VANCOUVER – Dan Hamhuis turned down more money from other teams for a chance to play at home and maybe win a Stanley Cup.
The free-agent defenceman agreed to a US$27-million, six-year deal with the Vancouver Canucks Thursday, adding more depth and another big paycheque to the NHL team’s blue-line.
Hamhuis, a native of Smithers, B.C., was twice traded since the end of the season to teams hoping to sign the talented defenceman. Even when other clubs waved more money at him, Hamhuis kept his eye on the Canucks.
”We did get some different offers from other teams,” said the 27-year-old who spent six seasons playing with the Nashville Predators. “Some of them were higher in contract value.
“We liked the fit in Vancouver. We liked the opportunity it presented from a hockey perspective and the lifestyle perspective for my family.”
Hamhuis also is excited about the chance of advancing past the first round of the playoffs, something he hasn’t done since playing junior hockey for the Prince George Cougars of the Western Hockey League.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been out of the first round,” he said during a telephone conference call. “I hope to get past that with Vancouver and further.
“It’s a team that is committed to winning. You can see the way they spend their money. They sign close to the (salary) cap or right to the cap every year to give themselves the best chance to win. It’s exciting to be part of something like that.”
Canuck GM Mike Gillis said the mobile, six-foot-one, 200-pound Hamhuis was the No. 1 player Vancouver targeted on the first day of free agency.
Gillis liked the fact Hamhuis was willing to pocket less money for the chance to hold a Stanley Cup.
“We’re trying to compete for a Stanley Cup and ultimately players have to do that if they want be in that environment,” Gillis said. “We were thrilled he was prepared to come here for less money.”
Hamhuis, who spends a couple of weeks every year training in Vancouver, said he’d already received over a 100 text messages from friends and family around the northern B.C. town of Smithers excited about him playing for the Canucks.
“We are expecting a big change as far as being anonymous in Nashville,” said Hamhuis, who is married with two young daughters.
The Canucks were busy Thursday, also signing centres Manny Malhotra and Joel Perreault plus left-winger Jeff Tambellini.
Malhotra agreed to a $7.5-million, three-year contract that includes a no-trade clause. Last summer, he signed a $700,000, one-year deal in San Jose.
With the ability to play either centre or wing, Malhotra is expected to compete for a spot on Vancouver’s third line.
“We wanted to get more size into our lineup on the forward position,” said Gillis. “Manny adds a dimension we didn’t have. He’s a really good penalty killer.
“Clearly, based on our penalty killing last year, we had to improve in that area.”
Hamhuis collected 32 goals and 161 points in 483 games in Nashville. He had five goals and 24 points last season. The Predators traded his negotiating rights to Philadelphia for defenceman Ryan Parent on June 19.
The Flyers then traded him last week to Pittsburgh for a third-round draft pick in 2011.
A solid two-way defender, Hamhuis has also been durable. He has played at least 78 games each season with the Predators, making him a welcome addition to the Canucks, whose defence has been decimated by injuries the last two seasons.
The Canucks now have eight defenceman, six of whom will earn over $3 million next season.
Vancouver acquired top-four defenceman Keith Ballard as part of a five-player trade with Florida at the draft last week.
Ballard is under contract for the next five seasons at $4.2 million a year. Alex Edler is signed for the next three at $3.25 million per season. But Sami Salo ($3.5 million), Christian Ehrhoff ($3.1 million) and Kevin Bieksa ($3.75 million) are going into the final year of their deals and are eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer.
There already is speculation the Canucks may deal Bieksa this summer.
Gillis pulled on his poker face when asked if Vancouver would trade a defenceman.
“We’re going to cross that bridge after the dust settles here,” he said. “There is lot’s of opportunity.
“Last year we thought we had plenty of defenceman and we went into the season and ended up not having enough. There is lots of time to think about those issues.”
Veteran Willie Mitchell is an unrestricted free agent but his future remains in doubt after missing the last half of the season with a concussion.
Malhotra had 14 goals and 33 points while playing a shutdown role and killing penalties with the Sharks. The six-foot-two, 220-pound centre has scored 90 goals and 230 points in 705 NHL games with the New York Rangers, Dallas, Columbus and San Jose.
“When you look at the roster, there’s an opportunity to win right now,” Malhotra said during a conference call. “As a player, you want to be in a situation where you know the team is a good team, it’s a competitive team and a team that can go far into the playoffs.”
The Canucks finished first in the Northwest Division with 103 points last season before losing to eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago in the second round of the playoffs.
“We talked to a few teams,” Malhotra said. “This was the best blend of every aspect, and we had the opportunity to jump on it right away so we took it.”
Perreault will likely compete for a job on Vancouver’s fourth line after splitting the last four seasons between Phoenix and its San Antonio AHL affiliate.
Tambellini—the son of former Canucks executive Steve Tambellini, who is now the Edmonton Oilers’ general manager—agreed to a one-year deal.
He had seven goals and 14 points in 36 games last season with the New York Islanders. In 180 career games he has 18 goals and 46 points.
With files from The Associated Press.