Anaheim Ducks: Is John Gibson a cornerstone or an unnecessary luxury?

Is John Gibson a long-term piece for the Anaheim Ducks or a premium trade chip?

There’s no doubt about it; John Gibson is one of the best goalies in the Western Conference.

Initially drafted by the Anaheim Ducks 39th overall in 2011, Gibson has never had a save percentage lower than 90 in any of his seven NHL seasons and was rewarded for his in net mastery with an eight-year contract worth $51.2 million. Sure, 2019-20 marked his second straight season with 20-plus losses, and his 90.4 save percentage was his lowest as a pro, but it’s unquestionable that Gibson remains a top tier goalie that any team would be happy to have in net for 50-plus games a season.

But just because Gibson is Anaheim’s best goalie, arguably the best goaltender in the Pacific Division, and maybe even the Ducks’ best overall player, does that mean he’s the kind of player you can build a championship roster around? Is Gibson a cornerstone player or simply a luxury better cashed in for future assets?

Now on paper, this really shouldn’t be a question. Gibson is under contract for the next seven seasons and could remain with the NHL’s mightiest franchise until he is 33-years-old if things remain copacetic. On the ice, the 27-year-old Pittsburgh native remains elite even if his numbers dipped slightly in 2019-20 and is more than capable of making absolutely amazing saves that few of his peers can top.

Don’t believe me? Watch his top 10 saves of 2019-20 compiled by the NHL. Number 1 is amazing.

Assuming Gibson remains healthy, he will unquestionably keep the Ducks competitive in the Pacific Division whenever the 2019-2020 season opens up, even if that doesn’t translate to a playoff berth.

But again, is that really what the Ducks want, to be a competitive/entertaining non-playoff team?

With the youth movement in Anaheim fully taking hold over the last few seasons, there are only a few holdovers left from the Ducks’ last Stanley Cup contender – Gibson is one of them. If young players like Sam Steel and Max Jones flash legitimate signs of star power in 2021, maybe the Ducks could be sniffing the playoffs again before we know it. But what if they don’t? What if we’re days before the 2020 NHL trade deadline and the Ducks have less than 20 points? Would they really hang up on trade calls from teams willing to sell the farm for a franchise goalie?

A team like the Carolina Hurricanes would immediately become Stanley Cup contenders with a player like Gibson in net. Though, to be fair, their analytics heavy approach to Hockey probably doesn’t mesh well with trading for a goalie making $6.4 million AAV. That being said, there are plenty of other teams that could use a player like Gibson and may actually be willing to surrender the assets necessary to get the deal done.

As E.J. Hradek pointed out in the NHL’s 31-for-31 season preview, sometimes having a really good goalie can prevent a bad team from getting the assets needed to get good, like Cory Schneider’s season with the New Jersey Devils in 2014-15. Wouldn’t that fate – being a bad team with no burgeoning superstars but a great goalie on the wrong side of 25 – be the worst fate for the Ducks?

Sometimes addition by subtraction is legit. Other times, it’s just subtraction.

Though it’s virtually impossible to imagine John Gibson being traded before the start of the 2020-21 season, how the Anaheim Ducks come out of the gates will be incredibly telling for his long term future with the team. If the Ducks’ young core shows promise, the team may be set up for success indefinitely with a veteran goalie in net, but if they falter and the season starts to unravel, the pride of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania may be looking for real estate outside of Orange County before the midway point of his eight-year deal.