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In addition to making a monster two-year, $20-million (all currency U.S.) contract overture to Mats Sundin, one of nine teams interested in signing the ex-Leaf captain, the Vancouver Canucks also became the first team to make an offer sheet to a restricted free agent, signing underrated David Backes of the St. Louis Blues to a three-year, $7.5-million contract.

Backes is considered one of the Blues' top prospects. He is 24, and completed the second year of his NHL career by scoring 31 points in 72 games and finishing with 99 penalty minutes. A 6-foot-3 200-pounder, he is projected as a power forward with a big upside, who was turning the corner in his career - and thus was an inviting target for a team such as Vancouver that needs size up front.

The Blues had seven days to match, but made the decision to do so within hours.

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"Dave Checketts [Chairman and Principle Owner]was very supportive of this decision to sign David," said team president John Davidson. "David is a major part of our youth movement in St. Louis and we expect him to play a huge role as we move forward."

Backes' offer sheet includes a $1-million signing bonus along with $1.5-million in 2008-09, $2.5-million in 2009-10 and $2.5-million 2010-11.

Last year, the Edmonton Oilers made controversial offer sheets for the Buffalo Sabres' Tomas Vanek and the Anaheim Ducks' Dustin Penner, landing the latter, but not the former. The decision to wade into the restricted free-agent market sparked a season-long war of words between Oilers' general manager Kevin Lowe and his Anaheim counterpart, Brian Burke. No word yet if a similar outbreak of hostilities will erupt between the Canucks and the budget-conscious Blues.

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