Ray Emery chooses Chicago.

In a move that should come as little surprise to anyone who’s followed the Ducks’ off-season goalie moves, Ray Emery will go to the Chicago Blackhawks’ training camp on a pro tryout.

Ducks general manager Bob Murray did not aggressively try to re-sign Emery after receiving assurances that Jonas Hiller’s recovery was on track. Murray instead signed Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers – a logical candidate to be the number three goalie – to a two-way contract.

If there was a surprise, it is that Emery was not pursued aggressively by any of the NHL’s 30 general managers after going 7-2-0 with a 2.28 goals-against average to help the Ducks make the playoffs as the Western Conference’s number four seed. After an injury relegated him to the bench in Game 1, Emery was the Ducks’ starter in the first-round series against Nashville, going 2-3 with a 3.19 GAA.

In Chicago, Emery can expect to battle rookie Alexander Salak in a race to back up starter Corey Crawford.

Emery’s time in Anaheim ought not be forgotten. It can be argued that the Ducks would not have grabbed the fourth seed without him (even if home-ice advantage failed to achieve the desired effect). The team was certainly grateful for his contribution, and Emery was likewise grateful for the opportunity to return to the NHL.

Would Emery have received a camp tryout in Chicago without first getting the chance to prove himself in Anaheim?

No one knows for sure.

Ducks bring Mark Bell back across the pond.

If the name Mark Bell rings a bell, it might not be for hockey.

Bell, who signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Ducks, has not played in the NHL since 2007-08. The 30-year-old forward has played seven NHL seasons with Chicago (2000-06), San Jose (2006-07) and Toronto (2007-08), collecting 87 goals and 182 points with 597 penalty minutes in 445 career games.

He is better known for the poor timing and circumstance of a 2007 DUI conviction, which resulted in an unprecedented 15-game suspension from the NHL. Not only was Bell playing in the media spotlight of Toronto at the time, he committed his crime in the wake of the Michael Vick dogfighting scandal, which led one Toronto columnist to pontificate:

… if you’re a person who believes driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated is a terrible scourge on modern society that deserves the most severe penalties – and what thinking person doesn’t? – then you must applaud the NHL for taking a strong stand in the same way NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is being heralded as a no-nonsense sheriff for his handling of cases involving Michael Vick and Pacman Jones and others.

Bell served his suspension, played out the season in Toronto, then was waived by the Leafs the following year. He finished the 2008-09 season with the Rangers’ American Hockey League affiliate, scoring 14 points in 18 games. Bell tried out with the Philadelphia Flyers in training camp in 2009, then signed with Kloten of the Swiss National ‘A’ League.

Bell’s contract pays $575,000 in the NHL and $105,000 in the AHL. It’s unreasonable to expect him to return to his former 25-goal form after two seasons in Switzerland — the same questions were asked and answered two years ago in Philadelphia –but it will be interesting to see how his return to North America plays out regardless.

Ducks sign Cogliano to three-year, $7.17M deal.

If there was still a question as to how much the Ducks liked Andrew Cogliano when they acquired him from Edmonton, the team answered it Tuesday in the form of a three-year, $7.17 million contract.

Cogliano becomes the Ducks’ sixth-highest paid forward in terms of his annual salary-cap hit ($2.39 million). He was scheduled to go to arbitration Thursday and was clearly seeking a substantial raise from the $1 million, one-year deal he signed with Edmonton prior to last season. Cogliano’s new deal pays $2.15 million this season, $2.35 in 2012-13 and $2.67 in 2013-14.

Only forward Bobby Ryan and defenseman Luca Sbisa (both signed through 2014-15) have longer contracts with the Ducks.

For a longer discussion of Cogliano’s merits and potential linemates, click here.

Ducks re-sign Maroon, Crunch’s second-leading scorer.

When the Ducks obtained Patrick Maroon from the Philadelphia Flyers last November, general manager Bob Murray called it a “second chance” for a player who was abruptly dismissed from the Flyers’ American Hockey League affiliate a month earlier.

Maroon took advantage of that chance and was rewarded with a one-year contract that pays $550,000 in the NHL and $60,000 in the AHL.

The 23-year-old winger had 21 goals and 48 points — both second on the Crunch — in 57 games last season after joining Syracuse from the Adirondack Phantoms. The Ducks originally acquired Maroon and David Laliberte from the Flyers for Danny Syvret and Rob Bordson.

A sixth-round draft pick by the Flyers in 2007, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound winger has spent all four of his professional seasons in the AHL.

Ducks bring back Bonino for one year.

