After signing Daniel and Henrik Sedin to salary-cap friendly extensions, the Vancouver Canucks are not finished with their summer shopping.
The twins could have become prized free agents yesterday, but wound up agreeing to five-year, $30.5-million (all currency U.S.) contracts each late on Tuesday night. The deals hand the Canucks cap savings, and allowed the team to continue browsing.
The twins' $6.1-million average annual salaries are clearly discounted for the home team, and further reflect the sluggish market for free agents, uncertainty about the cap in 2010-11, and their desire to remain together.
Vancouver has about $10-million in cap space, and will have about $20-million committed to three players once goaltender Roberto Luongo's extension is announced, which should be soon. Luongo, 30, is expected to sign an extension worth as much as $7.5-million annually.
"It's not the most comfortable place to be, but they are core guys and you can't replace them," Canucks general manager Mike Gillis said yesterday. "We're going to have to work really hard to fit a team around them."
Gillis will prey on teams that are tight to the league's $56.8-million spending limit and are trying to shed salary. The Canucks still require one or two defencemen who would step into the everyday lineup, or compete for a role on the third pairing.
"We're pretty active, so we'll see how the next couple of days turn out," Gillis said. "We have some plans over the summer, and clearly Roberto is a big part of those plans."
Gillis said the team would also speak with free-agent centre Mats Sundin, who played a half season for Vancouver in 2009-10. Sundin, 38, is on a fishing trip in his native Sweden, and the sides are to talk this month.
Yesterday the Canucks called defenceman Scott Niedermayer, who re-signed with the Anaheim Ducks for $6-million. Gillis said Niedermayer's desire to remain in California was evident quickly, but player agent Kevin Epp told Vancouver's Team 1040 AM that the Canucks "pushed hard" to sign his client, and were seriously considered.
The Canucks also signed defenceman Aaron Rome to a one-year, $550,000 contract. The 26-year-old has played 26 NHL games over three seasons in Columbus and Anaheim, registering three points and 33 penalty minutes.
The Sedins, 28-year-olds who have played eight seasons in Vancouver, ended up with contracts equivalent to forward Mike Cammalleri, who signed with the Montreal Canadiens for the same term and $100,000 less a season.
Cammalleri, 27, has had two 70-point seasons. The Sedins have had four each, and on the open market, in a more certain economy, would have likely commanded $7-million annually.
"We never said that we're the guys who want to go after the big money," Henrik Sedin said. "Vancouver was always our No. 1 option."
Only two players received more money than the Sedins yesterday: wingers Marian Hossa, who signed with the Chicago Blackhawks, and Marian Gaborik, who signed with the New York Rangers. Only Hossa and former Canuck Mattias Ohlund received longer contracts.
Hossa received one of the decade-long deals the Sedins were seeking and will make more total money ($62.8-million) at a cheaper annual price ($5.23-million). Gaborik, 27, got $7.5-million over five seasons from the Rangers, and Ohlund, 32, signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning for seven years at $3.75-million a year.
"The economy is really poor, and you're seeing a variety of different terms as teams try to manage their cap situations and manage the economy," Gillis said about the opening day of NHL free agency. "We're all fighting a similar demon in that respect."
Ohlund was forced to leave Vancouver after spending his first 11 seasons with the Canucks. Vancouver had no intention of re-signing Ohlund, and never began discussions with his camp.
With the Sedins, negotiations went into the dying hours.
The Canucks announced the extensions just minutes before the signing period began at 9 a.m. PDT. The agreements, which come with full no-movement clauses, came only after Gillis and assistant general manager Lauren Gilman flew to Stockholm this week for a summit meeting with the twins and their representation. They spent just 18 hours on Swedish soil, but both sides have said it was critical to reaching common ground.
"We didn't want to leave that stone unturned," Gillis said. "All along, I think both sides wanted to come to an agreement. Sometimes it takes the final hour."
Vancouver has extended qualifying offers to its three restricted free agents: defenceman Shane O'Brien and forwards Kyle Wellwood and Jannik Hansen. O'Brien and Wellwood have arbitration rights.