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Ducks GM Murray pleased with deadline trades

by Curtis Zupke

Perhaps the most telling part of Anaheim Ducks general manager Bob Murray's conference call with reporters Monday was a reference to what happened last season and not the whirlwind hours leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline.

Murray remembers Anaheim nearly being taken to a Game 7 against the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference First Round, and how the Ducks couldn't match the Stanley Cup champion vigor of the Los Angeles Kings in a seven-game loss in the second round.

"I didn't think we were as close in the seven-game series with L.A. as everyone else thought," Murray said. "I thought we were lucky against Dallas."

That's why Murray made the Ducks more prepared for the rugged Western Conference path with the addition of defensemen James Wisniewski and Simon Despres at the deadline Monday.

"We've got to address the different styles of teams," Murray said. "It was very apparent that we had to change a few things and be capable of playing different types of games against different teams. We addressed in the last week and a half a few of those situations. Hopefully we're capable now of competing against most of the teams in our conference.

"You go along and build for teams you have to face. L.A. is a prime candidate, and we've acquired skill to compete with different teams."

The Ducks got Wisniewski and a third-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft from the Columbus Blue Jackets for left wing Rene Bourque, center William Karlsson and Anaheim's second-round selection in the draft. Despres came from the Pittsburgh Penguins for veteran defenseman Ben Lovejoy, who will begin a second stint with the Penguins.

Last week, Murray acquired left wings Jiri Sekac from the Montreal Canadiens and Tomas Fleischmann from the Florida Panthers to add scoring depth.

"Bottom line, the Anaheim Ducks are better than they were five, six days ago," Murray said.

Murray, who added four players to a first-place team with 18 games remaining in the regular season, acknowledged he had some concern about tinkering with chemistry. Coach Bruce Boudreau again has a lot of moving parts to work with because the Ducks still need a left wing to play with captain Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, and left wing Matt Beleskey and defenseman Sami Vatanen remain out with injuries. Wisniewski said he has a bone bruise in his foot and will be out for 1-2 weeks.

"You always are [concerned]," Murray said. "We've talked about that. I felt that with this team, it was more important to address the ability to play different games against different teams. I really felt that it was becoming a problem throughout the season. Hopefully with that many players leaving or coming that it doesn't affect the team negatively. I know they've got to get together quickly."

The additions give Anaheim balance on the left side with Despres, Francois Beauchemin and Hampus Lindholm. Wisniewski, Vatanen and Cam Fowler can play the right side, although left-handed Beauchemin has played the right side with Lindholm. The Ducks also have physical Clayton Stoner and acquired Korbinian Holzer from the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Murray said teams asked Monday about Beleskey, an impending unrestricted free agent, and the GM said, "You're torn, but I felt with this hockey team right now that it was more important to keep Matt and take our chances in the future. We'll see what happens in the summer with him. He's been an important part of our team."

The departure of the popular Lovejoy was somewhat of a surprise, but Anaheim needed to get more rugged and skilled. Enter Despres, who is 6-foot-4, 214 pounds.

"He's a big, strong kid that moves the puck," Murray said. "He plays a big, physical game. He closes gaps really well. He's a big-bodied guy, which is something we needed. The big thing with him is that he's young, and to keep playing within himself. He has a chance to be a very solid top-four defenseman."

Despres and Wisniewski address Anaheim's 21st-ranked power play, an area of concern for Murray last season that hasn't gotten much better (from 22nd). Seven of Wisniewski's eight goals are on the power play, and he has seven power-play assists.

"Our power play has struggled mightily for two years now," Murray said. "[James] is not afraid to shoot the puck. That is a good thing."

Wisniewski returns to the Ducks after he played for them from 2008-10, highlighted by a first-round upset of the top-seeded San Jose Sharks in 2009. He immediately joins a Cup contender.

"It's a dream come true for someone who's never won a Stanley Cup, or for guys who have won a Stanley Cup but haven't won multiple ones," Wisniewski said. "To be able to go to a legitimate Cup-contending team, a team that has really high hopes on winning a Cup and anything less is unacceptable, words can't describe the excitement I have. The year that's gone on in Columbus has just been very, very tough. To go to Anaheim, a familiar place and familiar organization, with the success they had, I'm going to try to do whatever I can do to help achieve that goal."

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