This has not been a great week for the Vancouver Canucks as their woes at centre even included someone who is long retired.
Mark Messier, who had a short, unhappy tour with the Canucks from 1997 to 2000 as part of his Hall-of-Fame NHL career, was awarded $6-million (all currency U.S.) by an arbitrator as the result of a grievance against the Canucks, the Vancouver Sun reported. The Canucks bought out Messier three years into a five-year contract and he finished his playing career in 2004 after a second stint with the New York Rangers.
There was worse news involving the Canucks' active centres. Ryan Kesler's agent said he will not be able to play until December due to operations on his shoulder and wrist. This leaves the Canucks, once deep through the middle, with Henrik Sedin and a cast of working stiffs at centre, which is why the team is courting free agent Shane Doan, who is trying to make up his mind about leaving the Phoenix Coyotes.
Doan paid a visit to Vancouver on Tuesday, where he was introduced to Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini and general manager Mike Gillis by assistant GM Laurence Gilman, who used to work for the Coyotes.
None of the principals would comment following arbitrator George Nicolau's decision but it appears Messier won a dispute about deferred money in his contract. Apparently, he had a clause in his contract that awarded him a future payment if the value of the Canucks franchise ever increased during the period of the contract.
That must have frosted Aquilini, since he did not own the Canucks at the time but is now on the hook for a deal approved by former owner John McCaw.
Losing the Messier case, though, pales in comparison to the news about Kesler, the Canucks' No. 2 centre and the heart and soul of the team. He had the shoulder operation on May 8 and the wrist surgery, which was described as minor, in late June.
Gillis said in a radio interview last week that Kesler was a little ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation, which led to hopes among the fans he might play early in the season presuming there is no lockout. But Kesler's agent, Kurt Overhardt, threw cold water on that speculation.
"It's not happening," Overhardt told The Vancouver Province. "He's not ahead of schedule and there's no rushing him back. He's on course to return in December and he's not returning until he's 100-per-cent. Don't expect him until December."
NHL pool players please take note.
There is nothing new to report on Gillis's attempts to trade goaltender Roberto Luongo. The only contenders remain the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Florida Panthers with the Panthers likely the preferred destination for Luongo, who has a no-trade clause in his contract.