ANAHEIM, Calif. — Francois Beauchemin keeps coming back to the Anaheim Ducks, and his third stint probably will be the final NHL season.
The veteran defenceman agreed to an incentive-laden one-year contract Monday to return to the Stanley Cup contenders.
Beauchemin won the Cup in 2007 during his first tenure with Anaheim from 2005-09. After leaving for Toronto as a free agent, he returned to Anaheim in a trade in February 2011. He was a mainstay on the Ducks’ blue line until 2015, when he left again for Colorado in free agency.
“I’ve always said I wanted to end my career (in Anaheim),” Beauchemin said in a phone interview. “And then things changed a couple of years ago and I became a free agent, couldn’t work out a deal, and now I have a chance to go back and finish my experience with the Ducks. Obviously (my career) couldn’t end a better way. I’m thrilled and I’m excited for that chance.”
Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are still with the Ducks from their 2007 championship team, and they all played for coach Randy Carlyle, who also returned to the Ducks last season.
The 37-year-old Beauchemin has 73 goals and 198 assists in 836 career NHL games as a dependable, physical defenceman. He ranks second among all Anaheim defencemen in goals (53) and plus-minus rating (plus-47).
Beauchemin had nine post-season assists during Anaheim’s run to the 2015 Western Conference finals, but he left for Colorado when the Ducks wouldn’t match the Avalanche’s three-year, $13.5 million offer. He played in all but one game over the past two seasons with the struggling Avs, but they bought out the last year of his contract in June.
“Obviously I was really disappointed about being bought out,” Beauchemin said. “After that, being a free agent, I had a few teams calling, but I didn’t really have the feeling of moving my family once more.”
Beauchemin and his wife, Marie-Claude, had decided to stay in Denver for the winter, and Beauchemin had basically decided his career was finished unless he landed a spot on Canada’s Olympic team. The family planned to move back to Quebec next year before the Anaheim-born kids were too old to adjust.
Instead, Anaheim general manager Bob Murray called Beauchemin on Sunday and offered a chance to contend for a Stanley Cup again in a familiar setting.
“He will bring valuable leadership and help our young defencemen build character and be successful NHL players, as Francois has been in his career,” Murray said. “We feel Francois still has a lot to give, and his passion and drive to win is unquestioned.”
The Ducks won their fifth straight Pacific Division title last season and reached the conference finals for the second time in three years. Beauchemin will have to carve out playing time on the Ducks’ loaded blue line alongside Cam Fowler, Kevin Bieksa and young rising stars Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, Josh Manson and Brandon Montour.
Although he feels re-energized, Beauchemin still thinks the upcoming season will be his last.
“I’m still healthy, and I don’t want to play until I can’t play,” Beauchemin said. “Now I feel good, and I’m excited to play this season, and after that it’s probably going to be time to go back home.”