The reverberations from the Ducks’ playoff elimination were felt deeply Thursday, enough to have an impact on their off-season strategy and next season.
Defensemen Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen are expected to have shoulder surgery to repair torn la-brums, general manager Bob Murray said. Lindholm will need four to five months of recovery and Vatanen “is worse,” Murray said.
Vatanen and Lindholm were injured in the first-round series against the Calgary Flames. Both played through the second and third rounds.
“Tough kids,” Murray said.
Their recoveries will cut into next season and will make Murray’s job more difficult. The Ducks’ supply of young defensemen is a big bargaining chip, but they have to adjust with the expansion draft, entry draft and free agency looming.
“It’s making us take a step backwards,” Murray said. “But we’ve known this since the Calgary series. We’ve known this is coming … so we’ll have to address some situations on defense to get us through that first two months [of next season].”
Murray must expose players to next month’s expansion draft, which could hinder his ability to shape the rest of the roster. He has reached out to general manager George McPhee of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.
“There may be ways to do things with George where I can not affect too much, and give him something that he may need,” Murray said.
Murray must protect Ry-an Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa in the expansion draft because of their no-movement claus-es, but players can agree to waive such clauses. Murray admitted being vague on some topics, including the status of Simon Despres since the defenseman’s career has fallen into jeopardy because of head injuries.
“Soon enough, everything will be clear,” Murray said.
Even more news came out on the injury front. Patrick Eaves and Rickard Rakell each have high-ankle sprains, though Murray said Eaves’ injury in the second round had more to do with a bone bruise where two bones come together. Eaves got twisted in a corner and his foot caught underneath him.
“I tried skating there towards the end and I just wasn’t able to explode off it or push,” Eaves said. “Even if they got me out there I probably would have been a liability, and that’s the last thing I wanted to do to this team.”
Kevin Bieksa said he suffered a torn medial collateral ligament during the second round in an accidental collision with teammate Shea Theodore.
“Very freaky play,” Bieksa said. “It was unfortunate because how many little confrontations you have in the corners, how many hard hits you take? And I had something in the Calgary series that I received that also kind of played into that knee injury. All those little hits, and that one does me in. So it sucks. But that’s playoffs, right?”
The extensive injuries added to a what-might-have-been feeling after the Ducks’ Western Conference finals loss to the Nashville Predators. The series ended in Game 6, in which the Ducks played perhaps their best game of the postseason.
“The toughest loss I’ve taken in my career, and you know, it stung,” Kesler said. “It still stings. I think that’s what’s going to drive this team.”
“Trust me, I’ll never get over that loss in Game 7 in 2011, but there’s just something about this loss that stung more, especially the way we played that game,” Kesler said. “We left everything out there, and to not come away with the victory, it hurts.”
Josh Manson said he thought the Ducks could have won the Stanley Cup. Andrew Cogliano echoed Kesler’s pain.
“I thought this was probably the most difficult loss in terms of finishing our season,” Cogliano said. “I don’t think I’ve seen a team that upset and that disappointed and in shock, really. Losing a game like that, where we played pretty good and probably should have won, it was just pretty devastating.”
Those sentiments came after the Ducks ended four straight seasons of Game 7 losses. But with veterans meshing with an enviable defensive corps, Getzlaf sees strides taken toward the Cup.
“I just thought that the way our group responded to things was getting better,” Getzlaf said. “We were maturing as a group, and I think that makes it all that much easier when you’re going into those big games. We got rid of the Game 7 thing, so we can stop talking about that.”
Murray said he and Carlyle are discussing the status of assistant coaches Trent Yawney and Paul MacLean. Upon his rehiring last June, Carlyle signed a two-year contract with an option that can be triggered by playoff performance criteria, and Murray only said that some of those criteria were met.