Jovanovski to receive $6.5M per season

Updated: July 1, 2006, 9:56 PM ET
Associated Press

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Ed Jovanovski has signed a five-year deal worth $32.5 million with the Phoenix Coyotes, who pried the big defenseman away from the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.

Jovanovski was targeted by the Coyotes, who have already taken big strides to upgrade their defense just one day into the NHL's free-agent signing period. Phoenix acquired veteran Nick Boynton from Boston earlier this week and signed him to a three-year contract.

"He was the player we wanted," Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said of Jovanovski. "This is huge for our franchise."

Hours later, the Canucks announced that they had signed free agent defenseman Willie Mitchell to a four-year, $14 million contract.

Jovanovski ranked 11th among NHL defensemen in points per game last season. He was selected by Florida with the No. 1 pick in the 1994 draft and played with the Panthers until he was traded to the Canucks in the middle of the 1998-1999 season.

Once he knew that Gretzky wanted him, Jovanovski said signing with the Coyotes was a "no-brainer."

"I looked at the situation and I liked the opportunity to be coached by the best player to ever play the game," Jovanovski said.

Jovanovski said there was lots of speculation that he would return to Florida because his career started there and that is where his wife is from, but the five-year offer from the Coyotes was too much to pass up.

The Panthers did have a deal on the table when Jovanovski picked Phoenix.

"At this time in your career, I just turned 30 the other day, I have four kids, two little ones ... at this time you don't want to be moving your kids around," Jovanovski said.

The Canucks didn't make an offer to keep him.

"Obviously we're dealing with a ceiling in this game and Vancouver had a lot of players ... that were obviously a priority to get done and I don't think there was any room to get me in there," Jovanovski said. "I had a great time playing in Vancouver and I appreciate the support the fans gave me there."

Playing for the Coyotes seemed to provide Jovanovski with the best situation -- personally and professionally, he said. He can provide leadership and have a chance to win championships.

"At the end of the day, my commitment is to Phoenix and to make that team better," Jovanovski said.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press