Kevin Bieksa is leaving the only NHL team he has played for to join a longtime division rival
The Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday traded the veteran defenceman to the Anaheim Ducks for a second-round draft pick in 2016.
Bieksa on Wednesday signed a two-year extension with the Ducks worth $8 million US. He's entering the final year of a five-year, $23-million deal, and the new contract will begin with the 2016-17 season.
Bieksa, 34, spent the first 10 years of his NHL career with Vancouver, breaking into the NHL in the 2005-06 season and playing 39 games while recording six assists and 77 penalty minutes.
"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.
A fifth-round draft pick (151st overall) of the Canucks in 2001, the native of Grimsby, Ont., has played 597 NHL regular-season games, scoring 56 goals, including 19 on the power play, 241 points and 879 penalty minutes. In 71 playoff games, Bieksa has 25 points and 122 PIMs.
This past season, he mustered only four goals and 14 points in 60 games but ranked third on the team in hits (109) and fifth in blocked shots (93).
Bieksa ranks fourth all-time among Canucks defencemen in PIMs and sixth in scoring, assists (185) and games. He is also the top defenceman in franchise history in playoff goals with 10.
'Anaheim was the best fit [for my family]. Who wouldn't want to play for that team? They were very close to winning the Stanley Cup, and they have the right team for that.'- New Ducks defenceman Kevin Bieksa
It was believed Benning had a trade lined up with San Jose at last week's draft in Sunrise, Fla., as Bieksa agreed to waive his no-trade clause, only to have the deal fall apart on Friday.
"It's obviously been a difficult process the last few weeks, with my family going through this, trying to decide where we're going to be heading," Bieksa said in a phone interview. "Obviously, San Jose was one of my choices, but Anaheim was always at the top of my list and one of my main choices.
"Anaheim was the best fit for us. Who wouldn't want to play for that team? They were very close to winning the Stanley Cup, and they have the right team for that."
Bieksa had become a third-pairing blue-liner in Vancouver, averaging 20 minutes 49 seconds per game, and wasn't part of Benning's long-term plan to get younger and better.
"Kevin was a leader for us and will always be connected with our fans and the Vancouver Canucks because of all he did for this province and team."
In Anaheim, Bieksa will be reunited with former Canucks teammate Ryan Kesler and join a strong but young defence as Sami Vatanen, Cam Fowler, Simon Despres and the promising Hampus Lindholm are 24 and under. Clayton Stoner is 30 and Francois Beauchemin is the greybeard at 35 but he's likely to leave as an unrestricted free agent.
Beauchemin to test market
Ducks GM Bob Murray said Beauchemin wants a three-year deal worth roughly $5 million per season, and the Ducks were only willing to offer a two-year deal.
"I got told they were going to the market early this morning," Murray said. "We had discussed a few things. Wasn't going to work. He told me what he was going to get in free agency, and I didn't go anywhere near that. We had kind of prepared for that circumstance and moved quickly on Kevin."
The Ducks are resigned to losing Beauchemin and forward Matt Beleskey because of their high value after playing key roles for Anaheim, the three-time defending Pacific Division champion.
Beauchemin, who reportedly would like to return to the Ducks, was their top defenceman this past season based on his ice time (22 minutes 44 seconds). He also had 23 points in 64 games along with nine assists in 16 post-season contests.
Bieksa and Kesler were teammates in Vancouver for nine seasons, and one season before that with the American Hockey League's Manitoba Moose back in 2004. Kesler was traded to Anaheim last summer, scoring 47 points last season as the Ducks' second-line centre and a defensive standout.
"Looking forward to playing with Kes again," Bieksa said. "It's funny, when he left last year, I still felt like we had a couple of years left. Felt like we'd cross paths again at some point.
"I've been talking to him throughout the process. He's given me nothing but great reviews about the team, the players, the city, the fans, and we've been talking throughout the whole season. He's very happy. His family is very happy there."