Jean-Sebastien Giguere grew up as a goaltender in Anaheim, developing from a raw kid into one of the few players from a Stanley Cup runner-up to be voted the most valuable player in the playoffs. Four years later, in 2007, he and his teammates capped a splendid season with a Cup title, proving sun and sand can coexist with good hockey.
He grew up here as a person, too. He became a husband and a father, sharing his joys with his fans and gaining strength from their support when his first son, Maxime, was born with a damaged eye.
That's why on Sunday, after he waived his no-trade clause and agreed to be traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a deal that will give the Ducks salary-cap relief next season and give him a chance to again be a starter, he knew he was saying goodbye to teammates and to a phase of his life.
"It was almost like an out-of-body experience. It was weird," he said by phone Sunday after being dealt for goalie Vesa Toskala and winger Jason Blake, a former King.
"It was definitely difficult to leave players who had become friends. Difficult to leave the organization and Orange County. It's a great place and a great organization, too."
Giguere will be reunited in Toronto with Francois Allaire, his longtime goaltending coach, and General Manager Brian Burke, who applied the finishing touches to the Ducks' Cup team.
Burke also gave Giguere the four-year, $24-million contract in 2007 that made him too expensive to almost anyone but the Leafs, who have plenty of cash and cap space. They used those resources Sunday to acquire Giguere and to add defenseman Dion Phaneuf in a seven-player deal with Calgary.
Bob Murray, who succeeded Burke as the Ducks' general manager, praised Giguere for single-handedly leading the Ducks in 2003 and 2007. But with Jonas Hiller clearly winning the No. 1 job -- and a four-year, $18-million contract extension -- it made no sense for the Ducks to keep Giguere.
"Neither one of those two goaltenders was going to be happy because they're both No. 1 goalies and they're both competitors," Murray said.
Giguere, he said, "deserves to play. He's getting a fresh opportunity, which he deserves. It kind of works out for both of them right now."
Giguere carries a $6-million cap charge this season and next. Toskala, who is 7-12-3 with a 3.66 goals-against average and .874 save percentage, carries a $4-million cap hit and can be an unrestricted free agent July 1. Blake, 36, brings a $4-million cap hit this season and each of the next two seasons. He peaked at 40 goals in 2006-07 with the New York Islanders but this season has only 10 goals and 26 points in 56 games.
"It's a great opportunity to move forward. It hasn't worked out here in Toronto for whatever reason, I'm not sure," Blake said. "I don't know anyone on the Anaheim Mighty [sic] Ducks team yet, but obviously they have a lot of great players and great leadership and won a Stanley Cup not too long ago."
Giguere knew his days as a No. 1 goalie were dwindling even before Hiller got a new contract. Giguere, despondent much of last season because of his father's illness and death, sat while Hiller played down the stretch and in the playoffs. When they returned this season Hiller again prevailed. "He was playing super well," Giguere said.
"Obviously I would have liked to stay in Anaheim and when I signed three years ago I envisioned things going a little different. I'm 32 years old and I feel I still have some hockey left in me. I wanted the chance to be a No. 1 goalie somewhere and it wasn't going to happen in Anaheim."
Robyn Norwood contributed to this report.