The Ducks upgraded their defense and created long-term salary cap space Wednesday when they reacquired defenseman Francois Beauchemin — a key figure in their 2007 Stanley Cup championship — from Toronto for winger Joffrey Lupul, touted college defense prospect Jake Gardiner and a conditional draft pick in 2013.
Beauchemin comes with a high salary cap hit of $3.8 million this season and next. But Lupul’s contract carries a cap hit of $4.25 million per year through the 2012-13 season. Without that contract on their books the Ducks should have more flexibility to re-sign core forwards Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, whose contracts expire after the 2012-13 season, and keep them with winger Bobby Ryan, who is under contract through the 2014-15 season.
Beauchemin left the then-salary-cap-strapped Ducks as a free agent in 2009 to sign with the Maple Leafs. His time there has been rocky — he was -4 in 54 games this season and had only two goals and 12 points — but Ducks fans remember his hard hits, dangerous shot from the point, and the four goals and eight points he contributed in 20 playoff games in the 2007 playoffs while averaging a hefty 30 minutes and 33 seconds’ ice time per game.
Lupul came back from a devastating post-surgical infection to score five goals and 13 points in 26 games with the Ducks this season. Gardiner, 20, has averaged a point per game with the University of Wisconsin this season and was chosen by the Ducks in the first round of the 2008 entry draft. The Ducks were reluctant to give him up but paid that price to reinforce their defense for a playoff run this season.
Ducks General Manager Bob Murray had been looking to strengthen the defense since the team rebounded from a rocky start and reentered the playoff picture. If Beauchemin can approach his old form, their top six defensemen should be fairly strong.
Check back later for comments from Beauchemin and Murray.
-- Helene Elliott
Photo: Francois Beauchemin in 2007. Credit: Kevork Djansezian / Associated Press