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Ducks see window on current players getting smaller

The injuries will eventually heal but the clock won't stop ticking on the Ducks and their foundation of veterans.

Cornerstone players Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler have all said the window for winning a Stanley Cup is getting smaller each year, and they will have to wait another summer to go at it again after they were eliminated by the Nashville Predators in the Western Conference finals.

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"Chances [come and] go and you never know if you're going to be back here again," Kesler said after Game 6.

The Ducks took the loss hard but have a lot to look forward to after they got to within two victories of the Stanley Cup Final in the first year of coach Randy Carlyle's second stint.

"We took another step," Andrew Cogliano said.

They are also tight against the salary cap, need a goalie and have that pesky expansion draft on the horizon.

Here's a look at what's ahead:

Free agents

Patrick Eaves, Nate Thompson, Jonathan Bernier, Jhonas Enroth and Korbinian Holzer are unrestricted free agents. Eaves, 33, scored a career-high 32 goals and is expected to receive a lot of attention in free agency that could make it difficult for the Ducks to re-sign him.

Looking further ahead, Cogliano, Cam Fowler and Antoine Vermette are among those that will be unrestricted free agents in the summer of 2018.

Offseason needs

A backup goalie is a priority with Bernier and Enroth eligible to test free agency. No.1 John Gibson is signed through 2018-19.

They could also take a look at bottom-six forward depth to add to the strides taken by Nick Ritchie, Chris Wagner and Ondrej Kase.

The Ducks have perhaps the best young defense unit in the NHL but are stretched financially with veterans Kevin Bieksa and Clayton Stoner under contract for another season. Simon Despres has long-term head-injury issues and hasn't played since the season opener.

Expansion draft

Teams must expose players to June's NHL expansion draft for the Vegas Golden Knights so they can largely construct their roster for their inaugural season.

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The two options for teams: They can expose seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie or eight skaters and one goalie.

Getzlaf, Perry, Kesler and Bieksa must be protected because they have no-movement clauses in their contracts.

That will likely make it tricky for the Ducks to protect their entire stable of defensemen. It had been widely projected that the Ducks would have to expose wing Jakob Silfverberg but his skyrocketing value has made that unthinkable.

Fortunately for the Ducks, Theodore and Brandon Montour are exempt from the draft as second-year professionals. Unsigned draft choices are also exempt.

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