A trip to Sweden kept the Sedin twins off the free agent market.
Daniel and Henrik Sedin agreed to matching US$30.5-million, five-year contract extensions with the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday, just prior to becoming unrestricted free agents.
“I think any day that you’re heading into free agency and you sign the top two free agents that are out there, it’s got to be a pretty good day,” Canucks GM Mike Gillis said in Vancouver.
“I think they knew all along how much we wanted them, and we knew how much they wanted to stay. We’re just really pleased it worked out.”
The key moment in negotiations came earlier this week when Gillis and assistant GM Laurence Gilman flew to Sweden to meet face-to-face with the twins and extend a last-ditch offer. That overture was enough to keep the Sedins from wanting to field offers from other teams.
“We really like it in Vancouver and that’s where we wanted to stay,” Henrik said Wednesday on a conference call. “Coming down to the last few days we’ve been in Stockholm with our agents and our families and we walked through our possible options. …
“To see Mike and Laurence come over here, it meant a lot to us. It made our decision easier for sure.”
Had they waited until the noon ET free agency deadline passed, the Sedins would have been the hottest commodities on the open market.
“I just felt that if we were going to enter into contracts of this magnitude with two players that we had to be absolutely sure that everyone was completely committed to each other,” Gillis said. “That was the reason for going over there.
“I felt it was imperative that they heard from me how much we wanted them and what we felt about them and the direction that we were going to go – and the problem was solved.”
Signing the Sedins to lucrative extensions meant the Canucks had to part with another key Swede. Veteran defenceman Matthias Ohlund, who spent the first 11 years of his career with the Canucks, signed a US$26.25-million, seven-year contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Ohlund compiled 325 points (93 goals 232 assists) over 770 career games with the Canucks.
“It’s a big loss, but these are the decisions you make,” said Gillis. “We signed two key free agents. You can only commit so many dollars in the cap system.
“Losing a player of Mattias Ohlund’s stature is a huge loss any organization, as it is for us.”
Contract negotiations between Gillis and Sedin agent J.P. Barry started last summer and hit several bumps along the road. The deals the brothers ended up signing both include a no-movement clause.
“It’s important for us to know we’re going to stay here,” said Henrik. “If we keep playing the way we think we can and getting better here for the next couple years, I think it’s going to be an exciting time here in Vancouver.”
Gillis has also been working on signing goalie Roberto Luongo to a contract extension that would ensure the three players remain the cornerstones of the franchise.
The Sedins have scored 70 points or more the past four years and each had 82 last season. Gillis was thrilled to keep them under contract.
“Daniel and Henrik Sedin are this club’s offensive leaders and players we want to build around,” he said in a statement. “Their level of performance in every area of the game is exceptional – both Daniel and Henrik are committed to winning and we want them to succeed as Vancouver Canucks.”
Daniel and Henrik were drafted second and third overall by the team in 1999.
They’ve been eerily consistent ever since. Daniel has 462 points (179-283) in 642 career games while Henrik has 460 points (109-351) in 646 games.
Their focus now shifts to helping get the Canucks over the top, something the brothers talked with Gillis about during the fateful meeting in Stockholm.
“He gave the same message as he has from when he took over,” said Henrik. “He wants to have a winning team and a winning environment. He thought we were going to be a big part of that. I think the deal has made both parties happy.
“We’re happy and it’s going to help the Canucks to build a winning team I think.”
The Canucks made another move Wednesday, signing former Columbus defenceman Aaron Rome to a one-year deal worth $550,000.