San Jose Sharks defenseman Jason Demers, center, celebrates his goal with teammates Martin Havlat, left, of the Czech Republic and Daniel Winnik during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings, Thursday, April 5, 2012, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
ANAHEIM, Calif. - Versatile forward Daniel Winnik agreed to a two-year, $3.6 million contract with Anaheim on Friday, moving down the California coast from San Jose to bolster the Ducks' depth and penalty killing.
Winnik has played five NHL seasons with Phoenix, Colorado and the Sharks, who acquired him last Feb. 27 and let him leave as an unrestricted free agent. He was eager to stay in the Western Conference, and after going unsigned in the early days of the NHL's free-agent frenzy, he finally reached a deal with the Ducks.
"It's a good mix of talent and ruggedness throughout the lineup," Winnik said of his new club. "I was hoping to stay out West, just with the familiarity of playing all the teams, more so the Pacific Division, having been there for three years. I've always loved the West Coast, and have been out there for so long now."
The Toronto native and former ninth-round draft pick scored a career-high 26 points as a rookie with the Coyotes in 2007-08, matching that total with the Avalanche in 2010-11. Winnik played an NHL-high 84 games last season thanks to his midseason trade, scoring 23 points for his two clubs.
Winnik began his career as a centre, but has played all three positions up front. He will be a depth forward and a left-handed shot who could compete for a third- or fourth-line centre spot with Nick Bonino and Andrew Cogliano, who is Winnik's close friend.
Winnik also is a skilled penalty killer and defensive forward. The Ducks have attempted to address both areas in the off-season, bolstering their sometimes shoddy defence by signing veteran blueliners Bryan Allen and Sheldon Souray.
Winnik said he hopes to score "more goals than I had last year. Last year, I probably had the most chances I've had in my NHL career. Shots-wise, I had a lot and I created a lot. Hopefully, the point-production goes up and my linemates around me score a little more, too."
San Jose essentially replaced Winnik by signing Adam Burish to a four-year, $7.4 million deal shortly after free agency opened.
Winnik has been working out with Ducks forward Devante Smith-Pelly and other players in Toronto while waiting to find a home during his first time as a free agent.
"It was a different experience, and an interesting one at that," Winnik said.