The Anaheim Ducks are taking a pretty big risk with their future. The club has signed goaltender John Gibson to an eight-year contract extension that will take hold on July 1st, 2019. The deal pays Gibson $51.2 million, counting $6.4 million per season on the salary cap.
It’s easy to see why the Ducks invested in Gibson. He’s only 25-years old and has posted near elite numbers the last two seasons. Gibson played 52 games in 2016-17, going 25-26-9 with a .924 SV% and 2.22 GAA. This past season, Gibson played a career high 60 games while posting a record of 31-18-7 to go with a .926 SV% and 2.43 GAA.
If you just look at the workload and the numbers, you’d call me crazy for thinking the Ducks are taking a risk here. All the stats indicate are that Gibson is a workhorse who has put up great numbers since taking over the starting role. The problem here? Gibson has legit injury issues and long-term contracts to goaltenders almost never work out.
The Injury Concerns:
Gibson appeared on the Ducks’ injury report multiple times in both 2016-17 and 2017-18. Back and lower-body injuries have become a factor with this player, and it is quite risky to invest in a guy who has those issues. Not only is Gibson getting a ton of starts, he’s also facing a ton of shot. The Ducks were a bottom-ten team when it came to shot-suppression this past season.
It’s asking a lot for a goalie to handle that kind of workload year after year when he is dealing with injuries. Look no further than Edmonton, whose season was derailed by a slow start and subsequent injury to Cam Talbot. Talbot, like Gibson, handled a massive workload in terms of both games played and shots against. Investing in that goalie could go south really quickly.
The Cap Hit:
I find it interesting that the Ducks are willing to commit $6.4 million of their yearly allotment to a goaltender with only two years as a starter under his belt. Those two years have been sensational, but predicting goaltenders is voodoo. Who is to say that Gibson doesn’t fall off a cliff, ala Marc-Andre Fleury after a great start to his career? The sample size is still small with this player, and the Ducks are paying him to be an elite goaltender. That has some risk.
When his new deal sets in, Gibson will be the sixth highest paid goalie in the NHL. The guys in front of him? Carey Price, Henrik Lundqvist, Sergei Bobrovsky, Tuukka Rask and Pekka Rinne. One needs to look no further than Price, the leagues; highest paid goalie, to see how a deal like this can backfire.
Price is the best goalie in the world, but he’s had to handle major workloads almost every season during his career. The results? He’s missed significant time in two of the last three seasons. In both cases, the Canadiens absolutely collapsed after that injury.
Rask, while a good goaltender in his own right, hasn’t lived up to the $7 million cap hit he holds. As a result, he’s been the center of trade speculation in Boston for over two years now, and could be a factor when the Bruins try to re-sign the young core. Rask had a great 2017-18 season, but there were certainly struggles in his game in the three seasons leading up to that.
There are clear red flags with this contract. Gibson has had injury issues already in his young career, and is already putting a lot of miles on his tires. The Ducks are taking a very big risk here, handing big money and long-term to a player with injury history and a small sample size as an NHL starter. There is certainly a possibility that his deal backfires, in a big way, on the Ducks.
That all being said, the Ducks really had no choice here. They absolutely had to extend Gibson. You read the numbers above, he’s performed at a near elite level since taking over the net on a full-time basis. At 25-years old, there is also room to grow here, and while there is a ton of risk, there is also an equally as good chance that Gibson keeps developing and becomes one of the elite netminders in the league.
The Ducks are taking on risk here, but they really have no choice. When Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler move on, and that is likely to be sooner rather than later, players like Gibson will be tasked with keeping the Ducks competitive. It’s a risky bet, but one that has the potential to pay off in a big way for Anaheim.
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