Of the Southern California hockey clubs, the Ducks were the more active of the two teams. A franchise staple said goodbye to Anaheim, but the defense saw a big improvement. Here are all the highlights for the Anaheim Ducks after the first day of NHL free agency.
No secret that the Ducks were on the market for a quality back-end defenseman that boasted size and penalty kill skills. Clayton Stoner was coming off of a strong playoff performance with the Minnesota Wild and had long seen Anaheim as an attractive option.
"By the time free agency opened, I already had my mind made up," Stoner told reporters on a conference call following the announcement of deal. "I haven’t even spoken with my agent about who he talked to or what kind of offers came in. As of 11:05, my mind was made up and the deal was done. It was done very quickly."
A 6-foot-3, 225-pound defenseman, Stoner scored 31 points with a plus-3 rating and 296 penalty minutes in 227 career games with the Wild. He played all 13 postseason games with Minnesota, scoring three points, and in the regular season he led the team with 84 penalty minutes. Stoner also led Wild defensemen in hits with 99 and finished the season with five points in 63 games.
Stoner battled injuries in his younger playing days and knew that he needed to show consistency the last few seasons. He’s done just that and doesn’t intend to stop.
"My goal is to come in play a physical style and try to be a steady, stay-at-home defenseman who can be reliable and be counted on in key situations," he said. "You’ll probably see me drop the gloves a few times to stick up for my teammates. I’ll just try to be a steady guy. Nothing too flashy, but contribute in all areas if I can."
#NHLDucks Stoner: "I'd like to keep growing and improving. Hopefully, the next few years here in Anaheim are the best of my career."
Stoner was drafted by the Wild in 2004 and has spent his entire career in the organization that was willing to keep him. But as difficult as it was to leave, Orange County, the club history and a strong impression of head coach Bruce Boudreau made Anaheim attractive.
"I felt like it was time for a change," Stoner said. "It’s a better move for me to go to a team like Anaheim where I’m needed more and relied upon. A chance to win the Stanley Cup is exciting for me."
The Ducks also came to terms with center Jason LaBarbera, a veteran goalie to utilize in a backup role as Frederik Andersen and John Gibson continue to develop.
Longtime backstop Jonas Hiller signed with the Calgary Flames, reuniting him with former Ducks’ general manager Brian Burke – the executive that signed Hiller.
With the signing of center Nate Thompson, Mathieu Perreault was left to test the free agent market. The gritty fourth-line center signed a three-year contract with the Winnipeg Jets in one of the first west coast moves of the day.
Defenseman Stephane Robidas, a trade-deadline acquisition that re-broke his leg during the playoffs, was picked up by the Maple Leafs in one of the more controversial deals of the day. Robidas has now broken the leg twice in the last year and a metal rod was inserted. Although he’s a tremendous worker that recovered from the first broken leg ahead of schedule, a three-year deal for an aging (37 years old) and injury-prone player will be a hotly-debated issue in hockey-crazed Toronto.