ANAHEIM, Calif. — After the draft and free-agent dust settled, there was one burning question left facing the Anaheim Ducks: Who would skate on the left side with top-line forwards Corey Perry and captain Ryan Getzlaf?
They made have found their answer in Dany Heatley when they signed the former Minnesota Wild left winger to a one-year, $1 million contract Wednesday afternoon. Heatley, a 33-year-old veteran, has his eye on that spot as well.
"My job is to get in shape and be ready to play with those two guys," Heatley told reporters on a conference call following the announcement of the signing on Wednesday. "I know those guys, and I’ve played with both of them, particularly Getzy. I love playing with the guy. He’s one of the best players in the league, as is Corey Perry.
"We’ll see what (head coach) Bruce (Boudreau) wants to do, but my job is to be ready to go and be ready to get a chance with those two guys."
The former Olympian, who has played with Getzlaf and Perry on Team Canada, was thought to be on the downswing of his career in Minnesota. His time on ice declined and he found himself edged out in favor of the younger talent the organization was bringing in recent seasons. This past season, his third in Minnesota, was difficult for him as he was a healthy scratch late in the season for the first time in his career but his performance in the playoffs was lauded by the Wild and his leadership abilities evident in the way the team played when he was reinserted in the lineup.
The Ducks boast both a roster and a minor league system brimming with young talent and Heatley could prove to be a big asset off the ice, as well.
"As far as Minnesota, they had a lot of great young players," Heatley said. "As an older player, sometimes you get pushed to the side a little bit to let the younger guys develop. At the same time, I feel like I was a good guy to the young kids, I mentored them a little bit."
While many thought Heatley was done after this season, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher was outspoken about the fact that he can still perform at a high level.
"I really believe he can help a team, and I believe he will get another opportunity," Fletcher told the Pioneer-Press when free agency opened last week. "He’s got such high character, he’s such a tremendous human being, I hope for him he gets an opportunity and it works out great."
Heatley was drafted by Atlanta and played for Ottawa and San Jose before spending three seasons in Minnesota. He won the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league’s top rookie in 2002 and the four-time All-Star ranks second among NHL players in power-play goals (143), fifth in goals scored (372) and is tied for fourth in game-winning goals (64).
While he might not be a 50-goal scorer again, he’s confident that his career is far from over and ready for a new start in Anaheim.
"I feel good, I feel leaner. I know the knock on me is that I’m not quick enough anymore and I disagree with that," he said. "I can still play this game. I’m still quick enough, fast enough, and I can score goals …
"I have lots left in the tank. I was in a tough spot in Minnesota, and I feel like I have a lot to prove and a lot to give. I want to prove a lot of people wrong. I’m very happy Anaheim has given me that chance."