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.”

Ducks send Eminger to Broadway for Voros.

The Ducks have traded defenseman Steve Eminger to the New York Rangers for left wing Aaron Voros and minor-league forward Ryan Hillier.

A grinder with two-way skills, Voros was underutilized in New York by the admission of Rangers head coach John Tortorella. In 41 games last season, he had three goals, seven points and 89 penalty minutes. In 2008-09, Voros set career highs with eight goals, 16 points and 122 penalty minutes in 54 games.

The 29-year-old has one year and $900,000 remaining on his current contract, and gives the Ducks a salary-cap hit of $1 million – a net savings on Eminger ($1.5 million salary/$1.25 million cap hit).

Eminger was inconsistent in his lone season in Anaheim – sometimes a healthy scratch, other times worthy of top-four minutes. He wound up with four goals and 16 points in 63 games despite a slow start (one assist through 23 games).

Hillier, 22, played only 26 games last season between the Rangers’ AHL and ECHL affiliates. A 2006 third-round draft pick by the Rangers, Hiller has “a good combination of speed and skill, plays with a lot of energy, and shines when the puck is on his stick” according to the scouting report on HockeysFuture.com.

With the departure of Eminger, the Ducks have just four NHL defensemen under contract for next season: Lubomir Visnovsky, Toni Lydman, Sheldon Brookbank and Brett Festerling. Voros adds depth at left wing to a picture that already includes Joffrey Lupul, Matt Beleskey and Jason Blake – not to mention restricted free agent Bobby Ryan. The Ducks have also qualified restricted free-agent defensemen James Wisniewski and Brendan Mikkelson.

Brookbank re-signs for 2 years, $1.5 million. Update.

Defenseman Sheldon Brookbank has parlayed a career year into a two-year, $1.5 million contract with the Ducks. The 29-year-old will earn $700,000 in 2010-11 and $800,000 the following season for a $750,000 cap hit.

Brookbank set career highs in 2009-10 in games played (66), assists (9), points (9), plus/minus (plus-10) and penalty minutes (114). His plus/minus rating and penalty minute total were second on the team, and his eight fighting majors tied for third.

Ducks management first approached Brookbank about a possible contract extension during the second half of last season. While he considered the possibility of seeking more money as a free agent, the deciding factor was that “I was comfortable here,” he said.

“I didn’t want to get too greedy. I wanted to be somewhere I feel like I fit in. I feel like I fit in here and my wife likes it here too.”
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Ducks awarded 12th pick in entry draft.

The Ducks will pick 12th when the NHL Entry Draft comes to Staples Center in June, according to the draft order announced Tuesday. The Edmonton Oilers posted the worst record in the NHL this season and drew the first pick, followed by the Boston Bruins (via Toronto), Florida Panthers, Columbus Blue Jackets, New York Islanders, Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes, Atlanta Thrashers, Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers, Dallas Stars, Ducks, Phoenix Coyotes (via Calgary) and St. Louis Blues. The order of the final 16 selections will be determined in the playoffs.

So what should the Ducks do with the pick? Keep in mind, they also will receive the Philadelphia Flyers’ first-round pick that was obtained in the Chris Pronger trade, a pick that will be determined based on the Flyers’ playoff finish.

Here’s a sampling of players drafted 12th the past decade: Calvin De Haan (Islanders, 2009); Tyler Myers (Buffalo, 2008); Ryan McDonagh (Montreal, 2007); Bryan Little (Atlanta, 2006); Marc Staal (Rangers, 2005); A.J. Thelen (Minnesota, 2004); Hugh Jessiman (Rangers, 2003); Steve Eminger (Washington, 2002); Dan Hamhuis (Nashville, 2001); Alexei Smirnov (Ducks, 2000).

The list includes one great player (Myers), some solid players (Little, Staal and Hamhuis) some disappointments (Eminger, Smirnov) two players who have never made the NHL (Jessiman, Thelen) and two more who are too young to judge (De Haan, McDonagh). Marian Hossa was a 12th overall pick. So was Alex Tanguay. Historically, the 10-15th range has included two or three busts on average.

So what would you do with the pick?


Ducks 7, Oilers 2.

Ryan Carter scored twice, five other players scored one goal – including the 606th of Teemu Selanne’s career – turning Fan Appreciation Night into a one-sided rout in the Ducks’ final game of the season.

Selanne stayed on the ice when the final horn sounded, then led a lap around the ice as the Ducks saluted the fans. Afterwards, he was asked on the ice about his future plans.

“I was always hoping that I wasn’t playing so well, and the decision (to retire) would be easier,” said Selanne, who scored on a second-period power play goal. “I just feel great still. There’s a lot of time to rest now. We have a great team here. Let’s see what happens.”

