Sutton steps in.

Another quick, slightly late dispatch from the vacation trail: Free agent defenseman Andy Sutton has been added on a two-year, $4.25 million contract.

Sutton immediately addresses the Ducks’ need for a veteran top-four defenseman, although he isn’t the point producer many anticipated – namely, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Tomas Kaberle. Sutton is another shot-blocker, to the tune of 204 last season — second-most in the NHL. While averaging 20:24 of ice time, the 6-foot-6, 245-pounder was also eighth among all defenseman with 197 hits. Sutton chipped in with five goals and eight assists in a regular season split between the Islanders and Senators.

Said Anaheim GM Bob Murray (via the team’s official website): “We inquired about him at the deadline last year. I just couldn’t make
things work in time to get him. … I talked to Pat Morris (his agent) very early about Andy. We waited a
little while and talked again. I had to see where the whole (James) Wisniewski
thing went and we had to let that play out a little bit. I think Andy is
very excited about playing with our group and we’re very excited to
have him. We were all patient and let things unfold.”

While regarded as one of the top defensive-minded defensemen still on the market, there are concerns about Sutton’s giveaways (he had 64 in 72 games last season) and durability. The 35-year-old missed eight games last season with a groin injury, and has broken the 70-game plateau only twice in his career.

The Ducks’ other main blue-line acquisition, Toni Lydman, is also a giveaway liability — he had 49 in 67 games last season. But he’s also a good shot-blocker who piles up hits. If nothing else the Ducks will enter the season with two proven defensemen (Sutton and Lydman) who are tough to play against in the defensive zone. Brett Festerling and Sheldon Brookbank are close to being mentioned in that group, as well.

The question now is, who will move the puck and take the shot from the blue line? If they don’t make a play for Kaberle, the Ducks may turn to rookies Luca Sbisa, Cam Fowler or even Danny Syvret to help replace the offensive contributions of retired captain Scott Niedermayer. Aside from workhorse Lubomir Visnovsky, who averaged 5:09 power-play time per game last season, no current Ducks defenseman averaged more than 0:55 per game on the power play last season (that was Lydman).

There is also the question of how quickly the defense will come together as a unit. That was among the Ducks’ main issues early last season, when they were trying to integrate three new defensemen (Nick Boynton, Sbisa and Steve Eminger). This year, only Brookbank will come into training camp having had a full NHL season under head coach Randy Carlyle’s system; Sutton, Lydman, Fowler and Syvret will have had no in-game experience at all.

This has not dampened Sutton’s optimism.

“It’s a great fit,” he said. “It’s
a team that can go all the way, which was important to me. It’s a
mature team, a veteran team and the sky is the limit with this club.”

Conditioning camp roster announced.

The Ducks have invited 31 prospects to the team’s annual prospect summer conditioning camp from July 5-11 at Anaheim Ice. The camp will include both on-ice and off-ice workouts, as well as three scrimmages open to the public on Tuesday, July 6, Thursday, July 8 and Saturday, July 10, with each beginning at 6 p.m.

The camp roster includes 2010 draft picks Cam Fowler, Emerson Etem, Devante Smith-Pelly, Tim Heed, Kevin Lind, Chris Wagner and Brett Perlini, as well as many other recent draftees.

According to the official release from the team,

The seven-day camp focuses on both the on- and off-ice development of the organization’s top young prospects. In addition to on-ice scrimmage sessions, each player will participate in strength and conditioning drills that allow coaches and management to closely evaluate the progress of each athlete. Along with daily weight and aerobic training, each player will also receive a personally tailored nutritional recommendation and be tested for strength thresholds, range of movement and aerobic capacity.

The complete roster:
Continue reading

Ducks Day 2 draft notes.

10:16 a.m.: With their second-round pick, the Ducks take right wing Devante Smith-Pelly, a right wing from Mississauga St. Michael’s (OHL). He is listed at 5-11, 211 pounds.

Smith-Pelly had 29 goals and 62 points in 60 games last season. He was ranked 67th among North American Skaters by Central Scouting in the midterm rankings, and 76th in the final rankings.

For Smith-Pelly, hearing his name called 42nd overall wasn’t necessarily a surprise.

“I wasn’t really sure exactly where I was going to go,” he said. “I came in not expecting to go anywhere, really, just soaking it all in. Then to hear my name called was exciting.”

The 18-year-old compared his game to that of Dustin Brown, the versatile Kings winger who can score, defend and hit with equal ease. Smith-Pelly described himself as “a guy who can excel in a top-6 forward role or a bottom-6 forward role.” This in spite of the fact that he came to the OHL from a team – the Junior Canadiens – “where defense was optional.”

Don’t be surprised if the Ducks ask him to spend some extra time in juniors to hone the defensive side of his game. For as much as Smith-Pelly would like to make the NHL club, the Memorial Cup tournament is coming to Mississauga next year, and his team will have the automatic berth given to the host squad.

12:15 p.m.: The Ducks have acquired the Toronto Maple Leafs’ fifth-round pick (122nd overall) for right wing Mike Brown, and used it to select Christopher Wagner, a right wing for the South Shore Kings of the Eastern Junior Hockey League. Wagner had 34 goals and 83 points in 44 games last season for South Shore.

Anaheim then used its own fifth-round pick (132nd overall) to select Tim Heed, a defenseman from Sweden. Heed was the 30th-ranked European skater by Central Scouting. The 19-year-old had eight goals and 37 points in 32 games last year for Sodertalje of the of the Swedish Elite League.

Neither player is here at Staples Center, but I did ask Brian Burke about Brown. Even though he didn’t trade for Brown – that was one of Bob Murray’s first deals as Ducks GM – he was on the Maple Leafs’ radar. “We’re very pleased,” Burke said.

The 25-year-old Brown set career highs in 2009-10 with 75 games played, six goals, seven points and 106 penalty minutes.

12:45 p.m.: The Ducks have chosen Swedish center Andreas Dahlstrom with the first of their two sixth-round picks, 161st overall. The scouting report, according to Eliteprospects.com

A very shifty player. Dahlstrm has impressive hands and technical
skills and is very creative. Can do the unexpected with the puck at all
times. Hockey sense is good and passing game is impressive. Skating
could maybe use some improvement as well as his finishing ability.
Injuries have also slowed down his development, but he has the potential
to become a high scoring player.

1:05 p.m.: Kevin Lind (Chicago, USHL) becomes the newest Duck with the 177th pick of the draft. Anaheim has one pick left, a seventh-rounder.

Lind fell from the 32nd to 139th on Central Scouting’s list of North American skaters. HockeysFuture.com ranked him as the 10th-best draft prospect in the entire USHL in January. According to the Ducks’ director of amateur scouting, Martin Madden, Lind was hurt by playing on a poor team and pushing back his college entry by a year (he’ll attend Notre Dame after playing next season in the USHL).

1:18 p.m.: The Ducks used their last pick of the draft (192nd overall) on Brett Perlini, a sophomore fowrard from Michigan State. The 20-year-old had seven goals and 12 points in 20 games last season. His father, Fred Perlini, played eight NHL games as a center for the Toronto Maple Leafs.