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Ducks shake up Draft with trade of Pronger

by Eric Stephens

"At some point in time, this organization is going to be without Scotty and now Chris. Some day neither one of them were going to be there. It’s time we started preparing for that. It was time for us to move forward and that was what I was doing."
-- Ducks GM Bob Murray on his reasoning for dealing Chris Pronger

Bob Murray had a quiet first couple months as general manager of the Anaheim Ducks after taking over for Brian Burke last November. But Murray and his moves have been making noise ever since.

Not long after putting together a number of key trades that helped propel his lagging team into the Stanley Cup Playoffs and a first-round upset of the Presidents' Trophy-winning San Jose Sharks, Murray struck again on Friday, dealing defenseman Chris Pronger to Philadelphia for forward Joffrey Lupul, rookie defenseman Luca Sbisa and two first-round picks.

Pronger's name came up in trade rumors at the March 4 deadline and popped up again in recent weeks as the Ducks awaited Scott Niedermayer's decision on playing in 2009-10. It was a common belief that if Niedermayer came back, Pronger would be dealt.

Niedermayer informed Murray Friday that he would play next season, but the Ducks' GM said dealing Pronger wasn't a reaction to his captain's decision.

"First of all, it was in the works well before Scott told me," Murray said Friday. "With the offer Philly threw at me, as with any player, it was something that was the right thing to do for the organization no matter what Scott said. Obviously, I took a huge sigh when Scott said he was going to play, but I was going to do it anyway regardless.

"We had made the decision very late last night this was how we were going to go forward. At some point in time, this organization is going to be without Scotty and now Chris. Some day neither one of them were going to be there. It’s time we started preparing for that. It was time for us to move forward and that was what I was doing. (Flyers GM) Paul (Holmgren) is trying to win. He is doing what we did three years ago. Paul is taking a Hall of Famer."

It is the second time that Pronger and Lupul have been dealt for each other. Anaheim sent Lupul, a former first-round pick, to Edmonton in the summer of 2006 for Pronger in a blockbuster deal.

Lupul had 25 goals and 25 assists for Philadelphia this past season. Just 25, the Alberta native already has three 20-goal seasons, including a career-high 28 with Anaheim in 2005-06.

Lupul is expected to address a need for second-line scoring, an area in which the Ducks have had trouble since winning the Stanley Cup in 2007.

"We couldn’t score enough goals before, so I needed to add a top-six forward," Murray said. "Lupul is still young. He can score. He’s a top-six forward. We know him and we know what we’re getting. It wasn’t as if we wanted to trade him when we went to get Chris. It wasn’t as if we were real excited about it."

Sbisa, 19, brings youth, skill and tremendous upside to the Anaheim blue line. The 19th pick in the 2008 Entry Draft had seven assists in 39 games with the Flyers in his rookie season.

"Sbisa, I am really excited about," he said. "He’s my type of defenseman. He can do everything. He’s a guy that just shows up and goes out and play, which is what I like. I know Philly was planning on having him on their team this year. My guys tell me that he’ll play on our team this year. He will ultimately in training camp determine whether he plays on our team this year or not."

Upon receiving the news of Niedermayer's intention to play in 2009-10, Murray said he was confident that the two sides can reach an agreement in the coming days.

"All along Scotty has told me that if he plays hockey this year, he was 99.9 percent sure he was going to play for the Anaheim Ducks," Murray said. "I was never really that concerned. When Scotty told me that he was going play with Anaheim or not going to play, I believed him."

Murray will turn his attention to finding out if Teemu Selanne also has another year left in him. Selanne is already signed for the coming season at $2 million, but said he would likely wait to see what Niedermayer decided before informing the Ducks of his intentions.

"Today is over with now, and I will get on the phone with him tomorrow or the next day," Murray said.

Murray has maintained that it was important to get assets in return for a player he might ultimately lose -- Pronger had only one year left on his contract and is an unrestricted free agent next summer. Hence the trade.

"I was getting very worried," Murray said. "Now, I have some bullets now to move forward. It was going to be very difficult to sign Chris going forward. To lose him for nothing, we couldn’t do that. When an offer like this comes along, you listen."

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