That Brian Burke. Just about every bit of news coming out of the NHL these days is made by Burke and the team he manages, the Anaheim Ducks. Last week, he put back-up goalie Ilya Bryzgalov on waivers to get him moved to another team. The Phoenix Coyotes grabbed him and he responded with a shutout in his first night with his new squad (and left the Coyotes with a glut in goal, what with Mikael Tellqvist, Alex Auld and David Aebischer all in the organization).
Next, Burke made the first legitimate trade of the season, involving a player - Brian Sutherby - who wasn't immediately assigned to his team's minor-league organization. Sutherby, acquired from the Washington Capitals for a second-round choice in the 2009 entry draft, figures to be an upgrade on the Ducks' third and fourth lines, where the talent falls off dramatically.
Then today, according to TSN, he signed Ryan Getzlaf to one of those multi-year contracts that's become so common for players coming to the end of their first NHL deals. The Ducks (with Al Coates in charge at that point) signed both Getzlaf and Corey Perry to entry-level contracts just before the start of the NHL lockout. That turned out to be a brilliant move since the contracts were then subject to the 24 per cent rollback agreed to by the NHL players association as a means of getting a new collective bargaining agreement signed. The net result from a Ducks' perspective: Three years of Getzlaf and Perry for low dollars (Getzlaf, a salary-cap hit of $739,000; Perry for $633,000) - impressive bargains in this day and age, especially for players making an impact in the here-and-now. The presence of those two on the roster enabled the Ducks to sign high-end free agents such as Scott Niedermayer and trade for high-end talent such as Chris Pronger, two moves that helped them win the Stanley Cup last season.
Getzlaf gets a significant raise - to an average of $5.3 million per season. The Ducks locked him up in order to prevent the sort of offer sheet that the Edmonton Oilers made for Dustin Penner last summer (Anaheim declined to match and took the three draft choices in compensation). By getting Getzlaf under contract, the Ducks also eliminated the opportunity for another team to poach their de facto No. 1 centre away - and they get him signed on their own terms, rather than someone else's. It is an increasingly popular strategy by teams - their cross-town rivals did something similar with Dustin Brown last month, signing him for six years and $19 million - and it means that the Ducks will need to do some payroll managing next summer when Getzlaf's new deal clicks in. Still, that's better than the alternative - having somebody swoop in and try to steal him away with a $50 million Tomas-Vanek like contract offer.
The Ducks have always known the difference between the players that can make a difference in winning - and the ones that produce showy point totals, without actually contributing the way a core player needs to in order to justify his salary cost. The fact that Getzlaf is under contract for five more years after this one is just another step in the right direction for an organization that seems to know what it's doing.
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