DUCKS ACQUIRE PRONGER ANAHEIM TRADES FOR DEFENSEMAN.
Everywhere the Ducks turned during the playoffs, they saw Chris Pronger, who played stellar defense for upwards of 30 minutes per game as he led the Edmonton Oilers past the Ducks in the Western Conference finals.
Now, the Ducks hope Pronger will be the difference maker in their quest for the Stanley Cup.
The Ducks acquired Pronger on Monday and paid a steep price, sending promising 22-year-old winger Joffrey Lupul, top defensive prospect Ladislav Smid, a first-round draft pick in 2007, a second-round pick in 2008 and a conditional first- round pick in 2008 to the Oilers.
``We're making a statement to our fans. Our goal is to win a Stanley Cup, and today is a statement,'' Ducks general manager Brian Burke said. ``We were one of the final four teams (in this year's playoffs) and we just added a major piece. If the expectations go up, that's fine with me. We have to get this done.''
In Pronger, 31, the Ducks get a defensive force who in 2000 won the Hart (MVP) and Norris (top defenseman) trophies, and they add him to a strong defensive group that includes former Norris winner Scott Niedermayer.
``I know what this team is all about, having played them in the playoffs, and I'm definitely looking forward to an exciting four years,'' Pronger said. ``I think expectations will be set high.''
The trade ended a saga that had engulfed hockey-mad Edmonton in recent weeks.
In the days after the Oilers lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, word surfaced that Pronger had demanded a trade for ``personal reasons,'' less than a year after he signed a five-year contract.
According to widespread rumors in the Canadian media, Pronger's wife, Lauren, was unhappy living in Edmonton, and other rumors got even more personal, with unsubstantiated tales of marital strife.
``We thought (a trade) was best for our family,'' Pronger said. ``As far as discussions we had as a family, they're going to stay private. ... It's none of your business, basically.
``I'm a big boy and I have a thick skin, but it's unfortunate that your family has to get dragged into it. ... At the end of the day, they're just rumors and it's somebody trying to stir the pot.''
The Kings were among the teams interested in trading for Pronger, but they ended up with free agent Rob Blake and the Ducks got Pronger, a 6-foot-6, 220-pounder who had 12 goals and 44 assists last season.
``No offense to anyone else, but experts would tell you that the three best defensemen in the NHL, in no particular order, are Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger and Nicklas Lidstrom,'' Burke said. ``By having a chance to lock this guy up, we did as well as anyone on the free-agent market.''
Burke reunites with Pronger, the player he chose with the No.2 overall pick in the 1993 draft when Burke served as GM in Hartford.
Burke traded up to get Pronger then, and he didn't come cheap this time.
Lupul, an Edmonton native, had 28 goals and 25 assists in 2005-06 and excelled in the playoffs. Smid, 20, who played for the Ducks' AHL affiliate this season, was likely to crack their lineup this fall.
The conditional draft pick is contingent on whether the Ducks make the Stanley Cup Finals in the next two seasons.
``(Oilers GM) Kevin Lowe drives a hard bargain,'' Burke said. ``Good trades work for both teams.''
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Jul 4, 2006|
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