For the second summer in a row, the Vancouver Canucks are sending a proven playoff performer down the Pacific Coast to Anaheim. The Ducks acquired 34-year-old defenseman Kevin Bieksa from the Canucks for a second round draft choice in 2016.
Last summer, the Canucks sent Ryan Kesler to the Ducks for a package the included Nick Bonino.
Vancouver GM Jim Benning has been trying to deal Bieksa since the end of the season and was thought to be close to a deal that would send him to San Jose. Winding up in another part of California was just fine for him.
“Anaheim was always at the top of my list and one of my main choices. This is the best fit for us,” Bieksa tweeted.
The rugged rearguard is going into the final year of a deal that will pay him $2.5 million and has a cap hit of $4.6 million. It’s expected the Ducks will talk contract extension with him this summer.
Bieksa fits nicely into Anaheim’s deep and young, mobile defense corps. He’ll probably slot in on the third pair while the heavy lifting is done by youngsters Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen and Cam Fowler. Also in the fold are Clayton Stoner and Simon Despres. Also, Francois Beauchemin, 35, is a UFA.
For as impressive as the Anaheim defense was this season, GM Bob Murray probably thought it could have used a little more toughness in the Western Conference final against eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago. And the Ducks have plenty of cap room, ranking in the bottom five league-wide.
In Vancouver, meanwhile, there are now two visible holes on the Canucks blueline, with Dan Hamhuis, Alex Edler, Chris Tanev and Luca Sbisa holding down jobs and Adam Clendening, Alex Biega and Frank Corrado knocking on the door in the system. Expect the Canucks to be active on the free agent front starting tomorrow, with a defenseman on their wish list. Vancouver now has about $8 million in salary cap space.
Anaheim also announced Tuesday it has hired former Ottawa coach Paul MacLean as an assistant, joining head coach Bruce Boudreau and assistants Trent Yawney and Scott Niedermayer.
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior editor and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Brian Costello on Twitter at @BCostelloTHN