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Important, timely signing for the Anaheim Ducks this morning, inking goaltender Jonas Hiller(notes) to a four-year, $18 million contract extension.

Timely because that $4.5 million cap hit annually could have easily grown the longer the season went on -- if Hiller rallied the Ducks to a playoff seed or starring for Switzerland in Vancouver or if other suitors started back-channeling their desire to sign him as perhaps the prized unrestricted free-agent next summer. (He's younger than Evgeni Nabokov(notes) and Marty Turco(notes), obviously; and better than Dan Ellis(notes).)

Important because it definitively declares Hiller, who turns 28 in February, the winner in the Ducks' goaltender derby; likely expediting the departure of former Conn Smythe winner Jean-Sebastien Giguere(notes).

From the OC Register:

The contract is worth $4.5 million each season until 2013-14 and will naturally carry a similar salary cap hit. Unless they are able to trade veteran Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who's now a backup and scheduled to make $7 million next season, the Ducks could enter 2010-11 with $11.5 million tied up between their two goaltenders.

Another option the Ducks could pursue is buying out Giguere but they would be on the hook for about $2.33 million in 2010-11 and 2011-12.

After signing with the Ducks in May 2007, Hiller quickly emerged as a strong backup to Giguere as he went 10-7-1 with a 2.06 goals-against average in 2007-08. The two then split time for much of 2008-09, but Hiller took over the starting job for their playoff push and went 23-15-1 with a 2.39 GAA and a .919 save percentage.

Giggy is 4-8-5 with a 3.14 GAA and a .900 save percentage this season. Hiller is 21-15-2 with a 2.75 GAA and a .920 save percentage.

Problem No. 1 with trading Giguere: He has a no-trade clause, per Spector. Problem No. 2 with trading Giguere: In this economy, the $7 million base salary he's due is probably just as much as a deal-killer as the $6 million cap hit.

So buying him out after the season might be the best option, for the Ducks and for a player they genuinely want to treat with respect.

It'll save the team from committing the gross national product of Zimbabwe to two goalies next season; and it'll give Giggy the chance to finally fulfill the dreams of all those airmchair GMs that have him rejoining Brian Burke and coach Francois Allaire with the Toronto Maple Leafs or going to the Red Wings.

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