Selanne, 39, finished his 17th season with 27 goals in 54 games – a ratio of 0.5 goals per game that ranks eighth in the NHL. His 14 power-play goals tied for third in the league. In 1,186 career
games,
Selanne ranks 17th in all-time goals (606), 56th in all-time assists (654)
and
35th in all-time points (1,260).

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Ducks 5, Colorado 2. Updates with video.

Teemu Selanne scored the 601st goal of his career, and Jason Blake recorded five points – a goal and four assists – becoming the first Ducks player to do so since Corey Perry in Oct. 2008.

Selanne scored on a vintage goal, finishing a neutral zone breakaway with a wrister past Craig Anderson at 2:34 of the third period. Two days after Jari Kurri flew to Anaheim from Finland to recognize Selanne’s 600th career goal, Selanne matched Kurri at 17th on the career goal-scoring list.

Here’s the video of the (latest) historic goal by Selanne, with apologies for the Avalanche announcers, who make no mention of the history in the moment: 

 

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Ducks 3, Detroit 1.

The Ducks gained a critical two points in the standings against a tired Red Wings squad before 15,180 at Honda Center. Their 61 points in the standings matches 10th-place Dallas, and trails the three eighth-place teams (Detroit, Nashville and Calgary) by three.


Ryan Whitney, Kyle Chipchura and Bobby Ryan scored for Anaheim and Jonas Hiller made some spectacular saves among his 46.

Whitney deflected a point shot off a skate to score the game’s first goal, and Steve Eminger shot the puck off Chipchura’s hand to give the Ducks a 2-0 lead after one period.

Bobby Ryan scored cleanly to make it 3-0 before Pavel Datsyuk capped the scoring with a breakaway power-play goal late in the second period.

Anaheim improved to 11-4-0 in its last 15 games, and its nine-game winning streak at home is one shy of tying a team record (Feb-March 2008).

More to follow …

Atlanta 2, Ducks 1.

Steve Eminger’s second goal of the season was all the Ducks would get at Philips Center, where backup netminder Johan Hedberg was stellar in a 34-save victory.


Hedberg’s effort allowed goals by Colby Armstrong in the second period, and Maxim Afinogenov in the third, to stand up. Jonas Hiller stopped 32 of 34 for the Ducks.

Corey Perry did most of the work on Eminger’s goal, charging out from behind the Atlanta net and backhanding the puck on Hedberg from just outside the crease. Eminger skated in unchecked to get the last touch, angling it between the legs of Afinogenov and into the net.

Armstrong took advantage of a long rebound off the pads of Hiller, firing in the game’s first goal from the slot at 4:32 of the second period. Randy Carlyle burned his timeout shortly thereafter, delivered a spirited speech on the bench, and moved Bobby Ryan up to the Ducks’ top line. Perry scored with 2:02 left in the period.

But the Thrasher potted the go-ahead goal, skating 5-on-4 at 4:03 of the third period when a failed clearing attempt by the Ducks landed on Afinogeov’s stick at the right point.
After a sluggish start, the Ducks (24-22-7) bounced back with a strong third period, in which they outshot Atlanta 15-6, including 5-1 in the final five minutes. Completing a night of bad breaks for Anaheim, Ryan Getzlaf hit the post with a wrist shot at the buzzer.

The Ducks are 1-2 to begin their season-long, six-game road trip, which continues tomorrow in Washington.

Ducks 4, Boston 3; Selanne breaks jaw.

Dan Sexton, Matt Beleskey, Ryan Getzlaf and Steve Eminger scored goals, and Jonas Hiller made 27 saves in both his and the Ducks’ fifth straight win.

But the good news was tempered by another serious injury to Teemu Selanne, whose jaw got in the way of a Ryan Whitney shot in the third period and broke on impact. Selanne, playing just his third game after getting back from a broken hand, will be given a timetable after undergoing surgery to repair the fracture on Thursday, head coach Randy Carlyle said.

“It’s a tough loss,” Carlyle said. “The puck hit the bottom of somebody’s stick (Miroslav Satan), went and hit the ice and then bounced back up and hit him. It’s kind of one of those things that you very rarely would see. It’s unfortunate for Teeme and unforunate for us. We finally started to get some bodies back in our lineup and get our lines setted.”
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Lupul adds to Ducks’ injury woes.

Already missing forwards Saku Koivu and Ryan Carter, left wing Joffrey Lupul sat out the Ducks’ practice Friday with an undisclosed lower-body injury.


“Just some soreness,” Lupul said. “I kind of know the drill. I don’t want to get into it too much, but it’s some soreness in my lower body. Hopefully it can be taken care of tomorrow.”

Lupul said the injury is not related to the recurring back stiffness that sidelined him in the preseason, but “wouldn’t rule myself out for tomorrow.”


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