Kevin Bieksa knew the Vancouver Canucks were trading him. It was just a matter of where.
For several weeks, Bieksa came to terms that his time in Vancouver was coming to an end. After it looked like he was almost headed to the San Jose Sharks last week, Tuesday brought a trade to the Anaheim Ducks for a 2016 second-round pick.
While the Canucks get younger on their blue line, Bieksa joins a Ducks team that was one victory from the Stanley Cup final.
“It’s obviously a bittersweet day,” Bieksa said on a conference call. “It’s tough to leave Vancouver, but it’s also exciting to have a new chapter of my life and to move on to a great city in Anaheim, a great hockey team.”
The 34-year-old Bieksa, with one year left on his contract at a cap hit of US$4.6 million, didn’t fit into Vancouver’s spot as a team in transition. Because of that, general manager Jim Benning tried to find a new home for the longtime defenceman.
Benning targeted a second-round pick for Bieksa, but when that didn’t materialize with the Sharks at the draft over the weekend, the Canucks’ attention turned back to the Ducks. The Grimsby, Ont., native had a no-trade clause and said Anaheim was always at the top of his list.
“We tried to make the best decision for our family and for my hockey career, and at the end of the day Anaheim was the best fit for us,” Bieksa said. “Obviously who wouldn’t want to play for that team? They had a great year the last couple years, obviously are very close to winning a Stanley Cup and have the right team for that.”
The Canucks returned to the playoffs in the first season under coach Willie Desjardins, but they could be a much younger group next season. Benning told reporters in Vancouver he hoped to add another defenceman in free agency.
One player who will be out there but is even older than Bieksa is 35-year-old Francois Beauchemin of the Ducks. Murray moved on to trade talks about Bieksa when Beauchemin’s camp figured the veteran would get $5 million per season on a three-year deal in free agency.
Bieksa is Beauchemin’s replacement on an Anaheim blue line that includes Sami Vatanen, Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm and Simon Despres. Murray is very familiar with Bieksa from when he worked for the Canucks. He had him with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose and believes he’s similar to Beauchemin.
“I think he skates better at this point in time than Beauch does,” Murray said on a conference call. “He’s a bit smaller man, that’s a difference too. … They’re both tough, and they both have a mean streak.”
Bieksa joins Ryan Kesler in Anaheim and consulted his former Canucks teammate in the past few weeks as he considered his destination.
“When he left last year I still felt like we had a couple years left, I felt like we’d cross paths again at some point,” Bieksa said. “He’s given me nothing but great reviews about the team, the players, the city, the fans.”
Bieksa praised Vancouver fans and said he never had a single bad interaction with one of them during his time there.
“I’ve had a lot of fun, I’ve grown up in that city,” Bieksa said. “Both my kids were born in Vancouver, and they both grew up there. It’s a great city and I think we’ll continue to come back and visit in the summer. But that being said I’ve got to look forward to moving on to Anaheim.”
Murray said the Ducks will work on trying to sign Bieksa to an extension to keep him around beyond next season.