Ducks Qualify Five Players; Don’t Qualify Six Others

Photo: USA Today

By Thomas Harrington

Today the Anaheim Ducks announced that they were giving qualifying offers to five players: goaltender Lukas Dostal, defenseman Jamie Drysdale, center Benoit-Olivier Groulx, right wing Troy Terry, and center Trevor Zegras. It was also announced they did not give qualifying offers to six players: defenseman Axel Andersson, defenseman Simon Benoit, left wing Max Comtois, goaltender Olle Eriksson Ek, right wing Bryce Kindopp, and left wing Josiah Slavin.

When the Ducks and other teams extend qualifying offers to their restricted free agents, they are essentially signaling that they are planning on retaining that player’s rights. Depending on how much the player made the previous season, the team must offer a contract that pays at least a certain percentage of the previous contract. If there is no qualifying offer made, the player becomes an unrestricted free agent and can sign where they want, including back with the team that failed to qualify them. Sometimes teams will not qualify a player in the hopes of re-signing them to less than they would have made with the qualifying offer. Once a qualifying offer has been made, the two sides can work out a longer deal, or the player can take the qualifying offer as a one-year deal.

The five players who received qualifying offers were easy calls for the Ducks to make, especially Zegras, Terry, and Drsydale. Zegras and Terry have become Anaheim’s top two forwards, while Drysdale is one of their rising defensive stars. Both Zegras and Terry will likely command long-term deals, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see one or both get an eight-year deal. Drysdale is more likely to get a bridge deal given that he missed essentially all of last season with an injury.

Dostal looks ready to be an NHL backup this season, while Groulx was one of San Diego’s most consistent forwards last season and will hopefully see more NHL time this coming season. Neither will get a long-term extension, but I could see a two or three-year deal for Dostal and a one or two-year deal for Groulx. Both could get a two-way deal, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Dostal got a one-way deal.

The Ducks acquired Andersson from Boston as part of the Ondrej Kase deal. Unfortunately, he’s really struggled with injuries during his time in the Anaheim organization, often missing large chunks of the season. As a result, he hasn’t progressed as much as was hoped for when he was acquired. He’s expected to play in the HockeyAllsvenskan next season.

Benoit is a bit of a surprise to see not get a qualifying offer. He’s spent his entire professional career in Anaheim and San Diego. While he’ll never be a great defenseman, he’s serviceable as a sixth or seventh defenseman and wasn’t making very much. While it was already clear the Ducks were going to revamp their defense heading into next season, not qualifying him signals that even more so.

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Comtois was a second round pick from 2017. He had a strong start to his NHL career, but his play and point totals fell off these past two seasons, with 16 points in 52 games in the 2021-2022 season and 19 points in 64 games in the 2022-2023 season. Given that level of production, I understand why the Ducks are not qualifying him. There’s still a chance the Ducks try to sign him to a cheaper contract, but I find that situation unlikely. Personally, given the cap space the Ducks have, I would have preferred to see him qualified and given another chance. With that not happening, I’m hoping this means the Ducks have plans to fill his position with either a free agent or one of their up-and-coming prospects.

Eriksson Ek was a fifth round pick from 2017 who struggled at the AHL level. He did get one game of NHL action this past season when the Ducks were dealing with injury issues in net, but with Gage Alexander and Calle Clang in San Diego next season, it was unsurprising to see Eriksson Ek let go. He’ll play overseas next season.

An undrafted free agent out of the WHL, the Ducks gave Kindopp an entry-level deal three years ago. His first two years went well, with 20 points in 39 AHL games in the 2020-2021 season and 29 points in 67 games and one NHL game in the 2021-2022 season. But Kindopp was one of several players in San Diego who disappointed last season, finishing with nine points in 65 games, so it was unsurprising to see him not qualified.

Slavin was acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks for Hunter Drew back in February. He played well for the Gulls, scoring seven points in 16 games. The Gulls will likely be gaining several Anaheim prospects next season and letting Slavin go is helping make room for them on the roster.

Free agency is about to begin. With a flat cap, several teams have not qualified a number of good players, meaning what was originally thought to be a weak free agent class has improved. We’ll see what kind of moves and signings the Ducks make in the coming days.

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June 30th, 2023


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