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.”

Ducks bulk up with Jacques.

The Ducks added another possible piece to their bottom-six forward picture Wednesday with the signing of free agent left wing Jean-Francois Jacques. The 26-year-old gets a one-year contract worth $650,000 in the NHL and $105,000 in the AHL.

Known more for his fights than his goals, the 6-foot-4, 217-pound winger had 63 penalty minutes, 111 hits and four goals in 51 games with the Edmonton Oilers last season. Jacques had a career-high 11 points (4+7=11) and 78 penalty minutes in 49 games in 2009-10.

Jacques has spent his entire six-year pro career in the Edmonton organization after the Oilers drafted him in the second round of the 2003 draft.

Jacques, who averaged a mere 7:04 time on ice per game last season, figures to slide into a fourth-line left wing role similar to the one occupied at times by Aaron Voros, Brad Winchester and Jarkko Ruutu last season. The addition of Jacques makes it seem less likely that Winchester or Ruutu will be re-signed.

His fight card at is a fairly long one.

Ducks sign AHL D-man Bryan Rodney.

Charlotte Checkers captain Bryan Rodney was 10th among AHL defenseman last season in points (47) and tied for fourth in power-play points (29).

The Syracuse Crunch defense was relatively young and low on offensive-minded players last season, making today’s signing of Rodney a sensible one for the Ducks. The 27-year-old Rodney has appeared in 33 NHL games for the Carolina Hurricanes the past three seasons, scoring all of his 11 points during a 22-game stint in 2009-10.

Lately, Rodney has made a living running AHL power plays with a strong shot. His nine goals last season were a career high, and he scored seven goals and 35 points in 54 games the year before for Albany, then the Hurricanes’ AHL affiliate.

The one-year contract pays $525,000 in the NHL and $250,000 in the AHL.

Rodney said in May that he was looking for an opportunity to get more NHL ice time. The Ducks recently acquired Kurtis Foster from Edmonton for Andy Sutton in a move to boost the second power-play unit, but an injury to Foster, Lubomir Visnovsky, Cam Fowler, Luca Sbisa or Francois Beauchemin could give Rodney an opening similar to those he had with the Hurricanes.

Listed at 6-feet and 195 pounds, Rodney went undrafted out of the OHL. He’s had six different minor-league addresses since turning pro in 2005-06, and almost quit at one point.

Sexton elects arbitration.

Right wing Dan Sexton was one of 23 NHL players who elected arbitration today.

Sexton, 24, appeared in 47 games in his second NHL season, scoring four goals and 13 points while averaging 11:35 per game. His season was marked by frequent trips to and from Syracuse, where Sexton was a point-per-game player (9+8=17 in 17 games) for the Crunch.

Ultimately, 2010-11 could be termed a disappointment after Sexton scored nine goals in 41 games as a rookie out of Bowling Green in 2009-10.

The 5-foot-9, 165-pound right wing made $575,000 last season and was due to become a restricted free agent. He, Nick Bonino and Patrick Maroon all received qualifying offers last week.

Schultz opts for the patient route.

It’s not always easy being a bona fide NHL prospect.

It’s not easy when you have chosen the NCAA route over the junior route, reducing your options to the all-or-nothing proposition of staying in school or turning pro.

It’s not easy when your best friend and defense partner in college was drafted in your same class by the same NHL team -then traded two years later, prohibiting you from continuing your journey together side-by-side into the pro ranks.

This was the scenario facing Ducks prospect Justin Schultz, who had to watch from the University of Wisconsin, Madison while Jake Gardiner was traded from Anaheim to Toronto, then signed an entry-level contract this year.

While Schultz was named one of 10 Hobey Baker finalists, Gardiner went on to impress observers during a 10-game stint with the Maple Leafs’ AHL affiliate at the end of the season.

For Schultz, staying in school might not have been an easy choice. But it’s choice, and he’s sticking to it.

“Yeah, I think definitely I believe I could do it if I wanted,” he said of turning pro. “But I really feel like I want to play in the AHL next year and get ready so I can make the jump right to the big club.”
Continue reading “Schultz opts for the patient route.” »

Ducks invest in Gordon.

Andrew Gordon is a prolific Twitter user, part-time blogger, and on Saturday became the first player signed by the Ducks since free agency began at 9 a.m. Monday.

The 25-year-old right wing has had success scoring at the American Hockey League level and will get a shot to make the NHL leap in Anaheim. Gordon’s contract is a two-way deal in the first year that will pay $525,000 in the NHL and $250,000 in the minors; the second year is a one-way deal that pays $550,000 in the NHL.

Gordon played in nine games for the Washington Capitals last season, logging a goal, an assist and a minus-2 rating. He spent most of the season with the AHL’s Hershey Bears, scoring 28 goals and 57 points in 50 games. He missed almost six weeks between February and March with an upper-body injury, returned to play the final 10 regular-season games, but was limited to two postseason games with a lower-body injury.

The 5-foot-11 Nova Scotia native has been an AHL regular for four straight seasons, all in Hershey, since being drafted by the Capitals in the seventh round of the 2004 draft. He appeared in two games with the Caps in 2009-10 and made his NHL debut on Dec. 23, 2008 before being sent back to Hershey.

Gordon told the Patriot-News of Harrisburg, Penn. “I felt like right away, they were the best option for me. Anaheim was speaking very highly of me and where I fit in the system and where I fit in the future. I’m going to try to go in there and earn things like anybody else does.”

Ducks acquire Foster from Edmonton for Sutton.

