Jakob Silfverberg is going to get the opportunity to be part of the solution in Anaheim,
Amid speculation that Silfverberg, a pending unrestricted free agent, could become trade deadline fodder for the Ducks with the NHL’s trade freeze set for Monday, reports surfaced Wednesday night that Anaheim and Silfverberg have agreed to a five-year contract extension. According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the pact will carry a cap hit in the neighborhood of $5.25-million per season, a healthy raise from the $3.75-million annual salary Silfverberg earned on his current deal.
However, while the deal is seemingly signed and ready to be processed, nothing can be made official quite yet. Due to a restriction in the collective bargaining agreement that refers to “Tagged Payroll Room,” the Ducks can’t push through the paperwork. Outlined in section 50.5 of the CBA, the rule essentially limits future spending above and beyond the current season’s salary cap. And because of Anaheim’s so-called “tagged” salary committed to the 2019-20 season — which is basically an equation that encompasses overages and contracts kicking in next season minus the value of expiring contracts — Silfverberg cannot yet have his deal finalized. If the Ducks manage to shuffle additional salary by way of trade, Silfverberg’s extension may be made final in the coming days. Otherwise, Anaheim may have to wait until after March 1, at which time tagging space increases by an additional 10 percent.
No matter when the ink dries, though, the deal is done. Trouble is that when it comes to the Ducks, it’s also an extension that’s rife with flaws.
Right out of the gate, the biggest concern is the cap hit. If it wasn’t already illustrated by the tagging issues that are preventing the deal from being finalized in the first place, it can’t go understated the cap crunch that the Ducks are facing as the off-season approaches. If the cap were to remain stagnant, the Silfverberg contract would leave Anaheim with somewhere in the $2.5-million range in spending room next season, and even with the projected rise in the cap, chances are the Ducks will now have in the range of $5-million to $6-million with the current construction of their roster.
While many of the key areas have been addressed — Anaheim’s boasts a solid top-four on the blueline and have an all-world goaltender in John Gibson — it’s become increasingly evident that the Ducks are in dire need of help up front. The depth is shoddy, at best, and Anaheim’s 134 goals this season are the worst in the NHL. Not only that, the Ducks’ 15.5 percent success rate on the power play, among the five-worst marks in the league, further demonstrates the offensive inefficiencies at play. And Silfverberg, for all his positive qualities, isn’t exactly a top-tier producer.
Though it has been a down year across the board in Anaheim, Silfverberg has only cracked the half-point per game rate twice in his NHL career, and his career rate is exactly that: half a point per contest. Worrisome, however, is that his production isn’t exactly going to offer great value at his newfound cap hit. If he were earning $5.25 million this season, Silfverberg would be tied for 38th, with Jeff Carter and Tyler Bozak, in points per game among the 44 forwards with a cap hit in the range of $4.5-million to $5.5-million.
More concerning than the money spent, though, is that it’s incredibly difficult to see any way in which retaining Silfverberg helps propel this team forward. Already, the Ducks are a veteran-laden club with big money tied up in players whose best years are behind them. And while Silfverberg’s contract is undeniably better than that of 33-year-old Corey Perry or 34-year-old Ryan Kesler — who are locked up for two and three more seasons, respectively — the extension is still going to carry the 28-year-old through to his mid-30s as a mid-level scorer who will almost assuredly fall victim to diminishing production.
That’s not to mention that hanging on to Silfverberg at a time when his value might be at its highest due to the impending deadline and the annual arms race between contending teams doesn’t allow the Ducks to begin any sort of refresh of this roster.
Understandably, some will assert that trading Silfverberg may not have been the answer, either, and there’s merit to that. Chances are that the return at the deadline would have been a couple of picks, maybe a mid-level prospect, and there always comes with that the risk that the development doesn’t pan out. At that point, Silfverberg would have been lost for bupkis. No one is denying that. But at some point, the Ducks have to make an earnest attempt to turnover this roster, because while there’s some light at the end of the tunnel, it’s distant.
In The Hockey News’ 2018 Future Watch issue, Anaheim’s prospect pool ranked 20th in the NHL, and the only top-tier addition they were able to make at the 2018 draft was first-round selection Isac Lundestrom, who is undoubtedly a few years off. Anaheim also has Troy Terry, Sam Steel, Max Jones and defenseman Jacob Larsson waiting to come along, though each is probably still a few seasons away from truly realizing their potential. And given the years that are going to be needed for those players to truly hit their stride, right now — this very moment — might have been the best time for Anaheim to start the rebuilding process. Can the Ducks still manage to do so? Absolutely, but signing Silfverberg instead of moving him along is going to hinder their ability to do so and give them fewer darts to throw at the board come the draft.
All of this is to say that Silfverberg is a perfectly fine player and the contract, while maybe not great, is fine. The reality is, though, that Silfverberg’s extension it’s those things for a team that is heading in the right direction, one that is trending towards Stanley Cup contention and can afford to slightly overpay for a two-way middle-six forward with point per game production. The Ducks aren’t that team, and it would have done them well to realize that, admit it to themselves and start the process of turning this thing over.
Sometimes, it has to get worse before it gets better, and Silfverberg’s signing makes it feel as though things in Anaheim are simply going to stay the same.