LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The Anaheim Ducks signed free-agent defenceman Paul Mara to a one-year, US$750,000 contract on Thursday, bolstering a blue line that will be missing another new signee when training camp opens this weekend.
Ducks general manager Bob Murray said his club will start camp Saturday without defenceman Toni Lydman, who is sidelined after an unexplained episode of double vision last week.
Lydman signed a three-year contract on July 1, joining fellow Finns Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu in Anaheim. He fell ill last week while eating lunch and called Selanne, who called the Ducks’ medical staff.
Doctors have since done several batteries of tests on the former Sabres and Flames defenceman, ruling out most major medical concerns but not identifying the problem. Lydman occasionally has migraine headaches, but the problems haven’t yet been connected.
“Ever since that day, he’s been having tests,” Murray said. “Everything that’s been coming back, he hasn’t had what they’re testing for.”
Murray said Lydman’s condition had improved this week, but the club can afford to be cautious with a veteran defenceman who won’t need much time to warm up for the regular season.
Mara played 48 games with Montreal last season before injuring his shoulder in January. The Ducks are the sixth NHL club for the 31-year-old defenceman, who scored 21 points for the New York Rangers in the 2008-09 season.
“I just want to bring a veteran defensive presence to this team, and eventually help this team win a Stanley Cup,” Mara said. “It offered the best place for me as a hockey player and the best chance to win. It seemed like a great fit and a great place to be.”
The Ducks also added veteran defencemen Lubomir Visnovsky, Andy Sutton and Kyle Chipchura—Mara’s teammate in Montreal last season—in the past year while losing captain Scott Niedermayer to retirement. Anaheim has rebuilt its defence after trading Chris Pronger and losing Francois Beauchemin to free agency last summer.
Murray said the Ducks didn’t sign Mara specifically because of Lydman’s injury. Anaheim had been talking to Mara’s agent about a deal for two months, but didn’t hammer it out until Mara underwent tests on his surgically repaired shoulder and skated with his new teammates this week.
“I don’t think it was more urgent,” Murray said, intimating the Ducks also had discussed trading for another defenceman this month. “Nothing like that happened the last couple of weeks. (Mara) had his shoulder tested, and it went really well. I said, ‘Let’s get this done and move forward.'”
After missing the playoffs last spring for the first time since 2004, the Ducks open training camp Saturday morning in Anaheim, with their first preseason game on Tuesday night.