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For #4 in my series of interviews of bloggers from different teams around the league is an interview with Karen Francis of the MVN.com website "On the Pond" Blog. The Ducks are, suprisingly, pretty well set on free agents with a few of their bottom 3 (i.e. not Beauchamin, Pronger or Niedermeyer) the only real free agents, well besides, of course, JS Giguere (who has since been resigned, again after asking these questions). Karen was nice enough to answer some questions for me about the Ducks offseason for me.

1) So the big offseason Question for the Ducks.. Do they keep Giguere? Or go with Bryzgolov? What do you think is the best plan forward.
Gosh - no easy questions here!

1. Giguere. Can they afford Giguere? He will command a decent increase in salary, but can the Ducks manage Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger and Giguere at the same time? If Scotty retires, the money would be there. If Selanne retires, the money would be there to sign him. If neither retire, it becomes a lot trickier.

Bryzgalov is good, but has not proven consistent. This sort of answers question 5, too - the Hurricanes went with the hot goalie, Cam Ward, who did well in the playoffs, but Martin Gerber (former Duck goalie) was the big reason they got to the playoffs. They let Gerber go and relied on Ward, who did not continue to play at postseason levels. Is Bryzgalov the same way? There is a lot of potential with Bryz, but can he be the go to guy consistently? Who do they get to be his "1B?"

I'd sign Jiggy if possible. If for no other reason than to not let him go to the Kings so he can stay in the neighborhood and near his son's physicians. Shudder and horrors! Sign him and trade him to the East Coast if you have to, but don't let him become our biggest nightmare 8 times every year with a division rival!


2) Of the Ducks Defensive free agents, whose the most likely to be let go? O'Donnell? Jackman? What are their strengths and weaknesses?
2) Defense - O'Donnell and Jackman will likely come back. OD was very good with Pronger and Jackman has filled in well. Not sure about DiPenta, although he seems to have history with Carlyle and has been a dependable stay at home defenseman. Huskins spent time between Portland and Anaheim last year. He may or may not return.


3) The Ducks seemed to rely on their top-3 defensivemen pretty heavily in the playoffs, should the Ducks bring back their other defenders, or target some other ones who might be able to shoulder the load a little better?
3) Yes, there is a lot of reliance on Scotty, Pronger and Beauchemin. However, the other defenseman have done a good job stepping up when necessary and shouldering the load. The reality is there are three guys who can handle 25 - 30 minutes per night. It means less work for the others. Because those three are able to shoulder the primary burden, there isn't as much reason to get another top defenseman, from a contract perspective and from a time perspective. No point in sitting Scotty or Pronger just to give minutes elsewhere. That's a waste of their skills and a waste of money. If Scott were to retire, that puts a different spin on things.


4) If they decide to go with Bryzgolov, and Selanne retires they will have enough money to sign a top tier free agent or two, who would be a good fit?
4) Who would be a good fit as a free agent? That's the million dollar question. It would need to be someone who was relatively affordable, is a Brian Burke type player (not afraid to get their nose dirty, as well as be community minded), plays the position that we need, fits into the system that the Ducks play and has chemistry with the other guys. Like any acquisition, it's a crapshoot.

Paul Kariya is a former Duck but is not a Burke type player. If Burke goes for any player, it is more likely to be a solid veteran but not a marquee player who'll demand top dollar. I'm not about to guess who would be a good fit because what looks good on paper often isn't on the ice and vice versa.


5) On paper the Ducks appear to be a serious threat to challenge for the cup again next season, how do they avoud the letdown that affected the Hurricanes this season?

5) How to avoid the letdown? Carlyle won't let them. Burke won't let them. The guys won't let that happen. The core is still signed and intact, so most of the team will be returning, which also helps.

I did write a bit on MVN about the contract and free agency situation, if you want to look more at what I have to say. www.mvn.com/nhl-ducks


Thanks Karen for answering the questions. My analysis: The Ducks could have little, to a huge amount of impact on the Avs offseason. If Niedermeyer and Selanne return then they won't do anything significant in Free Agency, but if they retire, the Ducks could end up bidding for the services of some of the same FA's as the Avs. Avs fans should keep a tenative eye on the Ducks free-agents to see if they resign for the strong chance at back-to-back cups.

UPDATE Note: I am surprised Giguere signed as cheap as he did, being the only true #1 on the market I thought he'd get somewhere in the $7M-$8M/year range, yet he signed for "only" $6M/year