ANAHEIM — In a stunning departure from their plan to build slowly and cautiously, the Mighty Ducks acquired Winnipeg star Teemu Selanne on Wednesday, giving up their past two first-round draft picks--defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky and center Chad Kilger.
With Selanne, nicknamed the Finnish Flash, the Ducks finally have a linemate worthy of Paul Kariya, the young star who had been creating opportunities for teammates not always capable of cashing in.
Selanne will meet the Ducks today in New York and make his debut Saturday against the Islanders.
"Everybody's pretty excited, particularly our defense," Coach Ron Wilson said. "They used to shudder to think about Teemu heading down the wing."
No Duck has scored as many points in a season as Selanne already has this season, with 72, though Kariya is not far behind.
And only one Duck, Todd Krygier, has scored more goals in his career than Selanne did as a rookie in 1992-93, when he scored 76, setting an NHL rookie record.
The Ducks gave up potential, but they got a proven star who has 147 career goals and 306 career points--and is still only 25.
"Last time I heard, Teemu wasn't wheeling away to the old-age home," club president Tony Tavares said.
Said Wilson: "I don't see this as sacrificing the future. Teemu will be here 10 years as a solid player. You're trading tremendous potential for a guy who hasn't peaked in his own career yet."
General Manager Jack Ferreira had often said he couldn't pull off the big trades because he wasn't willing to part with No. 8, No. 9 or No. 10--Kilger, Kariya or Tverdovsky. Wednesday the Ducks said goodby to 8 and 10.
"You have your plan, you try to put things in perspective and figure out where you want to be in a couple years," Ferreira said.
"It's just that you don't have a chance to get a guy like Teemu every day of the week. We had to do it.
"I mean, [giving up those players] was something we had to really discuss and think about. Our two guys have not failed. Obviously, I think right now we get the best player, but down the road they'll both be great players."
The Ducks also received a prospect, center Marc Chouinard, along with Winnipeg's fourth-round pick in the upcoming draft. Winnipeg gets the Ducks' third-round pick.
For a Duck team that is accustomed to savvy but conservative trades for prospects few of them have ever heard of, Wednesday's deal was a blockbuster.
"Wow, huh?" said enforcer Todd Ewen. "Oleg came in here and said, 'Me and Chad got traded for Teemu Selanne.' We all said, 'Yeah, yeah, sure you did."'
Wilson broke the news to the two flabbergasted players.
"I was in definite shock," said Kilger, 19. "Ron pulled us into his office, Oleg and I, and my first thought was that this was a rookie joke. He told us and said, 'Any questions?' And I said, 'Yeah. Are you serious?"'
Tverdovsky, 19, couldn't believe it either.
"They told me I was going to be here 15 years, but there's nothing wrong with that," he said. "This is just a new team, a new organization."
Selanne wasn't happy to be leaving Winnipeg because his fiancee, Sirpa, is expecting their first child Feb. 24. But he had grown tired of trade rumors, and when he was told of the trade, he pulled the nameplate off his stall and walked away.
"The only thing I'm really sad about is that I have to leave Sirpa," Selanne said. "We talked to the doctors and maybe they can start labor some day when the schedule is good for me and the Ducks."
Despite three highly paid stars in Selanne, Keith Tkachuk and Alexei Zhamnov, Selanne was traded because the Jets have missed the playoffs three years in a row and might do so again. He joins a team that has never made the playoffs.
"For sure it's going to be a big challenge for myself and the whole team, but I like that kind of story," he said. "Hopefully I can really help."
He can definitely help the Ducks' power play, and answer the musing about what Kariya could accomplish if he had a big, fast, skilled linemate.
"This certainly is great for Paul," Wilson said. "Paul sees that he doesn't have to wait two or three years for some other players to develop. Now the other teams in the league can't just key on Paul."
Kariya and Selanne met at the All-Star game and both came away impressed.
"Obviously Chad and Oleg are two really good guys and we're sad to see them go," Kariya said. "They both have a bright future, but we get a guy like Teemu Selanne, a superstar, and he's only 25 years old.
"It's a tremendous deal right now. He's a classy guy, very humble. He doesn't have a big ego despite all his accomplishments."
Players applauded the deal all around.
"I've had to face him many times--too many," goalie Guy Hebert said. "I know what kind of goal-scorer he is. He's terrific.
"This makes a statement to other teams in the conference that we're not afraid to make moves to upgrade our team. It pretty much says, 'Watch out.' "
* More trade news; Ducks lose, C6