VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks resolved the status of general manager Mike Gillis on Monday and moved closer to determining coach Alain Vigneault’s future.
The NHL club, still reeling from an unexpected first-round playoff exit after going to the Stanley Cup final 11 months ago, announced Gillis has agreed to terms on a new contract. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, and Gillis refused to state the contract length during a conference call with reporters.
“There’ve been moments where I reflected and wondered if the amount of energy and the amount of opportunity to be evaluated by everybody was the right thing for me, but I felt that it was,” said Gillis. “I felt that we had unfinished business for sure here, and this team was on the right track.”
Gillis, 53-year-old Kingston, Ont., native, was entering the final year of a five-year deal that he signed when he took over the team in 2008.
“This is a significant announcement for our hockey club,” said chairman Francesco Aquilini, whose family owns the team, in a release. “These past four years have been the most successful in Canucks history. Mike and his management team have done an excellent job to position us for long term success on and off of the ice.
“We believe Mike’s presence in this organization is important to the long term success of this hockey club and we are confident that we will continue to compete at the highest level under his leadership.”
The announcement, which came after Gillis met with Aquilini earlier in the day, erased speculationn about the GM’s future, which had percolated for two weeks after Vancouver’s elimination by the surging Los Angeles Kings in five games.
“It just took a little while, which was not uncommon, to have everybody get together, and it was my preference to wait a little bit longer in order to make sure that everyone was level-headed and not emotional about what had happened when we had such high expectations,” said Gillis.
Now that he has secured a new deal, Gillis will address Vigneault’s status as soon as possible. The GM said it is his decision whether Vigneault remains behind the Canucks bench, and he wants the coach to continue with the club.
“He’s done an excellent job, and he’ll obviously be the first thing on the agenda once I have an opportunity to execute on the plan we have,” said Gillis.
Vigneault has guided the Canucks to back-to-back Presidents’ Trophies. He has served for six seasons with the club after being hired by former GM Dave Nonis prior to the Aquilinis’ purchase from former Seattle-based ower John McCaw in 2008.
Several Canuck players, including Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler, have expressed their desire for Vigneault to stay on. Gillis said Vigneault has given “every indication” that he wants to remain with the club.
However, Gillis sidestepped the question of whether he would offer a contract extension. Vigneault, a former NHL coach of the year whose future has come under intense speculation, is entering the final year of his deal.
In addition to Vigneault’s status, Gillis must resolve the club’s goaltending situation after Cory Schneider displaced No. 1 Roberto Luongo during the playoffs. Schneider, who started three of the five post-season games, is due to become a restricted free agent July 1 and will be in line for a large raise.
Luongo, recognizing the difficulty of having two capable starters in tow, said as the players cleaned out their lockers following the season that he would accept a trade if the club asks him to waive the no-movement clause in his $64-million contract that has 10 years remaining.
The GM said nothing has been decided yet on the goaltending front. Given the additional financial constraints and 26-year-old Schneider’s emergence, Luongo, 33, is widely expected to depart at some point this summer.
Gillis must also decide whether he wants to re-sign pending restricted free agent winger Mason Raymond, a target of fans’ scorn late in the season, and 37-year-old defenceman Sami Salo, who is due to become an unrestricted free agent. Several other players are facing free agency or entering the final year of their deals.
“We have a number of situations that we need to resolve,” said Gillis. “I’m eager to get started on them, and I will get started on them as quickly as possible.”