By Adam Brady | AnaheimDucks.com
While Ducks fans lamented the departure of veteran defenseman Francois Beauchemin via free agency, they could take comfort in Anaheim picking up another gritty veteran blueliner as they turn their focus on another run for the Cup.
On June 30, Anaheim acquired defenseman Kevin Bieksa from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for a second-round selection in the 2016 Draft. The 34-year-old blueliner has scored 56-185=241 points with a +22 rating in 597 career NHL games, all with Vancouver.
Bieksa was due to be a free agent next summer but was signed to a two-year extension by the Ducks three days after the trade. His impending free agency was a reason the Canucks had pursued a trade, and Bieksa waved his no-move clause to come to Anaheim.
“It’s obviously been a difficult process the last few weeks with my family, going through this and trying to decide where we’re going to be heading,” Bieksa said after the trade. “San Jose was one of my choices, but Anaheim was always at the top of my list and one of my main choices. We tried to make the best decision for my family and for my hockey career.
“At the end of the day, Anaheim was the best fit for us. They had a great year last year and the last couple years. They were very close to winning a Stanley Cup, and they have the right team for that. I’m very excited to be a Duck now.”
The Ducks went after Bieksa after talks with Beauchemin broke down, leaving Anaheim in need for a veteran presence on the back end. “He’s a right-hand shot, and Beauch is a left who plays the right side,” said Ducks Executive Vice President and General Manager Bob Murray when asked to compare the two. “I think Kevin skates better than Beauch does at this point in time, partly because Beauch has had both knees worked on. Kevin is a smaller man, so that’s a difference too. They’re both tough and they both have a mean streak. They’re both competitive guys.”
Indeed, Bieksa has carved out a reputation for physical play, starting way back in December of 2005 when he was called for a roughing penalty 10 seconds into his first shift of his first NHL game, against the Kings. He has racked up and 879 penalty minutes in his career and was third on the Canucks last year in hits (109) despite missing seven weeks with a broken hand. Though typically placed in a shutdown role, he consistently makes his presence felt on the offensive end, frequently jumping into the rush and twice leading Canucks defensemen in scoring.
Bieksa’s journey to Anaheim means he rejoins former teammate Ryan Kesler, with whom he played nine seasons in Vancouver before Kesler was acquired by the Ducks last offseason. Kesler showed his approval for his reunion with Bieksa through this simple tweet:
Like Kesler last season, Bieksa will have to quickly become friendly with new Ducks teammates who were previously bitter enemies. There was this fight he had last year with Patrick Maroon:
And there were these run-ins with Canucks public enemy No. 1 Corey Perry:
“I’ve been in the league for awhile, and at some point you’ll cross paths with guys you’ve played against and had altercations with,” Bieksa said. “I’ve played with a lot of guys that I’ve gotten into fights with on the ice, and I always became great friends with those guys. I’ve always had a lot of respect for the Anaheim Ducks, and obviously Getzlaf and Perry are guys I’ve battled with a lot of over the years. We all have the same purpose, and that’s to win a Stanley Cup, so I think things will go over smoothly.”