VANCOUVER – Defenceman Aaron Rome performed well when given an opportunity with the Vancouver Canucks last season, and the NHL team rewarded him Tuesday with a two-year contract.
Rome came to camp last year as a depth player. But the Nesbitt, Man., native played on a regular basis when Willie Mitchell was lost for the season in January with a concussion.
“Within those games, at times he was playing among our top four defenceman,” said Canucks assistant general manager Laurence Gilman. “He clearly has made the step to becoming a bona fide NHL player.”
The deal will pay US$700,000 this year and US$800,000 next season.
Rome, 26, could have become a Group Six unrestricted free agent on July 1. He debated testing the market, but decided to stay with the Canucks.
“You think about it,” Rome said in a telephone interview from Brandon, Man. “The big thing was for myself and my family is we liked it in Vancouver.
“I liked the organization and the team and the players. I felt comfortable.”
Rome admits he was “probably a bit of an unknown” when he signed with Vancouver last year. He didn’t dress for the Canucks’ first five regular season games, then was in and out of the lineup until Mitchell’s injury.
“I felt when I got the opportunity to play I got better and better as time went on,” he said.
“Going into next year I am hoping to continue to get better, not to just be a depth guy. I feel like I have proven to be an everyday player. I’d like to help as much as I can.”
The six-foot-one, 218-pound Rome played in 49 games last season. He had four assists and averaged 15:10 of ice time a game.
Rome only played in one post-season game after suffering an injury in the second-last game of the regular season.
Rome has played 75 career NHL games with Vancouver, Columbus and Anaheim. He has one goal, six assists and 57 penalty minutes. He was originally the 104th pick of the Los Angeles Kings in the 2002 draft.
Defence is considered one of the areas the Canucks need to improve next season.Vancouver has Christian Ehrhoff, Alexander Edler, Sami Salo, Kevin Bieksa, Andrew Alberts and Rome under contract.
Mitchell is an unrestricted free agent but his career remains in limbo as he recovers from a concussion. Shane O’Brien is a restricted free agent but found himself in the team’s doghouse several times this season.
The Canucks have won the Northwest Division title three times in four years but have not advanced past the second round of the playoffs in that time.
General manager Mike Gillis has said he wants to add players with playoff experience to the team this off-season.