Ducks, Kings, Sharks, Golden Knights gearing up for start of new NHL season
For the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights, each team believes it has what it takes to still be playing meaningful hockey next spring.
All four teams made impact moves this offseason with the intent to pay immediate dividends.
The Ducks signed goaltender John Gibson and forward Adam Henrique to long-term extensions, while the Kings won the Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes and signed defenseman Drew Doughty long term, San Jose will have forwards Evander Kane and Logan Couture well into the next decade and also obtained defenseman Erik Karlsson, and then Vegas signed forward Paul Stastny and acquired forward Max Pacioretty.
For Anaheim, general manager Bob Murray said having Gibson between the pipes is a game changer.
“I believe in John Gibson, as does everyone in the organization,” Murray said to NHL.com. “This is obviously a major commitment by the club, but one we feel strongly about. John is equally committed to being a Duck. He is only now entering the prime of his career, and we are all confident his best is yet to come.”
Rickard Rakell, Andrew Cogliano, Corey Perry and captain Ryan Getzlaf all return up front, but Ryan Kesler may miss time with an injury. Troy Terry could be an impact rookie. On the back end, Brandon Montour, Luke Schenn, Cam Fowler and Josh Manson are all stalwarts.
LOS ANGELES KINGS
In Los Angeles, Kovalchuk is back on an NHL roster for the first time in five years. He was originally the No. 1 pick in the 2001 NHL Draft by the Atlanta Thrashers and played the last five seasons in Russia.
“When I was making my decision, it was all about hockey because I have three, four years left in my tank where I can really play at a high level,” Kovalchuk told NHL.com. “I feel good. I’m a young 35, so we’ll see.”
Kovalchuk becomes the so-called elder statesman on the Kings, who return a half-dozen core players from their Stanley Cup title wins in 2012 and 2014 in forwards Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, captain Anze Kopitar and Trevor Lewis, defenseman Alec Martinez and goaltender Jonathan Quick. All are at least 31 years old.
“L.A. has a great group of guys, great goaltending, great defense,” Kovalchuk said. “They have one of the best centers (Kopitar) in the league. I never have a chance to play with those type of guys, so it’s really exciting for me and it’s great. That was the reason why I came, because they have guys who know how to win and they are really hungry to win.”
Doughty is one of the top players in the NHL and he’s locked up through the 2026-27 season.
“Drew Doughty is one of the best defensemen in the world and we are obviously excited to have reached this point in the process in which he has committed to the Kings long-term,” Los Angeles general manager Rob Blake said.
SAN JOSE SHARKS
In the Bay Area, the Sharks have forward Joe Thornton for another season and made three big moves with the Kane and Couture signings and then acquiring Karlsson from Ottawa. Tomas Hertl is a star up front, as is captain Joe Pavelski and defenseman Brent Burns (pictured).
The Kane signing could be one that puts the Sharks over the hump in the spring.
“At only 27 years old, Evander has established himself as one of hockey’s true power forwards and an impact player,” said San Jose GM Doug Wilson. “We think his abilities mesh perfectly with our group of skilled, young players and veteran leaders. It’s extremely heartening to have Evander join a trend of elite players who have chosen to remain in San Jose. It speaks volumes as to how players view this organization and further illustrates the continued commitment to our fans by our owner Hasso Plattner.”
VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
Last season was the easy part for the Vegas Golden Knights.
This season will answer the ultimate question – are the Golden Knights legit players in the NHL or a one-hit wonder.
After going to the Stanley Cup Final in June and bowing out to the Washington Capitals, the offseason work began as the club re-signed goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (pictured) and forward William Karlsson, added Stastny and defenseman Nick Holden in free agency and traded for Pacioretty from Montreal.
“This is a fair deal and I’m glad it’s done,” Karlsson told the Golden Knights website. “It’s a relief and now we can focus on the season ahead.
“I love playing in Vegas. I couldn’t imagine playing anywhere else. I’m hoping we can work out a long-term deal and I’ll be here for my whole career.”
Selected by Vegas from the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft, Karlsson led the NHL last season with a plus-49 rating, scored eight power-play goals, four shorthanded goals and six game-winning goals, and won the Lady Byng Trophy, awarded for sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct.
Fleury was selected by the Golden Knights in the same NHL Expansion Draft from the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“This team gave me a second opportunity in my career,” he said. “I’ll always be grateful for it. I love the organization. It’s nice to get (the contract) done before the season so it’s not on your mind all year.”
Stastny finished last season with the Winnipeg Jets, losing in the Western Conference Finals to Vegas, ironically enough.
“You kind of see what’s out there, you see what’s the best fit for you and your family, and I was fortunate enough to be in a situation where there were a couple of good options, but in the end, I think this one made the most sense for us,” Stastny told NHL Network.
The addition of the underrated Holden will boost the Vegas back end. He skated for the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins last season.
Photos/Eric J. Fowler
— Matt Mackinder
(Sept. 21, 2018)