On Friday, we told you about how Teemu Selanne told a Finnish magazine that he was looking forward to coming back to the NHL and the Anaheim Ducks for one more year. Part of that discussion was about how he was working on bringing back his old friend Paul Kariya with him to play in southern California to have, perhaps, one last go-round. We speculated that it would create some great buzz for the team for next year and give the Ducks a potentially very fun and nostalgic scoring line to work with.
Perhaps some of our excitement needs to be cut back a bit and Orange County Register sports columnist Randy Youngman was happy to provide the reasons why a Paul Kariya comeback in Anaheim might be a bit awkward.
It is not a slam-dunk by any means, though, because there were similar rumors in the summer of 2003, shortly after the Ducks’ improbable first run to the Stanley Cup Finals. Back then, all indications were that Selanne would leave San Jose as a free agent to return to Anaheim to rejoin Kariya, his former linemate and longtime friend.
Instead, the Ducks failed to make Kariya a qualifying offer that summer, upsetting their longtime captain and essentially making him an instant free agent. Then Kariya talked Selanne into jumping to the Colorado Avalanche as part of a package deal.
At the time, then-Ducks GM Bryan Murray said he felt misled, and Ducks fans felt so betrayed that they have booed Kariya ever since.
Time can heal all wounds of course and Bryan Murray has moved on to another job in Ottawa. Whether current Ducks GM Bob Murray feels that Kariya can help is another story entirely, one which Youngman also addresses briefly.
For that to happen, Kariya, who still maintains an offseason residence in Orange County, would have to settle for a low salary. And there is no guarantee current Ducks GM Bob Murray, whose offseason mission is to bolster the blue line, would be interested in Kariya at any cost. A week ago, Murray told me his priority was finding another veteran defenseman.
I’m guessing, however, that there is some mutual interest, because Selanne and Kariya — the top two leading scorers in Ducks franchise history, who played together from 1996-2001 — are both represented by agent Don Baizley. But first Selanne, 40, has to officially announce he’s coming back.
All right so let’s chalk things up here for Paul Kariya: Still lives in California, shares an agent with Selanne (who the Ducks are likely speaking with anyhow) and they’ve got a previous and great history together. The only thing working against them are what Bob Murray’s plans are for the team, a team budget and the extreme outside possibility that old ill feelings surrounding Kariya’s departure might still be floating around Anaheim. I’d say Ducks fans should prepare to fire up the way-back machine, dig out the old Mighty Ducks of Anaheim jerseys and let Wild Wing fly one more time next season.
There don’t appear to be many other teams showing interest in Paul Kariya, unless southern California’s other team might be looking to take a chance on him, and whether Kariya wants to play again or not seems to be the only question. His last couple of seasons with the Blues show that he’s still got some game but he’s clearly a shadow of the high-flying goal-scoring left wing of the past. He scored 18 goals last year in 75 games with the Blues but hasn’t scored 20 or more since his last season with the Nashville Predators in 2006-2007. If the Ducks are hesitant about going for a nostalgia piece, it’s understandable. Then again, if this is going to be Selanne’s last year and his “last request” is to have Kariya ride shotgun on the left wing of his line one more time, you’d have to think they’d like to make the guy happy.