The Ducks reacquired defenseman Francois Beauchemin from the Toronto… (Jason O. Watson / U.S. Presswire )
Rewarding his players for persevering through a rocky start and 14 games without injured team captain Ryan Getzlaf, Ducks General Manager Bob Murray upgraded his defense for a playoff run and improved his financial flexibility.
Murray on Wednesday reacquired Francois Beauchemin, who was a vital force during the Ducks' 2007 Stanley Cup run but became too pricy as a free agent and signed with Toronto in 2009. The cost for the Ducks to get him back was considerable — winger Joffrey Lupul, premier college defense prospect Jake Gardiner and a conditional 2013 draft pick — but Murray said players earned a present after turning the season around.
"When Getzy went down and this team banded together, I told our guys OK. We had to give them something," Murray said a few hours before Getzlaf, recovered from facial fractures, was activated off injured reserve.
"Our team has gotten into position to make the playoffs and we really felt in order to help that along we had to help our defense. And we believe we've done that."
Lupul had five goals and 13 points in 26 games after returning from a blood infection. He's under contract through 2012-13 with a salary cap hit of $4.25 million per season. Beauchemin, 30, carries an annual cap hit of $3.8 million through 2011-12. Without his salary and Lupul's, the Ducks should have money to retain Getzlaf and Corey Perry, who are signed through 2012-13. Bobby Ryan is secured through 2014-15.
Lupul said he looked forward to getting top-six playing time. "I know my best hockey is still ahead of me," he said.
Gardiner, a 2008 first-round draft pick, is excelling at the University of Wisconsin. But the development of defense partner and fellow Ducks draftee Justin Schultz and the progress of 19-year-old Cam Fowler and Finnish junior standout Sami Vatanen gives the Ducks ample youth on defense.
Murray, who urged then-GM Brian Burke to bring Beauchemin to Anaheim in 2005, said he sees Beauchemin as a veteran who can be a good influence on Fowler, 19, and Luca Sbisa, 21.
"He was high up on that list again because of our familiarity with him. We know the character," Murray said. "Beauch has great character and he'll come in and handle being with those kids like he's done with [Luke] Schenn in Toronto."
The trade gave the Ducks nine defensemen, making another move likely soon.
Beauchemin's contract allows him to list 12 acceptable trade destinations, and Anaheim was among them. While he wasn't as effective in Toronto as in Anaheim, Beauchemin said he hadn't requested a trade but wasn't surprised to be dealt while the Maple Leafs sat near the bottom of the East standings.
"I loved it here," Beauchemin said of Toronto. "It's a great city to play, a great group of guys."
He said the Ducks "have a good mix of guys and are battling for a playoff spot. They worked really hard this year to be there and hopefully I'll be able to help them make it."
Beauchemin, who had two goals, 12 points and a minus-four defensive rating for Toronto while averaging 23 minutes 48 seconds' playing time, is expected to practice with the Ducks on Thursday and play Friday in Calgary.