Two days after signing prized second-year defenseman Tobias Enstrom to a four-year contract, Atlanta Thrashers General Manager Don Waddell reeled in two-time NHL All-Star defenseman Mathieu Schneider Friday afternoon in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks.
Schneider, who won a Stanley Cup with the Montreal Canadiens in 1993, passed through waivers without being claimed last week. Since the Ducks are over the $56.7 million salary cap, trading the 39-year-old defenseman was the team’s most sensible resolution.
According to the L.A. Daily News, Schneider and Anaheim GM Brian Burke spoke on the phone hours before the Ducks’ preseason opener Wednesday, agreeing to extend the four-day window set last Friday to trade the veteran defenseman.
The Ducks would like to sign wing Teemu Selanne, who is in camp on a Pro Tryout Agreement, but need to clear some room to dip below the Oct. 8 cap deadline.
Ducks Executive Vice President and General Manager Brian Burke, who thanked Schneider for his service to the team, said the deal was not an easy one to complete.
“It’s proven to be more difficult to move players than I envisioned,” Burke said. “You’re talking about a good hockey in Mathieu Schneider, a good person. But getting teams to take on that salary was difficult. So, to me, it’s a relief. And it’s the right thing to do for Mathieu. I wasn’t comfortable making him swing in the wind. I don’t like that a player’s fate hung in the balance for a few days like that. At least now there’s some certainty in his life as far as what happens next. It was a good day.”
Schneider will not only provide the Thrashers an offensive presence along the blue line, but he could become a mentor to 2008 first-round pick Zach Bogosian, who is currently on the mend after suffering a hip flexor strain just prior to camp.
Schneider played in 65 games with the Ducks last season, posting 12 goals, 27 assists and a plus-22 rating while averaging just over 22 minutes of ice time. He recorded a plus-or-even rating in 32 straight games (plus-17) from Dec. 18 through March 5, the longest streak in the League last season. Schneider has 212 goals and 702 points in 1,197 career games.
The Thrashers, who finished 28th in the League with 76 points in 2007-08, continue to show a commitment to revamp a defense that allowed the most shots per game (33.9) while finishing tied with Tampa Bay with a League-worst 3.24 goals-against per game last season. Additionally, the club ranked 27th with a 78.8 percent penalty-killing efficiency.
Waddell, who also signed 27-year-old defenseman Ron Hainsey from Columbus to a five-year deal in July, stressed the need to upgrade his team’s mobility along the blue line at the start of the free-agent signing period.
“Puck-moving defensemen are at a premium in the League and we really didn’t generate enough points from the blue line last year so that was an area we really wanted to improve upon,’’ Waddell told NHL.com over the summer.
Klee, who signed with the Thrashers in July 2007, has posted 54 goals and 130 assists, including 13 game-winners, in 863 career games. The 37-year-old defenseman is considered a versatile and physical force, finishing with 78 hits and 136 blocked shots in 72 games with the Thrashers in 2007-08.
Larsen, who was claimed off waivers by Atlanta in 2004, has 19 goals and 48 points in 294 career games. The 31-year-old forward registered 44 hits in 62 games with Atlanta last season. Painchaud, a fourth-round pick (106th overall) of the Thrashers in 2004, split time in Chicago of the American Hockey League and Gwinnett of the East Coast League last season. The 22-year-old left wing had a goal and two assists in 22 games in the AHL.
For Burke, one of the most important aspects to the trade was holding onto Bobby Ryan, the second pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.
“What we’ve done here today is accomplish two goals, in my mind. We’ve gotten under the cap and we’ve managed to do it without parting with Bobby Ryan,” Burke said. “A number of the proposals we received – and two of the more dogged and determined ones – would have required us to put Bobby Ryan in the deal. That was something we did not want to do. To me, that was a major goal and both those goals got accomplished today.”