The Anaheim Ducks continued their quest to shore up their goaltending and help their push to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which arrive in less than two months.
Thursday morning, the Ducks traded goalie Curtis McElhinney to the Tampa Bay Lightning for backup goalie Dan Ellis.
Ellis, who was playing behind Dwayne Roloson in Tampa Bay, is 13-7-6 with a 2.89 goals-against average and a .889 save percentage this season, but is just one year removed from a successful four-year run with the Nashville organization. That included a 23-win season with a .924 save percentage back in 2007-08.
"It’s always a bit of a surprise," Ellis said on a conference call Thursday. "The team I was a part of here was putting together some great games and doing fairly well. It seems like they made all the acquisitions they were going to make, but the business side of hockey is something that can always take you by surprise and you have to be prepared for it."
Ellis said he'll arrive in Anaheim tonight.
"To have the opportunity to be picked up by Anaheim is wonderful. They have a great organization and some great players there. It takes you by surprise, but in another sense it’s a great opportunity to help a team that is making a push down this final stretch to get into the playoffs.
"I’ll do anything for the team I’m, playing for. Anything I can do to benefit that team, I’m always willing to do. I’m a Duck now and my goal is to help that team make the playoffs. If they want me in the net tomorrow, I’ll jump right in and be very excited. If they need me to sit on the bench, I’ll do that and cheer on my squad."
Anaheim is desperate for help as No. 1 goalie Jonas Hiller, an All-Star this season, is battling what he believes may be a case of vertigo. Hiller, who is currently on injured reserve, has had fatigue and dizziness issues for much of the month of February.
The Ducks sit in 11th place in a tightly bunched Western Conference after Wednesday's loss to the Kings, but are just two points out of eighth place.
"They're saying it's kind of vertigo," Hiller said. "I definitely feel better than I did a couple days ago, but I still don't feel like it's 100 percent. We'll see. Hopefully one of these days I'll be able to see how it goes on the ice."
With Hiller on the shelf, McElhinney was given the opportunity to carry the load but could not claim the job as his own. He has yielded 23 goals in his past five starts and failed to record a save percentage better than .840 during that span. He has won just one of those five outings.
McElhinney became expendable when Anaheim called up ray Emery from Syracuse on Wednesday. Emery, a former NHL goalie that missed more than 12 months with a serious hip injury, had been playing in the AHL after signing a free-agent contract with the Ducks earlier this month.
In Syracuse, Emery went 2-1-0 with a 2.62 GAA and .925 save percentage in three games.
"We felt there was an opportunity for him to go to Syracuse, get some games underneath him," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "Obviously we didn't think (the call-up) was going to be this quick, but he's played three hockey games and he's played very well in them. He's in a situation where if we need him, we're not afraid to put him in the net.
Emery hasn't played an NHL game since Feb. 1, 2010, when he was a member of the Philadelphia Flyers. He had surgery in April to repair avascular necrosis in his right hip, a condition which saw the near-complete degradation of the top of the ball in his hip joint.
Emery's best season in the NHL was 2006-07 with the Ottawa Senators. He went 33-16-6 with a 2.47 GAA and .917 save percentage in the regular season and backstopped the Senators to the Stanley Cup Final.
Anaheim general manager Bob Murray believed Emery could work his way back to the NHL and would be an excellent insurance policy when it came to goaltending depth.
"The reason he was signed was this specific reason. We felt if we had any issues with goaltending injuries, that he was a viable option for us," Carlyle said. "He's worked himself back into excellent condition. He's ready to restart his career."
Tampa Bay was willing to make the deal because they had three NHL-proven goalies in their system. Roloson, who was obtained from the New York Islanders in a Jan. 1 trade, and Ellis are on the NHL roster and Mike Smith, a No. 1 for Tampa Bay last season, is currently in the minors.
The deal also saves the Lightning some money that could be used to make another addition before the Monday trade deadline. Ellis is in the first year of a two-year deal that pays him $1.5 million per season while McElhinney's contract that pays him $535,000 is up at the end of June.
First-year general manager Steve Yzerman has already made two significant moves to improve Tampa Bay's roster by picking up Roloson in January and defenseman Eric Brewer from St. Louis this month. The Lightning are three points in front of Washington for first place in the Southeast Division and the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.