Nick Bonino accepted the Ducks’ qualifying offer, bringing the restricted free-agent forward back on a one-year contract that pays $693,000 in the NHL and $65,000 in the AHL.

The 23-year-old center had no goals and no assists in 26 games last season for the Ducks, splitting the season between the NHL and American Hockey League. (Coincidentally, the only players who played more games without a point last season are Ducks defenseman Sheldon Brookbank and Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Matt Smaby, who just signed with the Ducks.)

His scoring touch was readily apparent in Syracuse, where he was nearly a point-per-game player (45 points in 50 games) for the Crunch. In both the AHL and NHL, Bonino was an above-average defensive player, and he saw time in four games of the Ducks’ first-round playoffs series against Nashville.

The Ducks liked Bonino so much that they sent Travis Moen and Kent Huskins to San Jose for him, Timo Pielmeier and a draft pick; Bonino will probably need to be an offensive force if he is to make the NHL roster out of training camp.

Mark Mitera goes to Montreal in minor-league swap.

The Ducks gave Mark Mitera five years. Even that wasn’t enough time to save his status as a first-round bust.

Mitera’s time in the organization ended Friday, when he was shipped to the Montreal Canadiens for defenseman Mathieu Carle.

Carle has played in three NHL games in four pro seasons, all in the Canadiens organization. Coincidentally, the 23-year-old was taken in the same 2006 draft class (second round, 53rd overall) as Mitera (first round, 19th overall).

Carle spent all of last season with the Hamilton Bulldogs, the Canadiens’ AHL affiliate, leading all Bulldogs blueliners with 11 goals. By comparison, Nathan Paetsch led an underperforming group of Syracuse Crunch defensemen with eight goals in just 34 games after arriving in a midseason trade.

Mitera, 23, was part of that young Syracuse blue line, playing 71 games and leading the group with 22 points. In his first full season at the AHL level, he also scored six goals and collected 50 penalty minutes.

Yet even after working his way up from the ECHL, Mitera never lived up to expectations. For that Brian Burke deserves just as much credit for reaching to draft the former University of Michigan defenseman ahead of Claude Giroux, Milan Lucic, Chris Stewart, Brad Marchand and Cal Clutterback, to name just a few.

Carle will be hard-pressed to crack an increasingly deep Ducks blue line, but he should be a bigger force in Syracuse than Mitera, who gets a fresh start.

Smaby joins Ducks.

The Ducks beefed up their blue line (or their AHL affiliate’s blue line) with the signing of Matt Smaby. The former Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman will earn $600,000 in the NHL and $105,000 in the minors.

That’s a slight pay increase over the last two seasons, which helps explain why Smaby left for Anaheim once Tampa Bay didn’t present a qualifying offer. The 26-year-old had spent his entire career in the Lightning organization after being drafted in the second round in 2003.

Where he fits in the Ducks organization remains to be seen. Their top seven defensemen (Visnovsky, Lydman, Fowler, Sbisa, Beauchemin, Foster, Brookbank) seem to be in place, but Smaby offers size (6-foot-4, 240 pounds) matched only by Foster (6-5, 220) with more toughness. He fought twice last season, coincidentally, against two former Ducks — Troy Bodie and Brian Sutherby — according to hockeyfights.com.

Don’t expect much scoring from Smaby; he has no goals and six assists in his NHL career. As a pro, he’s split time almost perfectly between the AHL (156 games) and NHL (122) and last year was the Lightning’s seventh defenseman while shuttling between Tampa and AHL Norfolk.

The guess here is that Smaby has the inside track on the eighth defenseman job, occupied last year by Andreas Lilja, Paul Mara and Andy Sutton. When injuries left the Ducks short on forwards, Randy Carlyle sometimes used Brookbank as a fourth-line left wing and gave the eighth defenseman a cameo.

FYI, I’m told that “Matt Smaby” rhymes with “That’s Maybe.”

Ducks trade for Cogliano, sign Drouin-Deslauriers, etc.

The Ducks took their biggest step toward addressing their biggest area of need this summer today, trading a second-round draft pick in 2013 to the Edmonton Oilers for center Andrew Cogliano.

The 24-year-old has never missed a game in four NHL seasons – all with Edmonton – while racking up 57 goals, 146 points and 137 penalty minutes. Listed at 5-foot-10, Cogliano compares favorably to recently-retired forward Todd Marchant, another player whose two-way game evolved in Edmonton before he arrived in Anaheim.

“I’ve matured as a player,” Cogliano said. “At this point in my career, I can create offense but also take up the def side of things. I played a lot of penalty kill last year. I feel like I can contribute at both ends of the rink.”

