When the Vancouver Canucks signed the Sedin twins to below-market contracts on the first day of NHL free agency this week, it was a dual accomplishment for the franchise and general manager Mike Gillis.
For starters, it left salary-cap room, some of which the Canucks used yesterday to sign winger Mikael Samuelsson, a former Detroit Red Wing and a Stanley Cup winner.
Second, it was a coup for Gillis, who is trying to foster a culture where players take less money in order to build a winning team, à la the Red Wings.
Had Daniel and Henrik Sedin, now Vancouver's longest-serving players and the offensive centrepieces of the team, bolted for greener pastures on Wednesday, it would have been a blow to that philosophy. Gillis would have had difficulty convincing existing players to sign for less, let alone trying to sign free agents for favourable rates.
In Samuelsson's case, Vancouver's three-year offer worth $2.5-million (all currency U.S.) a season was the best financial package. The 32-year-old admitted that yesterday on a conference call from his native Sweden, revealing that he had a bunch of offers and whittled his decision down to the Canucks and Wings.
"It was a bunch of reasons, not only good money," Samuelsson said. "Obviously that was a key, I shouldn't lie. This was a first-time for me in free agency. … I liked it in Detroit and I have no hard feelings toward them. But they came up too short and too late."
Samuelsson, who has played 466 NHL games with five teams, is a versatile forward who logged power-play time on the point in Detroit, and put 257 shots on goal, 24th best in the NHL. But the opportunity to be a larger offensive contributor, and the Swede-friendly culture of the Canucks, were also factors in his decision.
"Hopefully I get a little more ice time and some more opportunities offensively," said Samuelsson, who averaged 15 minutes 22 seconds of ice time a game last year.
Samuelsson said the Canucks suggested he would fit on one of the top-two forward lines, though head coach Alain Vigneault will make that call this fall.
"That's what they said, but that was over the phone," Samuelsson said. "I know I have to deserve it, but at least they have a plan for me and they believe in me.