Mike Gillis' first crack at losing and acquiring free agents was about to be tested and scrutinized. I think that at the end of it all Canucks fans were a little bewildered at what he accomplished. Here were the moves Gillis made starting on July 1, as well as other noteworthy Canucks news.
-Gillis signs Kyle Wellwood to a 1-year $997,500 deal. Scoffs abounded as this photo painted a terrible picture of Wellwood's physique. Personally, it concerned me, but I knew that this guy had great hands and I always was a Wellwood supporter.
-Rumors emerge that the Canucks were willing to offer Mats Sundin $10 million per season on a 2-year contract to lure him here. Sounded insane, but little did we know....
-Gillis does the dirty deed and signs restricted free agent David Backes to a 3-year $7.5 million contract. The Blues had 7 days to match.
-Within hours the Blues matched Gillis' offer sheet. Backes' contract proved be a steal, as he scored 31 goals and 54 points in 82 games this past season.
-The Canucks sign Darcy Hordichuk to a 2-year deal.
-Canucks sign Ryan Johnson, aka "Balls" to a 2-year deal. One for each nut. I didn't know this guy was such a tremendous penalty killer and was so ballsy. He is quickly becoming one of my all-time faves. There's no denying his heart.
-Gillis addresses the media about the Sundin offer and says:
"We put a major offer together to try and attract who we felt was the best centre ice man on the market," said Gillis. "It’s an indication that we’re prepared to do what it takes to attract the best players here."
"We don’t [have a timetable for an answer]. Mats has gone to bed in Sweden," said Gillis. "I know he’s thinking about things. From all indications he was very, very pleased that we stepped up and did what we did. We’re hoping to have some more dialogue in the morning and get a positive response."
July 2: Canucks sign UFA Nolan Baumgartner, who ends up playing only for the Moose, and re-signed RFA Alexandre Bolduc.
-Canucks sign Curtis Sanford to hold Luongo's jock.
-Sundin issues a statement thanking the teams for their interest in him, but he was not even close to making a decision yet. Everyone wonders what the hell Gillis is going to do next, as the biggest names in free agency were all gone save a couple.
July 3: With Jagr heading to Russia, the Rangers signed Markus Naslund to a 2-year deal. So ended the Naslund legacy in Vancouver. I was happy, I'll admit it. Yankee, however, can be a nicer person than me and gave Naslund a fitting farewell.
July 4: The Canucks sign Mark Cullen.
-The Canucks are rumored to be chasing Dan Boyle
-Gillis finally lands a noteable player, sending 2 high picks to Buffalo for Steve Bernier. Said Gillis:
"Steve Bernier is a highly regarded young player who’s enjoyed success early in his career," said Gillis. "With his right-handed shot he will be a great addition to our top six forward group and an asset to our power play."
Huh. Top 6 my ass. Not yet anyway.
July 5: Mike Gillis holds a press conference to say:
- the Canucks are going to keep on pursuing Mats Sundin until Mats makes a final decision, and that's he's optimistic that he will sign here.
- there is still a chance that Brendan Morrison could sign with the Canucks.
- he believes that Kyle Wellwood can be a point-per-game player.
July 7: Steve Bernier's weight and work ethic come into question. So, 2 acquisitions (Wellwood and Bernier) are "projects".
-The Ducks sign Brendan Morrison, and the West Coast Express members are officially done in Vancouver.
July 8: Pavol Demitra tells a Vancouver radio station that the Canucks are his #1 choice. Soon after reports state that a 3-year deal was in place. "3 fucking years...oh shit" I say to myself.
-The Canucks had acquired Bernier but had not signed the RFA yet. The Blues took it upon themselves to try to pry him away from Vancouver, throwing a 1-year $2.5 million contract at him. Gillis matched that offer right away.
July 10: The signing of Demitra is officially announced. Rob Davison is signed as the 7th defenceman. Mike Gillis talks at length about the Sundin situation and how he was trying to create a competitive atmosphere to aid in the luring of Sundin.
July 11: Canucks sign UFA Jason Krog.
July 19: Swedish Paper Sportbladet publishes a story that Sundin was heading to Vancouver. This sent the media into a tizzy (and Habs fans fans reduced to tears) the next morning, but Sundin's agent Klaes Elefalk squashed the rumor hours later. Today I really wonder if that Swedish guy was on to something.
July 23: The Province asks its readers what they would do for/to Mats if he signed in Vancouver. The responses were comedic:
-free massages, meatballs, fishing trips, etc. I was thinking a year's supply of pot. I'm kidding.
July 31: The Oilers pry Steve Tambellini away from the Canucks' organization and make him their new GM.