Author: Mike Halford

Paul MacLean

Ducks stay busy, name former Adams winner MacLean assistant coach

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Just minutes after swinging a deal to acquire d-man Kevin Bieksa from Vancouver, the Anaheim Ducks bolstered their coaching staff by hiring Paul MacLean as an assistant to Bruce Boudreau.

MacLean, 57, has been out of work since getting fired as the head coach in Ottawa last season. A former Mike Babcock assistant in Detroit, MacLean achieved great success with the Sens — twice being nominated for the Jack Adams as coach of the year, winning once — but was dismissed after a lackluster start to the ’14-15 campaign amid criticisms of his blunt, occasionally harsh approach with players.

MacLean was tied to a few head coach openings after being fired but failed to land any of them and, as such, was available for Anaheim after GM Bob Murray fired assistant coach Brad Lauer earlier this month. Lauer had been on Boudreau’s staff since their arrival in November 2011 and coached the Ducks’ power play, which ranked 28th in the NHL this season.

One would think MacLean’s hire is tied directly to Boudreau’s future employment. If the Ducks falter at some point next season and Boudreau is dismissed, MacLean would be an easy in-house replacement to take the reins.

Trade: Bieksa headed to California — but it’s Anaheim, not San Jose

Kevin Bieksa

The Vancouver Canucks have finally moved veteran d-man Kevin Bieksa — but not to the team many expected.

On Tuesday, Bieksa was sent to Anaheim in exchange for a second-round pick at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. The deal comes just days after a widely-circulated report claimed the 34-year-old rearguard was on his way to San Jose, only for the deal to be scuttled during the draft weekend in Florida.

In Bieksa, the Ducks get an experienced rearguard is heading into the last of a five-year, $23 million deal with a $4.6M annual cap hit. In his prime, Bieksa was a key piece of Vancouver defense, cracking the 40-point plateau three times while developing a reputation as someone that played with an edge. He’s also known for his leadership qualities, having served as an alternate in Vancouver, and as a Canada’s captain at the 2015 Worlds.

That said, Bieksa has seen better days.

Last season was a struggle; a broken hand limited him to just 14 points in 60 games and his lack of foot speed and mobility were exposed in Vancouver’s opening-round playoff loss to Calgary.

In Anaheim, Bieksa will be reunited with former Vancouver teammate Ryan Kesler and will step onto a blueline that has some uncertainty; Ducks GM Bob Murray flipped little-used James Wisniewski to Carolina at the draft, and has yet to decide if he’ll return veteran Francois Beauchemin (this deal suggests Beauchemin is done in Orange County.)

The club also recently bought out Mark Fistric.


— The pick heading to Vancouver is interesting. It’s believed the Canucks thought they were getting a ’15 second-rounder from the Sharks, only to learn a ’16 second-rounder was on the table… the same pick Anaheim gave.

Per TSN, it sounds like Bieksa’s agent, Kurt Overhardt, is working on an extension with the Ducks.

— This is the second significant deal Canucks GM Jim Benning has done with Murray in as many years, having sent Kesler to Anaheim last summer.

Detroit signs Smith to two-year, $5.5 million extension

Brendan Smith

The Red Wings have reached an agreement with RFA blueliner Brendan Smith, signing him to a two-year, $5.5 million deal with a $2.75M average annual cap hit.

Smith, 26, was Detroit’s first-round pick at the 2007 draft and appeared in a career-high 76 games last year.

Despite that games played total, it wasn’t an incredibly successful campaign; Smith’s numbers took a dip (in points and minutes per game, specifically) and former head coach Mike Babcock made him a healthy scratch for Game 1 of the club’s opening-round series against Tampa Bay.

Still, Smith figures to be a fairly key cog of Detroit’s defense moving forward.

He’s scored himself a pretty decent raise — up from the $1.26M he was making annually on his old deal — and should be firmly planted in the top-six group alongside Niklas Kronwall, Kyle Quincey, Jonathan Ericsson, Jakub Kindl and Danny DeKeyser next season.

Defensemen Hunwick, Bartkowski to become UFAs

Tampa Bay Lightning v New York Rangers - Game Seven

A pair of veteran blueliners will hit the open market tomorrow.

Matt Bartkowski, who’s played in 131 games over the last five years with Boston, has been told he won’t be re-signed by the club while Rangers rearguard Matt Hunwick, a veteran of nearly 350 NHL contests, will also go to market after New York passed on an extension.

Hunwick, 30, scored 11 points in 55 games for the Rangers last year and made six playoff appearances. The former Bruin and Avalanche played on a one-year, $600,000 deal in ’14-15 and could net a similar contract in free agency after what was, all things considered, not a bad effort in his lone year as a Blueshirt.

Bartkowski, 27, played last year on a $1.25 million deal but struggled to impress, scoring just four points in 47 games. He was briefly floated as a trade candidate at the deadline but, with no takers, he was left to play out the string with Boston.

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of traction Bartkowski gets on the open market. He’s still relatively young and, in ’13-14, he scored a career-high 18 points in 64 games and made eight playoff appearances for the Bruins.

No buyout: Flyers will keep Gagner

Arizona Coyotes v Buffalo Sabres

Sam Gagner is a Philadelphia Flyer — for now, anyway.

On Monday, the Flyers elected not to buy out Gagner prior to the window closing at 12 p.m. ET, meaning he’s a part of the club for the foreseeable future (barring a trade, of course).

More, from CSN Philly:

Gagner told that the last few days have been very “stressful” since being traded here from Arizona while not knowing what his future held.

“I’m very excited and motivated,” Gagner said, adding he did not get much sleep. 

Gagner, acquired at the draft from Arizona in a strange deal that saw Philly send Nicklas Grossmann and Chris Pronger’s contract to the Coyotes, was unsure if he’d ever wear Flyer orange.

His parting gift from Arizona was GM Don Maloney saying he ‘can’t play center at the NHL level,” and his arrival gift in Philadelphia was learning GM Ron Hextall was considering a buyout.

It was a tough turn of events for the former first-round pick. Gagner, who is still only 25 years old, carries a relatively large cap hit of $4.8 million (although some was retained in an earlier deal with Tampa Bay) but has proven to be productive in the past, and scored 41 points in 81 games for the Coyotes last season — tops among all Arizona forwards.