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Defenceman Ed Jovanovski says he had no choice but to leave Canucks

"At the end of the day I wish there had been a little more discussion," Jovanovski said Tuesday prior to the Phoenix Coyotes' game against the Canucks.

"As a player you try to give everything to your teammates and your organization. I felt I did that with this team. I understand there is a ceiling in this game, it is a business. I just had to move on.

"It was difficult. I had no choice."

Tuesday's game was Jovanovski's first in Vancouver since signing a US$32.5-million, five-year contract with Phoenix in July.

Dave Nonis, the Canucks general manager, said he would have loved to resign Jovanovski. But Nonis knew the all-star defenceman was out of Vancouver's budget after a meeting with his agent Pat Morris in the late spring.

"I asked (Morris) the parameters upon which there would be the basis of a deal," Nonis said. "The parameters that were presented to me made it impossible for us to sign him.

"Given what was presented to us, it was impossible for the Vancouver Canucks to keep Ed Jovanovski."

Jovanovski wouldn't say if he would have stayed in Vancouver if the Canucks had made him a legitimate offer, even if it was for less money than what Phoenix offered.

"I'm not going to get into that part of it," he said. "I would have liked to have stayed here if it worked.

"I spent seven years here. To uplift my family and move wouldn't have made sense if the offer was right or if an offer had come."

The Vancouver fans greeted Jovanovski with mixed reactions during the game. There were polite cheers and a smattering of boos on his first few shifts.

A series of injures limited Jovanovski to just 44 games with Vancouver last year. Abdominal surgery also kept him from playing for Canada at the Turin Winter Olympics.

Jovanovski did return to the lineup to help the Canucks in their failed attempt to secure a playoff spot.

Nonis knew re-signing the unrestricted free agent would be difficult. When the Canucks agreed to a four-year, US$27-million contract with goaltender Roberto Luongo, then signed Swedish twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin to three-year deals worth US$10.75 million, it was apparent Jovanovski was no longer in their plans.

"We were told I was a priority, then not hearing from them for a while, that was kind of tough," said Jovanovski, 30, who had five goals and 28 assists last season. "You understand there is a salary cap.

"They gave Luongo a boatload of money. The Sedins were up for a well-deserved pay raise. Something had to give. I was a player that was in a position that was unrestricted. I wanted to be paid market value. That's the way it is."

Asked if he was bitter over the situation, Jovanovski shook his head.

"I think there's one time in life when you're in this position," he said about unrestricted free agency.

"I did give Vancouver every opportunity to get something done. But I understand where they were coming from."

Canucks captain Markus Naslund said Jovanovski was an important part of the team.

"I think Ed wanted to come back," said Naslund. "I just think it was a matter of the cap and they couldn't pay him what he got in Phoenix."

Jovanovski, a former No. 1 draft pick, came to Vancouver in January of 1999 as part of the deal that sent Pavel Bure to the Florida Panthers. After spending seven seasons with the Canucks, Jovanovski admitted it was strange to walk into the visitor's dressing room.

"It's definitely a little different walking by that (Canucks dressing) room and walking into this room," he said.

Joining Jovanovski on the trip to Vancouver was his wife and four children, including twins that were born last spring.

"My older kids have seen me play here," he said. "My twins haven't.

"They probably won't remember it but they'll have pictures of dad playing in this building."



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