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Assessing Pat Verbeek’s tenure as Ducks General Manager so far

May 11, 2024, 1:32 AM ET [13 Comments]
Ben Shelley
Anaheim Ducks Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT

Nearing the end of the 2021-22 season, Pat Verbeek was named as the Anaheim Ducks’ new general manager.

Following 13 years of Bob Murray as the team’s GM, Verbeek took over at a time in which the organization was a little directionless. Since then, Anaheim has really focused on building for the future, staying away from expending any assets (other than cap space), to improve in the present.

So now roughly two years into Verbeek's tenure, below, we take a look at the job he's done so far.

Starting from the beginning, at the time in which Verbeek took over the team, the Ducks were about a month and a half out from the 2022 NHL trade deadline, and it served as an opportunity to give the organization a clear path forward. With some key unrestricted free agents needing either an extension, or a trade, Verbeek made the call to take the future assets he could get, dealing all of Hampus Lindholm, Rickard Rakell, Josh Manson, and Nicolas Deslauriers before the deadline. As part of the haul, the Ducks got back a first-round pick, four second-round picks, a third-round pick, and prospects Drew Helleson, Calle Clang, and Urho Vaakanainen.

What this showed was that Verbeek had a pretty good sense of where to take the team. Under Murray, it seemed like the organization really shied away from acknowledging that a rebuild was necessary. But with Verbeek selling off the veterans he did so early into his tenure, his direction was fairly clear, and the returns he got back set the team up for the future.

Since then, Verbeek’s asset management has been quite good. He’s been able to add secondary pieces to the roster, but has done so almost fully through free agency, using cap space to his advantage and avoiding moving any future assets. Specifically, he’s done a good job adding players on short-term deals to flip them for draft picks later.

We first saw this with John Klingberg and Dmitry Kulikov in the summer of 2022. While it obviously didn’t work out with Klingberg in Anaheim, the thought process behind the move was sound, and the Ducks still managed to add two draft picks, and Nikita Nesterenko from the eventual deals.

In fact, only twice in his entire tenure has Verbeek given up a future asset for a player in a pure draft pick-for-player swap, with the first being when he acquired Ilya Lyubushkin for a fourth-round pick in the summer. Then after getting the majority of a pretty strong season out of defenseman, he flipped Lyubushkin for a third-round pick.

Essentially, Verbeek’s done a great job adding pieces who can both plug a hole in the short-term and return future assets later on.

On the trade front, we saw another good return with the Adam Henrique and Sam Carrick deal as well. Both pending unrestricted free agents who were unlikely to return, Verbeek took advantage of the opportunity to gather more draft capital.

Meanwhile, he's also been active enough in terms of adding to the current roster. The Ducks are clearly building around a young core, so going all-in on big-name free agents – many of whom are often nearing 30 years old – just hasn’t made sense in the last few years.

In terms of some of the pieces he has added though, Frank Vatrano ended up exploding for the season he did this year, and Alex Killorn has been a good fit. Then while Ryan Strome has been disappointing, he’s still given the Ducks some secondary scoring, and Radko Gudas was practically the perfect addition to the blue line last summer.

While Verbeek has had a tendency to overpay on UFAs, you could argue he’s only doing that because he can. Anaheim has had a surplus of cap space, and while both Killorn and Gudas in particular probably got more money than comparables would suggest they should have, they’re both on short enough deals that it probably won’t matter. By the time the Ducks are dealing out real money to a lot of their young talent, there will be other contracts coming off the books right around the same time.

We also know Verbeek has been able to get good deals when he really wants to: he waited on the Trevor Zegras contract, and while it resulted in some negative coverage, you can’t question that his bridge-deal came in at a reasonable price. It was a similar story with Troy Terry, where he was willing to hold off right up until arbitration, and then got Terry at a $7 million cap hit, which was less than market value at the time.

So in terms of roster construction, Verbeek has done a really solid job putting pieces in place around the young talent, without giving up any assets to do it, and even adding draft picks along the way.

However, the one area where it may be worthwhile paying a little closer attention to is with his drafting. We know that like Steve Yzerman, Verbeek isn’t afraid to go a little off the board and veer away from the safe pick.

We saw it with the Ducks selecting Leo Carlsson over Adam Fantilli, and while both players had success in their rookie year, it’s hard to knock the pick at least at this point. Pavel Mintyukov is also poised to be a key piece of the team's blue line long-term, and Tristan Luneau looks to have huge upside as well.

There’s also been some other situations though where Verbeek seemingly opts to use a fairly well-positioned draft pick for a player who may not have as high of a ceiling, at least on paper. Examples are Nathan Gaucher (22nd Overall, 2022), Nico Myatovic (33rd Overall, 2023), and Carey Terrance (59th Overall, 2023). At least in terms of production at the time of being drafted, all of the players' numbers seemingly come in on the low-end of players usually taken around that range. That’s not to say these are underwhelming picks necessarily, and we won’t know the true outcome for quite a while, but it’s worthwhile to see if this trend continues, and how the selections end up playing out.

The other thing that will continue to be looked back on in the years to come will be the Jamie Drysdale for Cutter Gauthier trade (which also saw the Ducks include a second-round pick). Both players have the potential to be pieces to build around, and on the surface the deal made sense for the Ducks. But while there’s no way to accurately assess the trade at this point, it's one that could end up being a defining moment of Verbeek's tenure, for better or worse.

Early on into Verbeek’s stint as GM though, there’s quite a bit to like. The Ducks really hadn’t even started fully tearing down when he came along, and two years later, they’re likely on pace to begin taking some steps forward towards being a more competitive team.

You could argue that Verbeek maybe hasn’t made a ton of hugely impactful additions to help the team as it stands, but the more important thing right now is to allow their young talent to develop. There’s no point in taking minutes away from the likes of Zegras, McTavish, Carlsson and others right now, when the Ducks are still only just starting to get back to the point of being more competitive.

I think it’ll be interesting to see where Verbeek goes from here. He has a third-overall pick to work with (and seven total picks in the first three rounds), and we can expect another free agency addition or two. But while the team may not be back in the playoffs quite yet, he’s given the organization a legitimate direction, and the Ducks are better off since he’s taken over.

Check back next Friday for another new article.

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