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Ducks shore up blue line with Souray, Allen

by Curtis Zupke

Few general managers had to adjust their free agency strategy the way Anaheim's Bob Murray did in the weeks leading up to Sunday.

Murray had a potential cornerstone defenseman in Justin Schultz, a can't-miss kid who was drafted by the Ducks in 2008. But Schultz used a loophole to become a free agent, four years after that draft, and signed with the Edmonton Oilers this week.

Murray voiced his displeasure at the Schultz situation in a conference call Sunday night, but he also was satisfied at his attempt to rebuild a defense that also lost the aging but offensively gifted Lubomir Visnovsky in a salary-dump trade and saw gritty Sheldon Brookbank sign with the Chicago Blackhawks when free agency opened.

Sheldon Souray, who turns 36 on July 13, signed a three-year deal worth $11 million, and Bryan Allen signed a three-year deal worth $10.5 million. Murray didn't have reservations giving three years to Souray, who will make $4 million in 2012-13.


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"We wanted to get some more experience and size back there, and we wanted to be a little bit harder to play against," Murray said. "If we were going to do that, we had to go that route. I have no problem. I thought he played very well in Dallas last year. I know the questions on Sheldon … quite honestly, I talked to a few veterans on our hockey team and they definitely said, 'Go forward and get this this guy if you can,' and I did."

Souray had a well-documented fallout with the Edmonton Oilers in which he demanded a trade and was demoted to the American Hockey League for the 2010-11 season. He cleared waivers a second time before the Oilers bought out of the final year of his contract last summer.

But Souray's comeback with the Stars was one of the better stories in the League last season. Souray tied for first among Dallas defensemen with a plus-11 raring and was second with six goals. He scored his 100th career NHL goal and played in his 700th career NHL game.

The signing is a perfect fit for Souray, whose family is in Southern California. He has a residence in Malibu.

"I was always kind of hoping, in an ideal situation, this would have been it," Souray said in a conference call. "When this opportunity presented itself, it was a dream come true. It worked on so many different levels.

"All around, this was the best fit hockey-wise and certainly the best fit on a personal level. Those two, for me, historically when I've had my kids around and been able to combine those things, it's made me a better hockey player and a happier person."

Souray said he feels rejuvenated and is training hard this summer with Chris Chelios, among others, in Southern California. Souray likens this to his stint in Dallas, where his role as a veteran was clearly defined.

Saku Koivu
Saku Koivu
Center - ANA
GOALS: 11 | ASST: 27 | PTS: 38
SOG: 107 | +/-: 7
It also helps that Souray has a lot of respect for Ducks center Saku Koivu, his former teammate and captain with the Montreal Canadiens. He said he talked to Koivu about "the situation in Dallas and the situation in Anaheim" and that factored in his decision.

"There's not a better captain that I've played with," Souray said. "I've played with Scotty Stevens and Saku and I've learned to be mentored by them. Saku's an unbelievable player."

Souray also likened this situation with the Stars in that both teams didn't hold his past against him. He said of his past, "I certainly don't live there, I don't dwell on it and I don't think anybody else does, either."

Murray is having difficulty not dwelling on the Schultz situation. Anaheim wanted to sign Schultz so badly it reportedly offered to play him in the regular-season finale to burn a year on his contract, which would put him closer to free agency. But the Ducks, who were close to signing Schultz in February, failed to sign him in the 30-day window after Schultz declared he would leave Wisconsin early, and multiple attempts during the NHL Draft were also fruitless.

Murray said Schultz did not contact the team in recent days.

"I'm more confused than ever now," Murray said. "I read everything. I moved on. I'm confused because if he had it in his mind that wanted to play in Canada, I get that. I'm Canadian too. But Eric Lindros, when he went to Quebec, he went to his team that drafted him and said, 'No, I'm not going to play here.' He allowed that team to make the move to get something for him. He told us numerous times he wanted to play with us. He needed to just tell us the truth."

Anaheim moves on with 6-foot-4, 233-pound Souray and 6-5, 226-pound Allen, who become the biggest defensemen on its blue line. Allen is a stay-at-home type with a history of knee surgeries -- although none since 2008-09 -- and he gives the Ducks another shot-blocking specialist along with Toni Lydman.

As of Sunday, Anaheim's top-six defensemen are all left-handed shots – another reason the right-shooting Schultz was tough to lose.

Murray and the Ducks can take solace in the possible return of Teemu Selanne. Murray talked with Selanne over the weekend and said he'll talk with him again Monday or Tuesday.

"We've texted and he's been playing a bunch of golf this week," Murray said. "We'll talk more. I'm sure he was paying attention to today and tomorrow closely. We will talk."

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