In Cogliano and Brandon McMillan, the Ducks now have two viable options for the third-line center position. McMillan finished a strong rookie campaign with 11 goals and 21 points, but his 38.9 percent success rate in the faceoff circle was the lowest on the team. Cogliano only won 41.6 percent of draws last season, but his 461 faceoff wins were the most of any Oiler, and that figure should reasonably increase if he’s surrounded by better and hungrier players.

Cogliano also scored 18 goals in each of his first two NHL seasons before dipping to 10 and 11 the last two years, respectively.

The Ducks’ third- and fourth-line positions – arguably their biggest area of weakness in the playoffs – are more clear but still a little muddy. Cogliano and enforcer George Parros are all but locks; so are youngsters Brandon McMillan, Dan Sexton and Matt Beleskey if they don’t take a step backwards, and Jean-Francois Jacques. There could be one or two open positions –for a fourth-line center, or a third- or fourth-line left wing — with a decent crop of candidates lying in the AHL and junior ranks.

Considering his two-way potential and his faceoff skills, it’s safe to say that adding Cogliano should allow McMillan to switch to either the left or right wing. Counting those two, along with Beleskey, Dan Sexton, Kyle Palmieri or perhaps Emerson Etem -to name just four candidates -the Ducks could have a young third line with above-average speed.

“We dabbled in this a bit over the last year and a half,” general manager Bob Murray said. “The biggest thing for us is speed. We tried to increase our team speed the last couple of years and we really haven’t accomplished that. He can definitely skate.”
Continue reading “Ducks trade for Cogliano, sign Drouin-Deslauriers, etc.” »

Ducks sign Sexton, avoid arbitration.

Arbitration cases are always hard to predict from the outside looking in, but there were a few clues leading up to Monday’s announcement of a new two-year contract for Dan Sexton that the speedy right winger would be able to avoid going to arbitration with the Ducks after he filed last week.

For one, the team hasn’t gone to arbitration with any player since Ruslan Salei in 2003. For another, Sexton was one of the best players at AHL affiliate Syracuse last season, which has been a focal point for general manager Bob Murray’s free-agent targets so far this off-season.

Sure enough, Sexton said Monday, only the terms kept the negotiation process from concluding any earlier.

“It was never a question of whether they wanted me or not,” Sexton said. “We started conversations the day after the season ended. We weren’t sitting there waiting for them to pick up the phone.”

Sexton’s contract is a two-way deal in the first year, paying $550,000 in the NHL and $105,000 in the minors, and a one-way deal in Year 2 ($550,000) –similar to the contract structure for recent free agent signee Andrew Gordon.

Of course, Sexton would prefer to spend the season in Anaheim, not Syracuse.

Continue reading “Ducks sign Sexton, avoid arbitration.” »

Ducks re-sign McGrattan.

Brian McGrattan, who thrived as an enforcer after arriving in Syracuse in a mid-season trade, re-signed with the Ducks today on a one-year contract worth $600,000 in the NHL and $105,000 in the AHL.

Much like the Ducks’ other free-agent acquisitions this week — Andrew Gordon, Bryan Rodney and, possibly, J-F Jacques — McGrattan is a safe bet to start the 2011-12 season in Syracuse. He had six goals, four assists and 56 penalty minutes in 20 games for the Crunch last season after being acquired from the Boston Bruins. The 29-year-old also had 13 shots in a single game March 12, a franchise record.

Should Jacques fail to land an NHL roster spot, the Ducks could turn to McGrattan for extra fourth-line muscle in a pinch. He’s played 182 career NHL games with Ottawa, Phoenix and Calgary, collecting three goals and 14 points with 395 penalty minutes. He most recently played with Calgary in 2009-10, notching one goal, four points and 86 PIM in 34 games.

McGrattan told the Syracuse Post-Dispatch that his “goal is to make Anaheim. If I don’t, I’ll be in Syracuse. Playing for (Crunch head coach) Mark Holick again, that’s a big reason I’d want to play in Syracuse, if I’m sent there. It’s a win-win. If I make the team (Anaheim), I make the team. If I don’t make the team, I know I’ll have every opportunity to get back up there. I can see myself being an extra guy up top. You never know. A lot can happen. That’s why you have to be ready. If I’m not there, at least I know I’ve given everything I had.”

One other interesting wrinkle to the story out of Syracuse: McGrattan and Ray Emery are good friends, having played in the Ottawa Senators’ organization together from 2002-08. McGrattan told the P-D that “at last word Emery told him he didn’t have much cooking in terms of signing with a team.”