Ducks show willingness to improve despite success

The Anaheim Ducks acquired Carl Hagelin. (Julie Jacobson/AP)

The Anaheim Ducks’ busy draft weekend demonstrated they’re still determined to improve a team that finished a game short of the Stanley Cup Final last month.

The Ducks acquired forward Carl Hagelin and goalie Anton Khudobin in trades Saturday while shipping out defenceman James Wisniewski and forwards Emerson Etem and Kyle Palmieri, creating salary cap flexibility and adding a proven scorer to their lineup.

Anaheim gave up on hometown talent Etem to get Hagelin, who spent his first four NHL seasons with the New York Rangers, getting 58 goals and 72 assists with impressive speed and a scoring touch. He also played in 73 post-season games during that stretch.

Hagelin’s skating and tenacity will be welcome additions to the Ducks’ bulky lineup, where he’ll join fellow Swedes Rickard Rakell, Hampus Lindholm and Jakob Silfverberg, his Olympic teammate in Sochi. The Ducks also picked Swedish defenceman Jacob Larsson late in the first round.

"I think he’s capable of playing everywhere, and he has," Anaheim general manager Bob Murray said about Hagelin. "He can play both sides. He’s a really good hockey player."

Hagelin is a restricted free agent, but he believes he can complete a new contract soon. He also helps cover for the likely impending loss of forward Matt Beleskey, an unrestricted free agent who has rejected the Ducks’ most recent contract offer.

Etem grew up in nearby Long Beach, California, and became Anaheim’s first-round pick in 2010. Yet he never emerged as a consistent NHL scorer despite numerous opportunities, playing mostly on the Ducks’ fourth line.

"He had some really good games, but in other games he stalled," Murray said about Etem. "A change will be really good for Emerson. He came a long way under us, but I think a change will be really good for him right now. I think he felt pressure at times. Now he can get away, go relax and play hockey."

The Ducks shipped Palmieri, another potential scorer who plateaued last season in Anaheim, to New Jersey for two draft choices in a deal that was finalized early Saturday. Anaheim got the 41st overall pick in that deal and sent it to the Rangers to secure Hagelin.

Wisniewski was the Ducks’ prize acquisition at the trade deadline, but he couldn’t crack the Ducks’ solid defensive lineup in the post-season. His departure cleared salary cap space for Murray to re-sign his own players, including Hagelin, Silfverberg and possibly defenceman Francois Beauchemin.

The Ducks traded Wisniewski to Carolina for Khudobin, who spent the last two seasons there after starting his NHL career with Minnesota and Boston. He won a career-best 19 games for the Hurricanes last season.

Khudobin’s arrival leaves the Ducks with three NHL-quality goalies alongside Frederik Andersen and John Gibson, but Murray flatly declared he will keep all three. Andersen and Gibson have both had injury problems in their short NHL careers.

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