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.

To do so, he must improve on a season in which he dipped from nine goals to four, and from 10 assists to nine, despite playing six more games than he did as a rookie in 2009-10. Sexton, who is generously listed as 5-foot-10, shuttled back and forth from Syracuse to Anaheim more than any Ducks player last season. He excelled with the Crunch,scoring nine goals and 17 points in 17 games.

“I want to do what I did last year and just do it better,” he said. “Be stronger on the puck, shoot to score, get a lot of good chances. Some games I got a lot of good chances, some games I didn’t get any at all. Taking advantage of my opportunities, whether I’m playing on the second line or the third line.”

Sexton and Gordon, and not Teemu Selanne, are the first two right wings signed by the Ducks since free agency began. Does Sexton see himself as a possible successor to Selanne if and when the Finnish Flash retires?

“It’s definitely a possibility,” he said. “I filled in for him when he’s been injured. I think I filled in for him well. I think I proved I can score in that position. We all hope that he comes back.

“He’s such a great player. I have no idea but I think he will. He had such a great season.”

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About J.P. Hoornstra

J.P. Hoornstra covers the Dodgers, Angels and Major League Baseball for the Orange County Register, Los Angeles Daily News, Long Beach Press-Telegram, Torrance Daily Breeze, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Pasadena Star-News, San Bernardino Sun, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Whittier Daily News and Redlands Daily Facts. Before taking the beat in 2012, J.P. covered the NHL for four years. UCLA gave him a degree once upon a time; when he graduated on schedule, he missed getting Arnold Schwarzenegger's autograph on his diploma by five months.

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