The Ducks will probably go only as far as John Gibson takes them this season.
General manager Bob Murray showed just how valuable he believes his starting goaltender to be when he signed him to an eight-year extension this summer that’s worth an average of $6.4 million annually.
That’s elite goaltender money, and the way Gibson performed last season, he’s worth every penny.
Armed with security — and loads of money — the 25-year-old occupied the net for the first time this season in a 4-2 exhibition victory over the Arizona Coyotes on Monday night at Honda Center.
It was another typical outing for Gibson: two goals given up on 31 shots in the dress rehearsal.
None given up at even strength. Steady as he goes.
Preseason games are about “just kind of getting the pace of the game and everything,” said Gibson, who sported a sparkling .926 save percentage last season.
Still, Gibson was in midseason form when it came to fielding questions. The typically media-averse netminder was asked if he had any goals for the upcoming season. Excited to play under his new contract, perhaps?
“Coming in and asking hard questions,” he responded. “I’m just worried about preseason, man.”
Steel impresses in bid to make roster
The Ducks continue to receive an extended look at promising young players trying to crack the opening-day roster.
One such prospect, 20-year-old Sam Steel, made sure that Ducks coach Randy Carlyle and others took notice with a picture-perfect toe-drag goal in the second period.
It was exactly the sort of dynamic offensive playmaking the club sorely lacks — and has been searching for far and wide.
“You can be critical of some areas as far as turnovers, but again, when a guy makes that kind of play, it’s a big-time skilled play,” said Carlyle. “As good as the move was, the shot was even better.
“That’s the hidden gem that we’re trying to unearth here is when you see that he’s been able to do those things at lower levels, hopefully we can transfer that into this level.”
Steel, a center, was the Ducks’ first-round pick in 2016. He led the WHL with 131 points in the 2016-17 season and ranked second with 50 goals. Steel’s production dipped to 83 points (in 12 fewer games) during the 2017-18 season, which he hopes was his last with the Regina Pats.
“There have been good things and definitely bad things as well [during the preseason],” said Steel, who played between Andrew Cogliano and Max Comtois in his third preseason game. “It’s a learning process.
“I’m trying to get better each and every day; keep adjusting to the NHL level.”
Perry forced to sit because of an injury
Corey Perry was originally slotted as the right wing alongside Steel, but he suffered what Carlyle termed a lower-body injury during warmups and was scratched.
“He’s under evaluation right now … we’re waiting to get a reply back from the doctors,” Carlyle said.
The injury created an opening for Comtois, who wasn’t scheduled to play.