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.”
Of course, Cogliano must sign a new contract first first. He and Murray both expressed a desire to come to terms before his scheduled July 21 arbitration date. A restricted free agent, Cogliano elected arbitration last week while he was still Oilers property.
“I talked to my agent today,” Cogliano said. “I had a great conversation with Bob Murray, which was very exciting. Anaheim’s ultimately the place I want to be. They’re a team that wants me. I don’t feel there will be an issue getting a deal done. Edmonton was different … a lot of different players there. At the end of the day they had to move some guys.”
Cogliano also believes he can move up in the lineup in a pinch. “I’m skilled enough and have a head for the game where I can play with” Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, he said. “Last year I took steps where my defensive game has been good. The pressure (to score) isn’t maybe as strong as it was in Edmonton. They were looking for places for offense all the time.”
The Ducks also formally announced the signing of goalie Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers. The 27-year-old went 16-28-4 with a 3.26 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage in 48 games last season for Edmonton. He played an additional 35 games in the American Hockey League.
The 27-year-old goalie will make $600,000 in the NHL and $105,000 in the AHL the first year of the contract; the second year is a one-way deal worth $625,000. Murray sees Drouin-Deslauriers as a good insurance policy for incumbent goalies Dan Ellis and Jonas Hiller, whose season was cut short by vertigo symptoms.
“I needed some protection here,” Murray said. “If Jonas is good from the beginning, we’re really strong in goal.”
A couple other tidbits from the GM:
Murray said that Teemu Selanne hasn’t decided whether to retire or re-sign, but they’ve been talking. “I talked to Teemu yesterday,” Murray said. “His kids are in a camp and he is out there skating with them. He said he feels fine. We said let’s talk next week, like we always planned.”
He sees Dan Sexton, who signed Monday, as “a really good depth player … We did the contract the way we did because we get tired of losing guys on waivers. This way I don’t think we do.”
He implicitly acknowledged the need for a fourth-line center, saying “we probably have to get somebody else, if we can, who can win faceoffs also.” Kyle Chipchura and Marchant held that job most of last season; Marchant is now retired and the Ducks chose not to send Chipchura a qualifying offer. AHLers Nick Bonino and Patrick Maroon, who did receive qualifying offers, will probably have a crack at the job. So will Peter Holland, the 15th overall pick at the 2009 draft, who scored 37 goals last year in the OHL and had three goals and three assists in three games with Syracuse.
Speaking of Syracuse, what’s with all the AHL signings (Andrew Gordon, J-F Jacques, Bryan Rodney) and re-signings (Sexton, Brian McGrattan)? “I’m tired of losing. We are going to try to play better down there. If the kids win, they get the habit of winning. If they lose, they get in a habit of losing. We are trying to make a better environment for our players down there. I’m trying to create a winning environment.”