Anaheim Ducks, Corey Perry

Ducks Should Consider a Corey Perry Reunion

The Anaheim Ducks are beginning one of the most significant offseasons in their history. After a league-worst 23-47-12 record, the team has plenty of work ahead of them as they trudge through their multi-year rebuild. General manager Pat Verbeek hit the ground running by hiring bench boss Greg Cronin, but his work is far from over. The NHL Draft is June 28, and they’re in a position to select a bonafide star with the second overall pick. Additionally, the Ducks have several high-priority restricted free agents who should be getting new contracts in the coming weeks.

Related: Ducks Fans Say Goodbye to Dynamic Duo: Getzlaf & Perry

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Once those deals are squared away, we’ll have a better idea of their salary cap and roster situation as they head into the July 1 free agency date. While they will have plenty of cap space to work with, the team should exercise caution with throwing around money and term. After all, this cap space is the result of years of gradually shedding burdensome contracts in favor of cheaper entry-level deals. One of those “cap casualties” brought about the end of one of the most successful tenures in Ducks’ history when Corey Perry was bought out of his contract in June 2019.

Corey Perry Ducks
Corey Perry, former Anaheim Duck (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Perry’s gone on to have tremendous team success in the years since his contract buyout, making the Stanley Cup Final in each of his first seasons with the Dallas Stars, Montreal Canadiens, and Tampa Bay Lightning. Perry, now 38, is an unrestricted free agent, and he indicated he still wants to play while giving his exit interview. If that’s the case, the Ducks should consider reaching out to him to check his temperature on a reunion in Southern California. Not only would he be a welcome addition to the locker room, but it would be a nice gesture from a team to its former star.

Veteran Leadership and Suitable Depth Role

Anaheim’s roster is full of young players that will be coached by a first-time head coach who was hired by a first-time general manager. Unless we receive news to the contrary, they’ll be taking the ice without a captain for the second year in a row. With all due respect to Cam Fowler and Jakob Silfverberg, veteran leadership is in short supply. Not only would Perry’s voice be a welcome veteran presence, but it’s one that has been to the highest levels in the sport. Between the Stanley Cup, Hart Trophy, “Rocket” Richard Trophy, Memorial Cup, World Junior Championship, Olympic gold medals and World Cup gold medal, he’s won just about everything a North American-born forward can win.

Corey Perry Tampa Bay Lightning
Corey Perry, Tampa Bay Lightning (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Since leaving Anaheim, Perry has reinvented himself as a quality depth player. The days of “Scorey Perry” may have come and gone, but he’s crossed the 20-point threshold each year, including the two shortened seasons. He’s still an imposing presence in front of the net and has seen a decent amount of power play time every year. Anaheim’s power play was dreadful last season, partially because of the lack of options outside of Mason McTavish’s one-timer. Not only would Perry be an immediate improvement, but he would also be a solid source for some of the younger bruisers in the franchise, like Nathan Gaucher or Benoit-Olivier Groulx, to learn from.

A Good-Faith Gesture for a Ducks’ Legend

By the 2018 season, injuries and the effects of Randy Carlyle’s second stint as Anaheim’s head coach had led to Perry’s production falling off a cliff. The organization was at a crossroads, and it was dealing with an $8.6 million contract that couldn’t maintain a place in the top-six. Even with the writing on the wall, the Ducks’ buyout of Perry’s contract was a stunner — a shrewd reminder that teams operate as a business.

While the buyout was ultimately beneficial for both parties, Perry’s time in Anaheim ended with 988 games played. Playing in 1000 games is a significant milestone for NHL players, and only a handful ever get to do so with one franchise. Perry was only 12 games away from being the first to accomplish this in a Ducks uniform, which has since only been done by Ryan Getzlaf. He’s even lamented the missed opportunity, saying at the time, “it stings. How many guys have played 1000 games with one team? Not many.”

Anaheim signing Perry would allow him to reach 1000 games with a single franchise, which would be a good-faith gesture to one of the most important players in the organization’s history. Beyond that, it can send a message to the younger players on the roster that this is a franchise that will take care of its stars.

Perry’s a Trade Chip if He Wants to Be

At his age, Perry’s primary motivation to play might be to chase the Stanley Cup. He was so young when the Ducks won in 2007, and three straight trips back to the Final brought him so tantalizingly close to his second Cup. He may not see championship aspirations in Anaheim this season, but that shouldn’t prevent him from signing with them. The Ducks are still in the business of asset management, and that likely means another trade deadline spent selling.

2023 NHL Entry Draft Guide Connor Bedard and Adam Fantilli Banner

It might seem odd to suggest signing Perry as an act of good faith only to trade him, but the Ducks can do it in such a way that honors any of Perry’s wishes. They had no issue signing John Klingberg purely with the intent to trade him last year, and adding a no-trade clause would ensure Perry goes to the competitor of his choosing. It may prevent him from ending his career in Anaheim, but it would once again be a courteous gesture to one of the team’s greatest stars.

With an uncertain future ahead in Anaheim, Corey Perry can add some leadership and stability to a rebuilding roster. His return to Southern California would be a feel-good gesture by helping him reach 1000 games in a Ducks uniform, and he can determine his own future as the trade deadline approaches.

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