The Anaheim Ducks signed defenseman Sheldon Souray to a three-year, $11 million deal and agreed to terms with defenseman Bryan Allen on another three-year deal Sunday, significantly upgrading their spotty defense with two veteran free agents.
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The Ducks also signed tough right wing Brad Staubitz to a two-year contract, easing the loss of longtime enforcer George Parros, and signed defenseman Jordan Hendry to a one-year deal.
Souray and Allen will fill major roles for the Ducks, who finished 13th in the Western Conference last season while allowing 231 goals despite a solid season by goalie Jonas Hiller. Souray is likely to be a staple on the Ducks’ power play, while the stay-at-home Allen will fill a major defensive role.
”We attempted to get bigger and stronger on the back end, and I think we accomplished that,” Anaheim general manager Bob Murray said. ”We’ve added some character across the team. . . . We’ve got a number of young defensemen on our team, and I don’t feel we’ve supported them with enough size and oomph. I said in the middle of last year it wasn’t going to happen again.”
After spending the 2010-11 season with the AHL’s Hershey Bears while locked in a bitter dispute with the Edmonton Oilers, the 35-year-old Souray revived his career last season with the Dallas Stars, getting six goals and 15 assists in 64 games. The three-time All-Star is joining his fifth team in 12 NHL seasons, and he’s eager to make up for time lost to arguments and injuries.
The Ducks weren’t scared away from the three-year commitment by Souray’s history of injuries, including a concussion and multiple shoulder problems. Souray said he received other three-year offers, but chose the Ducks for their roster and their proximity to his family.
”I feel like I have a lot left in the tank,” Souray said. ”I really feel like my best hockey is ahead. I’m looking forward to coming in here and playing with these great players. There’s a lot of enthusiasm and a hunger to get back. They had a pretty good end to the season.”
With his booming slap shot and all-around toughness, Souray was one of the NHL’s elite offensive defensemen during his time with the Montreal Canadiens. But after Souray asked to leave the Oilers, they banished him to the minors, waived him and eventually bought out the final year of his five-year, $27 million contract.
Orange County is geographically desirable in several ways for Souray: His ex-wife and two daughters live in the Los Angeles area, and the defenseman has lived in Malibu during the offseason for a decade. Souray trains with ageless defenseman Chris Chelios, another longtime Malibu resident.
”All around, this was the best fit hockey-wise and certainly the best fit on a personal level,” Souray said. ”Those two for me, historically when I’ve had my kids around and been able to combine those two things, it’s made me a better hockey player and a happier person.”
Souray should provide toughness and veteran leadership to the Ducks, while Allen’s physical, stay-at-home style is a good counterpoint.
Allen spent the last 1 1/2 season with the Carolina Hurricanes, who acquired him in a trade with Florida. He began his NHL career with the Vancouver Canucks, and has 29 goals and 89 assists in parts of 11 seasons.
Allen was the fourth overall pick in the 1998 draft. He’s a native of Kingston, Ontario, also Murray’s hometown.
”He’s a quality, character human being,” Murray said of Allen. ”With Sheldon on the power play and Bryan killing power plays, it’s a good mixture. We’ve got some young men in the organization, and we’ve got some veterans.”
The Ducks’ top four remaining defensemen are veterans Francois Beauchemin and Toni Lydman alongside youngsters Cam Fowler and Luca Sbisa. Anaheim also has several talented young defensemen in the system, including No. 6 overall pick Hampus Lindholm from Sweden.
Staubitz could help fill the hole left by Parros, who signed with Florida in hopes of playing more than an enforcer’s role, and fellow tough guy Sheldon Brookbank, who went to Chicago. Staubitz, a longtime San Jose farmhand, split last season between Minnesota and Montreal, recording one point and 121 penalty minutes in 62 games.
Murray said he’ll have talks in the next few days with Teemu Selanne, who hasn’t formally announced whether he’ll play his 20th NHL season despite reports of his return in the Finnish media.