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Thursday, July 10, 2008
Canucks sign Demitra to 2-year, $8 million deal

Associated Press

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The Vancouver Canucks signed forward Pavol Demitra to an $8-million, two-year contract on Thursday.

The 33-year-old Demitra had 54 points (15-39) in 68 games with Minnesota last season.

"There was a lot of interest throughout the league but Pavol is comfortable with the direction Vancouver is taking on the ice and the vision (Canucks GM) Mike Gillis has for the future," said Matt Keator, Demitra's agent. "He feels that his family will be happy, that he will enjoy playing for the Canucks and will hopefully be taking a run at the Stanley Cup."

Demitra has 699 points (281-418) in 750 career regular-season games with Minnesota, Los Angeles, St. Louis and Ottawa.

His interest in the Canucks was based on his desire to play in a hockey-crazed market, to join a team with a top-notch goalie such as Roberto Luongo, and to reunite with Gillis -- his former agent.

"We became very close friends and I always like to play hockey for a guy like that, Demitra said on a call from his native Slovakia. "I know exactly what he's looking for.

Gillis is looking for offense from Demitra, preferably more than he provided last season in Minnesota. The 15 goals were his fewest in a full NHL season and his point output was his worst since 2000.

Demitra blamed the production dip on a Minnesota system famous for its emphasis on defense, especially when he was switched from wing to center. He was willing to overlook Vancouver's reliance on a similar defense-first emphasis last season because he believes in the change of direction promised by Gillis after he replaced the fired Dave Nonis in late April.

"We've been talking and I know what kind of hockey he likes. He likes definitely offensive hockey and that's what I like, too," Demitra said. "He knows what I can bring. I can offensively do much more than what I did in Minnesota."

After losing captain Markus Naslund and second-line center Brendan Morrison to free agency earlier this week, the goal-challenged Canucks need Demitra to find the form that produced at least 35 goals three times over eight seasons with St. Louis. He had a career-high 93 points in 2002-03.

Gillis is confident Demitra can do that, pointing to the forward's career totals: 281 goals and 699 points in 750 games over 14 seasons with Los Angeles, St. Louis, Ottawa and Minnesota.

"We saw a premium forward who could play all three forward positions and is coming off a season that wasn't his most productive, but has been a consistent point guy throughout his NHL career," he said. "I've watched the guy play an awful lot over the last 10 years so I know him well."

Gillis also signed defenseman Rob Davison, another former client, to a one-year deal worth $560,000 on Thursday.

The 28-year-old Davison had one goal and one assist while splitting 34 games between San Jose and the New York Islanders last season, but with 195 NHL games and 270 penalty minutes the 6-foot-3 defender wasn't signed to score.

"He's a tough, physical defenseman," Gillis said. "When you play tough teams in the West you need players that can meet that challenge and Rob is clearly one of those guys."

Gillis hopes the addition of Demitra will entice center Mats Sundin to accept a two-year, $20-million deal that's been on the table to the Toronto Maple Leafs captain since free agency opened on July 1.

"If Mike is going to bring Mats Sundin, that's going to help a lot," Demitra said. "He's definitely a special player, and playing with a guy like that makes hockey easier."