The Anaheim Ducks have cast an eye to the future in signing winger Ondrej Kase to a three-year contract.
When the Anaheim Ducks begin this season, they might be a little slow coming onto the ice. It happens when you get old. The hips don’t move as much fluidity and bones begin to snap apart like Slim Jim snippets.
On the surface, a team averaging just north of 28 years old doesn’t seem like cause for concern. Especially a team coming off a sixth straight postseason appearance. Yet in the NHL, 28 might as well be recalculated into dog years. In fact, it currently marks the Ducks as one of the top five oldest clubs in the league.
So when Anaheim resigned 22-year-old restricted free agent Ondrej Kase on Wednesday — a three-year deal worth $7.8 million — we can gather that there’s more going on here than simply rewarding a guy who put up 20 goals in his second season.
It won’t be long before age finally comes to galvanize the core of this team. Sure, goaltender John Gibson is now locked in for the next seven years. He’s a puppy at 25. Defenseman Cam Fowler is only 26.
But what about Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, the two engines that have made the Ducks think they could for so many seasons? Both turned 33 back in May. Ryan Kesler is also 33, for another 15 days. Backup goaltender Ryan Miller is in the midst of stockpiling pamphlets for nursing homes. He’ll be 39 come next July.
The takeaway here is that the breeze from an open playoff window is stalling fast. It’s not to say that the Ducks can’t win another championship before contracts begin to expire. Simply that their eyes are clearly beginning to shift towards a youth movement. It’s time to start thinking about life post-Perry and Getzlaf.
It sounds like a no-brainer (for teams and not necessarily fans who think with their hearts), except when you look around the league and realize many clubs have failed to bite the bullet on developing youth, instead opting to ride or die with players nearing middle age.
As noted, Kase broke out this past season, scoring 20 goals and 38 points. He was a seventh round pick in 2014. They also extended Rickard Rakell on a team-friendly deal after he put up 69 points in 77 games. It’s clear that a new core is forming, or at least the Ducks have to hope that’s the case. Most interesting is what’s to come in another year or two. How does Anaheim make this transition as seamless as possible?
What happens to Kesler or Perry when they’re 35 or 36? It’s easy to begin the process of building and moving on now, when no one is actually going anywhere. So too these decisions will depend a lot on the progress of players like Kase. It’s easy as well to say you’re okay with change, when a guy has one good season. But how quickly the turn tables if things don’t go as as planned.