Anaheim Ducks extend Jamie Drysdale and injury news

Today’s NHL News follows up on several stories involving the Anaheim Ducks, including contract extensions and injuries. 

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The Anaheim Ducks are no strangers to headlining the news, but the franchise, who last appeared in the playoffs in 2018 and won the Stanley Cup in 2007, was one of the NHL’s most talked-about teams this week. Considering two of their young restricted free agents remained unsigned just a week from opening night, once the team came to terms with those skaters on Monday and Thursday, they lost another up-and-coming star to an injury on Friday. 

Leo Carlsson departs practice with a potential lower-body injury

According to the media in attendance at the Ducks’ practice on Friday, Leo Carlsson, the second overall pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, needed assistance off the ice after potentially injuring his right foot. Unfortunately, this injury could be a significant concern for the Ducks, who planned to have Carlsson skate with the team for the entire 2023-24 season. 

Although the 18-year-old was a highly-ranked prospect, the Ducks selected him with their top pick, one spot after the Chicago Blackhawks chose Connor Bedard. As one of the top European-born prospects today, Carlsson has been playing senior-level hockey in Sweden (SHL) and at the most recent IIHF World Championships. Even though Anaheim is still rebuilding, there was a good chance that Carlsson was a finalist, if not the potential winner, of the Calder Trophy for Rookie of the Year. 

No further details are available about Carlsson’s situation, but anyone following the situation should keep an eye out for an update from Ducks’ General Manager Pat Verbeek. 

Ducks come to terms with defenseman Jamie Drysdale on Thursday

As mentioned, Verbeek was one of the league’s busiest general managers in the final week of the preseason, finishing up the negotiations with two young restricted free agents, including Jamie Drysdale. After a lengthy negotiation stalemate, the Ducks retained the 21-year-old defenseman who has yet to skate in training camp or the preseason. 

Although Drysdale only has 40 career points in 113 games, he missed most of the 2022-23 season with a torn labrum in his left shoulder. Interestingly, he obtained a $6.9 million contract over three years ($2.3 million AAV) despite having a plus/minus rating of minus-41. Considering that he’s been defending on one of the least successful teams since his debut in 2020, the Ducks have the fewest wins in three seasons with 71; it’s been difficult for their top prospects to find their footing in the league. 

Ultimately, just like Trevor Zegras, the Ducks wanted to secure a bridge deal with their young defender, hoping that he would establish himself as a franchise cornerstone over the next three seasons and earn a lengthy extension in the summer of 2026. 

Zegras remains on a three-year bridge deal in Anaheim, but what’s next?

NHL: Anaheim Ducks at Calgary Flames
Apr 2, 2023; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Anaheim Ducks center Trevor Zegras (11) reacts during the third period against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most significant storylines heading into training camp was that the Ducks had not come to terms with Zegras, who, at 22 years old, was turning into the face of the Anaheim franchise. Although he has yet to become a point-per-game player, he did score a career-high 65 points last season in 81 games. 

As the cover athlete for NHL 23, Zegras has many highlight reel goals on his resume, including a handful of “Michigan” goals. However, he finished second in Calder Trophy voting in 2021-22, losing to Moritz Seider (Detroit Red Wings). After his entry-level deal expired, there were rumors that Zegras wanted a similar salary to teammate Troy Terry, who inked a seven-year $49 million extension in August. 

Even though the two players have similar statistics, Terry’s been around a few more seasons, giving him leverage to seek a long-term deal. Considering that Zegras is about to skate in his 181st game, he still needs to log the minutes or perform to the standards worthy of a five or eight-year deal. Eventually, his time will come, and this bridge deal should motivate him to find the next level in his game and earn a significant salary increase he wanted in the summer of 2023 but should get in 2026. 

Although the Ducks are building towards competitor status in the upcoming seasons, their plans for 2023-24 may have taken a significant blow if Carlsson misses any length of time. Of course, he didn’t play with the team last year, so there’s no telling what he could bring to the team. However, the former second-overall pick should help the Ducks take a step further. Despite retaining Drysdale and Zegras without any new blood in the lineup, it could be a very stagnant 2023-24 season (again).