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Jovanovski to receive $6.5M per season

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.