At age 42, Selanne returning to Ducks

The ageless Teemu Selanne is coming back.

The 42-year-old forward, leading scorer in Anaheim Ducks history, and a collector of 663 goals and 1,406 career points over 1,341 National Hockey League games, will return to Anaheim on a one-year contract worth $4.5 million, the team as announced on its mobile application Thursday.

“There’s some unfinished business from last year, and I can’t wait to start the season again,” he said.

Ranking 12th all time in goals, fourth in power play goals, fifth in game-winning goals and 19th in points, Selanne will have the opportunity to continue to rise through the league’s record books.

“Age is a funny thing. A lot of times I don’t really feel 42 right now,” Selanne said. “After all, they’re just numbers. It all depends how good you feel, and how healthy you are and how much passion you have for the game. I don’t feel that I have been surviving. It’s not even close to being that stage yet. That’s why I still enjoy the game and its fun to go to the rink every morning. Obviously it sounds pretty old when you say 42 as a hockey player, but mentally I’m still at the same level as (teammate Ryan) Getzlaf and those other young guys.”

The Finn recorded 26 goals and 66 points last season while displaying the skating and
finishing ability that recalled earlier periods in his career.

In discussing his return with reporters, Selanne alluded to the decision
to return being an easier one to make than the decision he made one
year ago, when arthroscopic knee surgery in June 2011 delayed his
announcement until September of that year.

This offseason,
Selanne received additional motivation from the rival Los Angeles Kings,
who won a Stanley Cup despite being only four points above Anaheim in
the standings when play ended on Feb. 26. He also took in Los Angeles’
3-1 loss to New Jersey in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, which he
called “a hell of a game.”

“That’s a perfect example that teams,
when they go through some tough times during the season, and they heal
up together and they start winning as a team, and they’ve got all the
pieces together, you never know. I think it was a great story for hockey
in LA, and overall in hockey because No. 8 seed, you never know what’s
going to happen in the playoffs. You have to build the momentum in the
playoffs. It’s a new season, and you never know what’s going to happen,”
Selanne said.

Along with the praise for their Freeway Faceoff rivals came the inwards glance of a team heading into 2012-13 with confidence.

“I
truly believe that we have all the pieces, and that what makes this
very interesting and special, because like I said earlier, I think we
all feel that there’s unfinished business,” Selanne said.

Such
confidence will be necessary for a typically slow starting team that
awoke on the morning of Nov. 30 to find itself one point ahead of the
Columbus Blue Jackets in the battle to avoid the NHL’s cellar. Despite a
win over Montreal, head coach Randy Carlyle was fired later that night.

“For
some reason we started last season in Finland, and I felt that we were
not really ready to start the season until later when we came back,”
Selanne said.

“We know that those points were removed in the
first half. It’s so hard to get those back in the second half. We’ve got
to be ready right away, and I really believe we will.”

They’ll
hope that the momentum brought about by the Bruce Boudreau-led
turnaround that saw the Ducks claw their way back into a battle for a
playoff spot returns early in 2011. In 58 games under Boudreau, Anaheim
was 27-23-8, a record that included a 17-3-4 second-half surge.

“The
way how he handled the whole situation and how he took the team over,
it was unbelievable. The way how positive and the way he treats people,
it’s very special,” Selanne said of Boudreau. “I’m very happy to see how
much players like him and how much they were excited to play for him.
It affected my decision, too.”

It won’t be a question that could
realistically be gauged for many months from now, but it does beg the
thought: exactly how many years does Selanne have left?

“I still feel that I have something to give,” said Selanne.

He will need some help. It’s production that the Ducks can’t afford to
have evaporate as a younger wave of players attempts to challenge for
skilled forward roles in complementing the established core of Corey
Perry, Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan. Rookies Emerson Etem, Peter Holland and
Kyle Palmieri will all be battling to earn playing time amidst Anaheim’s
top lines.

Selanne’s return signals that the Ducks’ offense
shouldn’t expect any drop-off in production from a unit that ranked 11th
in the NHL with 235 goals last season.

It is in defense where Anaheim will need to experience the most significant improvement.

Goaltenders
Jonas Hiller and Dan Ellis were peppered for 32.3 shots per game a
season ago, the fourth-highest total in the league. Though effective and
tough stay-at-home defenseman Sheldon Brookbank signed with Chicago and
puck-moving power play catalyst Lubomir Visnovsky was traded to the New
York Islanders, Selanne expressed support of general manager Bob
Murray’s moves to bring in size and toughness in stalwart stay-at-home
veterans in Bryan Allen and Sheldon Souray via free agency.

“I
was talking with Bob before I went to Finland. He made it clear that he
wanted to get bigger and tougher in the defense, and we got those
moves,” Selanne said. “Obviously, we lost a couple of good guys, but I
think we got what we were looking for.”

No player aged 42 years or older has ever eclipsed Gordie Howe’s 23 goals in 1970-71. Selanne will have a shot at breaking that mark as he is showing no signs of slowing down.

If Boudreau’s pithy assessment from late last season is any
indication, the fervent desire to play is still incredibly strong in the
future Hall of Famer.

“I have to fight him to give him a day off,” the Ducks coach said.