The Mighty Ducks traded backup goaltender Martin Gerber to the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday for defenseman Tomas Malec and a third-round pick in next week's draft.
Malec, 22, is largely untested, having played only 43 NHL games in two seasons with the Hurricanes. He spent most of last season in the minors but did play two games with the Hurricanes. He is big, though, at 6 feet 2, 200 pounds, and talented enough to have been Florida's third-round pick in 2001.
"He's a rugged defenseman, a good-sized kid who plays aggressive and will complement the other young defensemen in our system," interim General Manager Al Coates said.
Those young defensemen may be called on sooner rather than later. Three of the Ducks' top six defensemen are on the brink of free agency.
The Ducks have to decide whether to pick up a two-year option on Keith Carney, worth about $6 million, or allow him to become an unrestricted free agent. The Ducks also have two weeks to come to terms with Ruslan Salei and Vitaly Vishnevski or both will be restricted free agents.
Salei made $1.75 million and Vishnevski $1.18 million last season. Officials from Walt Disney Co., which owns the Ducks, are cutting the Ducks' payroll, which was about $54 million at the end of last season. With Malec, the team already has committed $34 million to $36 million to 14 players for next season.
"We are reducing our payroll here one way or another," Coates said. "There are ways we would prefer to do that. We have to make sure we have contingency plans."
Gerber, 30, was a late bloomer but established himself as one of the NHL's top backups. He was eager to get a chance at No. 1 after posting a 2.26 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage in 32 games last season.
Ilya Bryzgalov will step into Gerber's role of backing up Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
Bryzgalov, a second-round pick in 2000, has progressed the last three seasons with minor league Cincinnati. He was impressive in his first NHL start in March, stopping 26 shots in a 3-2 victory over Phoenix.
The Kings and high-scoring right wing Ziggy Palffy remain far apart on contract negotiations as the NHL signing deadline approaches in less than two weeks.
Palffy, who could become an unrestricted free agent July 1, this week was offered a three-year contract worth more than $18 million, although there have been no signs he will accept it.
Palffy, 32, earned $7 million last season with the Kings.
"I don't have a great feeling right now," King General Manager Dave Taylor said. "We've extended numerous offers, but we don't have a deal and I don't get a sense that we're close."
Palffy led the Kings in scoring until he suffered a season-ending injury in January. He has begun skating again and is expected to recover fully from his dislocated right shoulder.
Acquired from the New York Islanders in June 1999, Palffy has 150 goals and 340 points in 311 games with the Kings.
The Kings' latest proposal to Palffy is an increase of an offer last month that fell between $16 million and $18 million for three years.
Paul Kraus, Palffy's agent, did not return phone calls.