The Ducks’ first move on the first day of free agency was not a free-agent signing but a trade. Veteran defenseman Kurtis Foster arrives from Edmonton in exchange for Andy Sutton, whose disappointing tenure in Anaheim ends after one season.

The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Foster is similar in size to Sutton (6-6, 245) but the two play different games. The 29-year-old Foster can help on the power play and has a booming shot that is effective when accurate. He scored eight goals each of the last two seasons, with Edmonton and Tampa Bay, and scored a career-high 10 goals in 58 games for the Minnesota Wild in 2005-06.

Foster also had 14 assists, 45 penalty minutes and a minus-12 rating last season in 74 games. In 331 career NHL games, Foster has 37 goals and 104 assists.

The Ducks lost Andreas Lilja to free agency when the Flyers gave the 35-year-old defenseman a three-year contract worth a reported $1.7 million. Including Foster, the Ducks have seven defensemen under contract.

Sutton was due to earn $2.25 million with a $2.125 million cap hit. Foster will earn $1.8 million in the final year of his contract.

In his lone season in Anaheim, Sutton had four assists, a plus-1 rating, and 87 penalty minutes in 39 games. The 36-year-old never found his place in the lineup after breaking his thumb in the first game of the regular season. Even when healthy Sutton was a regular in the press box, and also got caught in a couple minor skirmishes with teammates in practice.

Some other notable transactions Friday involved former Ducks:

James Wisniewski signed for six years and $33 million with Columbus.
Drew Miller re-signed for two years, $1.65 million with Detroit.
Sean O’Donnell signed for one year and $850,000 with Chicago.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere is expected to sign with the Colorado Avalanche, although a formal deal hasn’t been announced.

Free agency live chat.

Since news breaks before it can be blogged, I invite you to keep your browser glued to this chat room beginning at 9 a.m. today. What I know about NHL free agents, trades and buyouts will go here, so feel free to ask me some questions in real time:

Notes from rookie scrimmage.

It was tempting to leave Anaheim Ice on Thursday with a broad set of generalizations, but the Ducks’ rookie scrimmage amounted to a one-hour snapshot of a portion of the organization’s prospect pool.

Twenty-two players have been invited to the six-day camp that began Thursday. All but one was at the rink Thursday morning — a team spokesperson said that goalie Igor Bobkov’s flight into California was delayed. Maybe Bobkov knew something the other 21 didn’t: Of the players on the ice for the intrasquad scrimmage, the goalies had the least fun.

The final score was 9-6, apropos for the 4-on-4 game of river hockey that featured no hitting and plenty of uncoordinated improvisation. John Gibson, the 39th overall pick at last week’s Entry Draft, and Iiro Tarkki, whom the Ducks lured from Finland this summer, absorbed all of the burden.

Tarkki gave up the nine-spot, but faced more shots than Gibson (by my unofficial estimate) and made the more impressive saves. The 6-foot-3 netminder, who turns 26 today, is not ready for the NHL, and the Ducks will be happy if he and Bobkov can upgrade the goaltending picture in Syracuse. Gibson struggled early but seemed to settle down. He’ll have up to four seasons at the University of Michigan to iron out the kinks before he ever plays a game in Anaheim.

Goals were scored by Chris Wagner (4), Emerson Etem (2), Joseph Cramarossa (2), Devante Smith-Pelly (2), Andy Welinski, Tim Heed, Andreas Dahlstrom, Brett Perlini and Radoslav Illo. Rickard Rakell was at the rink but didn’t scrimmage because his equipment hadn’t arrived. Neither did Jake Newton, who is battling illness.

Those are the facts. They can be overestimated. I did longer interviews with Justin Schultz and Rakell, and will save their stories for a later post.

Since it was the only scrimmage that will be open to the public, here’s a few snap judgments:
Continue reading “Notes from rookie scrimmage.” »

Goalie John Gibson highlights Ducks’ Day 2 haul.

John Gibson, a goaltender from the U.S. National Development Program, was the first of six picks by the Ducks on Day 2 of the NHL Entry Draft.

Initially projected to be the first goalie selected in the draft, Gibson went to the Ducks with the 39th overall pick – one slot after 6-foot-5 Swedish goalie Magnus Hellberg, who went to Nashville. The 18-year-old told reporters in St. Paul that “my goal at the beginning of the season was to be the first goalie taken but that’s the way it worked out.”

Gibson, a 6-foot-3 native of Pittsburgh, backstopped Team USA to a gold medal at the 2011 Under-18 World Championships in Germany. He posted a 2.34 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage along the way to earn Best Goaltender of the tournament honors.

The Ducks’ AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, struggled with a goalie tandem of Jean-Phillippe Levasseur and Timo Pielmeier last season. Igor Bobkov, a 2009 draft pick, could turn pro next season (he’ll be 20) and Finnish free agent Iiro Tarkki was also signed to help shore up the position, but Gibson probably won’t join the pro ranks for another two seasons at least.

“I’ve just got to see how the next couple years play out,” Gibson said. “When you’re
ready, you’ll be there. I’ve got to see what they need, the best
development for yourself, so I’ll take it one step at a time.

“It’s definitely a great organization. I’m really happy to be there. I’m really thankful they drafted me. I’m thankful they have a lot of good young talent coming up so hopefully in the near future I can be there and help the team out.”

The Ducks finished their draft day by selecting center William Karlsson (second round, 53rd overall), center Joseph Cramarossa (third round, 65th overall), defenseman Andy Welinski (third round, 83rd overall), left wing Max Friberg (fifth round, 143rd overall), and defenseman Josh Manson (sixth round, 160th overall).