VANCOUVER – Jannik Hansen does not have to worry about his NHL job security for quite some time.
The utility winger signed a US$10-million, four-year contract extension with the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday.
“It’s something I wanted,” Hansen told reporters after practice. “We’re a good fit. I like it here. To come to a new agreement now, it makes it a lot easier on the sour days. It was something that I was hopeful that they’d be willing to do.”
The new deal will kick in at the start of the 2014-15 season, so the Canucks have effectively locked him up for five seasons. It comes as he is expected to play a key role early in the upcoming campaign, which the Canucks begin Thursday in San Jose.
Hansen could start on the first line, depending on how new coach John Tortorella wants to deploy Alex Burrows. If Burrows takes his usual spot on the first line, as he did late in the pre-season, Hansen could play on the second line. That depends on if David Booth’s recovery from a groin injury suffered in the pre-season and an ankle problem that sidelined him since March before he played an exhibition game heal quickly.
At the very least, Hansen will play on a third line that is in a state of transition with new players—and also vying to beef up its offensive production. Hansen said the new contract allows him to concentrate on having a good season instead of worrying about his future with the club.
“It was fairly easy,” he said. “It took a couple days to get it done. … It’s familiar. It’s comforting and, again, you know where you’re going to be.”
But the 27-year-old from Herlev, Denmark, who had 10 goals and 17 assists in 47 games for Vancouver last season, did not have the same luxury at the outset of his career. He was selected by Vancouver in the seventh round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft and spent most of his first two pro seasons in the minors.
He also had to battle for playing time with the Canucks during his third and fourth seasons as he was dispatched to their former Manitoba farm club in the AHL in the third and fourth campaigns as well.
Since then he has established himself as a tenacious, grinding NHL winger who also has speed and can score on occasion. He also has the ability to play all four lines.
“Obviously, it’s nice to have (more security), not only for financial (reasons), but also in terms of not being tossed around (between the NHL and minors) like you usually do in your earlier years where it’s kind of hard to set up a base,” said Hansen.
One of few players from Denmark in the NHL, Hansen has represented his homeland at the IIHF world hockey championships four times (2012, 2008, 2006 and 2005). He has 50 goals and 81 assists in 318 career NHL games, all of them with the Canucks.
The six-foot-one, 197-pound Hansen has also appeared in 58 career NHL playoff games, with five goals and nine assists.
But he is coveted by coaches for much more than the limited offence for which he is known. His versatility, he feels, has helped him earn the sizable salary and contract with decent term.
“I think that’s the reason … being able to do a little bit of everything,” he said. “When I wasn’t scoring, I was chipping in in other areas. That kind of made me stick around when, maybe, other players got sent back down. And, again, it’s probably why I’m here today.”
Canucks general manager Mike Gillis also likes his versatility, suggesting to reporters that Hansen’s ability to play on different lines factored prominently into the team’s decision to re-sign him. New coach John Tortorella, who bills himself as a situational coach and is known for being highly demanding, also likes the different dimensions that Hansen can bring to a game.
“From what I know of him, he’s a utility guy in my eyes,” said Tortorella. “I can put him in a lot of different spots. (He can) play up and down the lineup in a lot of different roles. I think he needs to understand a little bit how we play defence. But he’s had a good (training) camp.
“He impresses me. So I think (his new contract) is a good thing.”
Offering praise that was rarely heard on other players’ performances in the pre-season, Tortorella said Hansen played “very well.” The coach also likes his ability to handle special-teams duties.
Goaltender Roberto Luongo was glad to see the Canucks re-sign Hansen, an extremely popular figure in the dressing room who is known for being highly diligent to his duties in practice.
“I’m happy for him, he’s a really hard-working guy and he deserves it,” said Luongo.
Knowing such a possibility was unlikely, Luongo also added with a wry grin and chuckle: “I just hope he doesn’t start slacking.”
Meanwhile, the Canucks acquired winger Zac Dalpe and centre Jeremy Welsh from the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday in a trade for winger Kellan Tochkin and Vancouver’s fourth-round pick in the 2014 draft.
Dalpe, a 23-year-old Paris, Ont., native, split the 2012-13 season between the Hurricanes and Charlotte Checkers of the AHL.
The six-foot-one and 195-pound Ohio State product recorded three points (1-2-3) in 10 games with Carolina last season and 42 points (21-21-42) and 12 penalty minutes in 54 games with Charlotte. He has played in 41 NHL games, registering 10 career points (5-5-10).
Welsh, a 25-year-old Bayfield, Ont., native recorded one assist in five games with Carolina last season and has six NHL career games. The six-foot-three and 210 Union College alumnus generated 26 points (14-12-26) with Charlotte in 2012-13.
Both Dalpe and Welsh were due to report to the Canucks on Sunday night.
Nicklas Jensen, Vancouver’s 29th overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, was put on waivers. If he clears waivers he’ll join the AHL’s Utica Comets.