorado Avalanche, registering just two assists and averaging only a little over 10 minutes per game with the Ducks. However, the one sign that points to a Meyers return is the fact that Pat Verbeek gave up a fifth-round pick at the deadline to acquire him.

Verbeek has been very careful with his asset management, and the Meyers trade was only the second time in his tenure that he’s given up a pick in a straight-up draft pick for player swap. The other was the Ilya Lyubushkin trade, but he later flipped Lyubushkin for an even better draft pick, so it doesn’t really count.

Based on Verbeek’s track record, you’d think he sees something in Meyers. This is possibly just reading way too much into a depth draft pick (where other signs would point to him moving along), but I’m projecting he could be re-signed to a one or two-year deal, near league minimum.

PREDICTION: Re-signed


URHO VAAKANAINEN (RFA)

After being held to just 23 games with the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen was able to stay healthy this year and even earned a Bill Masterton Trophy nomination.

In 68 games, the defenseman registered 14 points and an even rating, while averaging about 17:30 per game. As talked about before though, while Vaakanainen may have taken a nice step this season, he could get pushed out of the lineup if there are any additions.

Still, at 25 years old, Vaakanainen is arguably the perfect spare defender. He’s trusted enough and can put together some good results when called upon, but you’re also not overly worried about further development for him.

Vaakanainen could be a candidate to return as a 7th defenseman for the Ducks.

PREDICTION: Re-signed




OTHER OFFSEASON ARTICLES

- Season Recap: Did the Ducks make any progress?
- Assessing Pat Verbeek’s tenure as Ducks General Manager so far
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