For any hockey fan, July 1 is one of the more intriguing days of the offseason. It's the opening day of free agency, when many teams make significant additions to their rosters, while also going through the tough experience of enduring some losses.
The Ducks did all of that during a flurry of activity yesterday afternoon, as Bob Murray's phone likely had smoke coming out of it by the end of the day. Anaheim brought in no less than four players and saw two free agents sign with other teams.
First the additions, which included three veteran defensemen -- Bryan Allen (formerly of Carolina), Jordan Hendry (Chicago) and Sheldon Souray (who played last season in Dallas). The Ducks also brought in some forward depth in locking up 27-year-old former Montreal Canadien and Minnesota Wild (Wild man? Wild player?) Brad Staubitz with a two-year deal.
Let's start with Souray, the 35-year-old vet with a big body and an atomic bomb of a shot that was once measured at an unofficial record speed of 106.7 mph (at a skills competition in Edmonton in '09). Bob Murray indicated going into free agency that he wanted to get bigger on the blue line, and he has that in Souray at 6-4, 237 pounds. He'll also be huge on the power play, having once scored 26 goals for Montreal and 23 for Edmonton. He had six goals and 15 assists last year in Dallas to go along with a +11 rating.
Before making the deal for Souray, Murray got endorsements from a number of Ducks vets, including Saku Koivu, who played with him in Montreal. "Quite honestly, I talked to a few veterans on our hockey team and they definitely said go forward and get this guy if you can, so I did."
Along with his other attributes, one thing Souray can do is talk, as evidenced in this lengthy conference call with reporters yesterday afternoon. A few snippets:
On coming to Southern California, where his kids live: "I was always hoping. In an ideal situation, this would have been it. Sometimes you just never know. When this opportunity presented itself, it was really a dream come true so to speak. It worked on so many different levels that I couldn’t be happier with."
"I don’t think it’s been any secret how important my family is to me and the decisions I’ve made in the past regarding my family. I’ve been out in Southern California since 2001. To be able to come home and be this close, I’ve always played my best hockey when I’ve been around my family, when they’ve come in to visit and when I’ve been able to spend time with them. There are some things that are probably a little bit more important than hockey. To be able to combine those two things, I really truly feel that I have my best years ahead."
Here's a look at some of the reaction on Twitter to the Souray signing, including a tweet from Souray himself.
We'll have much more to say about Souray, who brings a ton of character to the room, in the coming month. Along with him, even more size and experience on the back end came to the Ducks in Allen (a gritty defensive defenseman with a ton of leadership attributes) and Hendry. “We’ve got a number of young defensemen on our team,” Murray said. ”I don’t feel we’ve supported our younger defensemen with enough size and oomph in the last couple of years. I said at the middle of last year, it wasn’t going to happen again.
“We were going to go and surround them with some bigger veteran guys. You can never have enough defenseman, especially in the Western Conference. It’s the decision we made and we moved forward today.”
We also move forward without a couple of guys who have been staples of the Ducks the past few seasons -- George Parros and Sheldon Brookbank. First Brookbank, who had his best year as a Duck last year and decided to test the free agency market, getting rewarded with a nice two-year deal from the Blackhawks.
And of course it's tough to say goodbye to Parros (who signed a two-year deal with Florida), a fan favorite pretty much from the moment he joined the Ducks in the beginning of that 2006-07 Stanley Cup season. He was beloved not just for the way he threw fists on the ice, but what he did off it. He was always friendly with fans, oftentimes funny and an enthusiastic participant in a number of charity efforts, including his own annual donation of his long hair in his Cut for the Kids, which benefited the Childhood Leukemia Foundation.
Behind-the-scenes, he was always willing to do what he could to help, realizing the importance of marketing the game in Southern California. That included this iconic video with the line, "Papers down, ladies. It's game time!"
Letting Parros go was something we all saw as a possibility, however, especially after Murray said at Select-a-Seat, . “George wants to play every night and every game, and we don't know if that can be the case."
Parros himself had a nice message of goodbye to the fans on Twitter: I would like to say thanks to the Samueli's, the ducks organization and especially the fans, I leave ANA with a heavy heart...I am forever grateful to my teammates and fans who I have forged relationships with that will be with me always! ... That being said, I am excited to start a new career in FLA and am looking forward to bringing the stache to the sunshine state!!!
So we say goodbye to George, say goodbye to Sheldon (becoming possibly the first team in NHL history to lose a Sheldon and gain one in the same day) and look forward to what the Ducks did bring in for 2012-13 and beyond.
Meanwhile, there is another piece of free agency news that Ducks fans are all waiting for with baited breath, and we will likely have something to report on that this week.
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