Koivu, Hiller won’t return to Anaheim Ducks
ANAHEIM, California (AP) — Finnish center Saku Koivu and Swiss goalie Jonas Hiller are done with the Anaheim Ducks.
Koivu, Hiller and Canadian forward Daniel Winnik won’t be offered contracts by the Ducks for next season, general manager Bob Murray confirmed on Thursday.
The Pacific Division champion Ducks are cutting ties with several dependable veterans after the best regular season in franchise history and a second-round playoff exit.
Along with Teemu Selanne’s retirement, the departures of Koivu and Hiller will allow the Ducks’ young talent to assume bigger roles next season. Anaheim also is in the trade market for an elite center.
“We’ve got younger players coming along that we had to move into the lineup,” Murray said. “I thought it was best for this organization that we move forward a little bit. It was just time.”
The 39-year-old Koivu became a fan favorite during five seasons with the Ducks, even while his scoring production dwindled. The four-time Finnish Olympian was the longtime captain of the Montreal Canadiens.
Murray said the Ducks’ decision on Koivu was “the hardest of the three. He had a great career.”
Murray isn’t certain what Koivu will do next, but wouldn’t be surprised if he decides to play in Finland. Koivu said last month he was contemplating retirement.
The Ducks’ decision to part ways with Hiller means they’ll head into next season with a new starting goalie for the first time since 2009.
Hiller made an All-Star team, won a playoff series, and consistently backstopped the Ducks through several seasons of frequently terrible defensive play in front of him, going 162-32-110 over seven years.
But the Swiss netminder lost his starting job late in the regular season to Danish backup Frederik Andersen, and he played infrequently in the postseason while the Ducks went with Andersen and 20-year-old John Gibson, widely considered the top goaltending prospect in ice hockey.
“Jonas did so much for us,” Murray said. “But we’ve got pretty good kids there, so the writing was kind of on the wall.”
The 32-year-old Hiller had hoped to stay in Anaheim, but he joins Ryan Miller as the top goalies available in free agency.
Anaheim signed the undrafted Hiller out of Switzerland’s top league in May 2007. He beat out Ilya Bryzgalov for a roster spot and swiftly seized the starting job from Jean-Sebastien Giguere, the Stanley Cup-winning starter and franchise’s most successful goalie.
Hiller won 14 consecutive decisions during his final season with the Ducks, and he shut out the Los Angeles Kings at Dodger Stadium in January.
Winnik spent the past two years with the Ducks, scoring 30 points in 76 games last season.