Jun 27, 2011, 4:32 PM EDT
What a year it’s been for Kevin Bieksa. Last summer, Bieksa fought off rumors of being traded as he was viewed to be the odd man out on a Canucks team that was dealing with salary cap issues. After this season, one where he was rock solid providing consistent play at both ends of the ice and stayed healthy amidst a team mired in injury problems, he proved himself to be one of Vancouver’s best defenseman.
The Canucks opted to reward Bieksa’s play with a new contract and a long-term commitment. Vancouver signed him up for five more years at a cost of $23 million. The deal works out to a cap hit of $4.6 million over the term of the deal and for Bieksa, it takes him off the market which he was set to join on July 1 as an unrestricted free agent.
While the cap hit is still a bit of a bite, it’s not as much as Bieksa could’ve been set to make as a free agent. With the likes of Detroit and other teams looking to reach the salary floor, Bieksa could’ve cleaned house financially. Instead, he locks in in Vancouver while his teammate, Christian Ehrhoff, will likely head to free agency looking for a new team.
For Bieksa, while his point totals didn’t take a drastic jump, he proved to be one of their most reliable defensive players seeing his plus/minus rating jump to a career high +32. His career total before this season saw him as a -20. Thanks to Vancouver scoring the most goals in the league and the team tightening things up defensively all around, Bieksa’s play helped make that possible. His irritating play in the playoffs and snarly nature helped endear him to Canucks fans and made opponents lose their minds.
Vancouver locking up Bieksa also helps them square around on how they’re going to shape up their defense next season. They also have Dan Hamhuis, Keith Ballard, Alexander Edler, and Aaron Rome committed to contracts next season. Ballard was a healthy scratch through most of the playoffs and was even benched in favor of youngster Chris Tanev in the Stanley Cup finals. One would think he’s likely on his way out of town as well while GM Mike Gillis will attempt to work out deals on the free agent market as well as with in-house free agents Sami Salo and Andrew Alberts.
Vancouver’s summer of free agency will be curious to watch, but for now, the guy they once wanted to move out of town in Bieksa is their main man on the blue line for the next five years. It’s a start for a team that’s itching to correct their failure in the Stanley Cup finals.
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