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Ducks start looking ahead after 'unfinished business'

General Manager Bob Murray has a lot on his plate during the off-season, including whether Teemu Selanne, 42, decides to return for a 21st NHL season.

May 14, 2013|By Lance Pugmire
  • General Manager Bob Murray says he wants Anaheim to come back tougher next season and respond physically when other teams try to bully the Ducks.
General Manager Bob Murray says he wants Anaheim to come back tougher next… (Jeff Gross / Getty Images )

After the scoreboard bulbs showing a playoff-eliminating loss were turned off at Honda Center on Sunday, more came to light Tuesday as Ducks players were processed through exit interviews.

For one, the team was more banged up than advertised down the stretch.

For another, veteran star Teemu Selanne might indeed be swayed to return for a 21st season because of the "unfinished business" after the first-round Stanley Cup playoffs loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

Also, General Manager Bob Murray is bent on toughening his team after regular-season and playoff bullying incidents went unchecked, and admitted Tuesday that the Ducks were hamstrung late in the season by injuries.

Captain Ryan Getzlaf's ankle soreness never subsided from an injury suffered in March. Goalie Viktor Fasth was "80%" because of a lower abdominal strain. Defenseman Cam Fowler and wing Kyle Palmieri had shoulder pain, and veteran defenseman Francois Beauchemin played the final month with a torn knee ligament that will require surgery.

Murray also revealed the "lower-body injury" to center Nick Bonino that kept him sidelined from March 10 to April 21 was a torn hamstring suffered in a casual soccer game played inside the Honda Center before a night game against St. Louis.

"I slipped, ripped my right hamstring pretty good, ripped the tendons nearly off the bone," Bonino said. "It was pretty scary at first. … I don't play soccer anymore, that's for sure."

Murray said the Bonino loss "hurt us," and Selanne said he never felt comfortable with any other second-line partner. Upon his return, Bonino scored three playoff goals.

Now, the general manager has 13 unrestricted free agents on the roster to address along with a reduced NHL salary cap of $64.3 million. The most notable is the face of the franchise, 42-year-old Selanne. Murray said he plans to visit and play golf with Selanne in June and establish whether the 675-goal scorer wants to resume his career.

In the compressed, lockout-shortened season, Selanne finished with 12 goals and 12 assists, but his energy dropped as he languished through a nine-game goal-less drought in March and his minutes were reduced in five consecutive games in April. He scored one goal against Detroit in the seven-game playoffs series.

"With Teemu, it was a hard season for an older guy, really rough," Murray said. "We had to force him to take time off."

Selanne won't force the issue on his possible return.

"I'll be patient," Selanne said Tuesday. "It's about the commitment to training, the dedication. I want to feel, 'Do I really want to start pushing myself again?' If I don't have it, then I don't play."

The optimism of a Selanne return is linked to his cycle of repeatedly finding that itch to play again and the fact the Ducks feel they left something on the table.

"I have such a good team here now, we know we are better than this," Selanne said. "I think everyone felt there is some unfinished business. This team is ready here right now."

To improve future business, the Ducks will need some old-school toughness after finishing 30-12-6 in the regular season, Murray said.

The deciding goal of the first-round playoff series was scored by Justin Abdelkader, who had served a two-game suspension during the series for a hit that sidelined Ducks defenseman Toni Lydman with a head injury and migraine headaches.

"I am upset, I'm still old school," Murray said. "Mr. Abdelkader does what he does to Toni and … there's no reaction. I don't accept that. There should've been reaction. We have plenty of players in that dressing room that are capable of reacting. It's a team attitude ... wouldn't happen in the old days. We need more pushback. There wasn't enough."

Murray said he would continue negotiations with veteran center Saku Koivu, 38, and defenseman Ben Lovejoy, both free agents. Koivu said he needs a couple weeks to decide if he'll continue playing.

"World-class people and world-class players, those guys don't grow on trees," Ducks defenseman Sheldon Souray said of Koivu and Selanne.

Lovejoy said he wants to remain a Duck after being acquired from Pittsburgh during the season. Center David Steckel, a face-off specialist, also said he'd like to return to Anaheim.

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

Twitter: @latimespugmire

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