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The right fit

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks

Kevin Bieksa spoke to reporters Tuesday for the first time since signing a five-year deal with the Vancouver Canucks and on top of everything said, he offered up an apology.

“I’m sorry to all the media members out there, specifically TSN, that has made a living on some of these rumours the last few summers,” laughed Bieksa, in regards to being linked in false trades the past few off-seasons.

“All joking aside, I’m happy to be here for five-years and I’ll do my best to help this team win.”

Bieksa’s contract, which has him with the Canucks through the 2015-16 season, includes a juicy no-trade clause meaning all rumours of the defenceman leaving Vancouver are hereby false.

The truth is that the Grimsby, Ontario native, a fifth round selection by the Canucks in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, didn’t want to leave Vancouver. He made that clear during his year-end meeting with general manager Mike Gillis, who in turn expressed a desire to have the 30-year-old on the blueline with Dan Hamhuis for years to come.

With both sides after the same thing, negotiations were easy, according to Bieksa, who is in this for the right fit, not an oversized bank account.

“I don’t think money was ever a determining factor for me,” said Bieksa, who was set to become a free agent this Friday when NHL free agency opens.

“I think finding a place that I want to be, and again, a place that my family wants to be, on a team that’s going to content every year was important. There’s no team in the league that’s more committed to winning than Vancouver and the Aquilinis prove that every year and Mike Gillis has done a great job.

“This team wants to win, they’re going to do whatever it takes to win and again I love the city and I love my teammates, some of who I’ve been with every step of the way. It was a pretty easy decision that way.”

During the 2010-11 campaign, Bieksa recorded 22 points (6-16-22) in 66 regular season games, alongside the NHL’s second best rating of plus-32, 104 hits and 93 blocked shots, before picking up 10 points (5-5-10) and a team-best 88 hits in 25 games during the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Bieksa has accumulated 147 points (34-113-147) in 347 career games with the Canucks to rank 12th all-time among Vancouver defencemen in career points, 64 behind the Canucks active leader Sami Salo.

There are no statistics to measure leadership, but the Canucks alternate captain would be off the charts in that regard. Bieksa not testing the free agent market and instead recognizing the stability Vancouver offers for himself both personally and professionally proves that.

Getting a deal done was the aim, but getting a long-term deal done was the goal for Bieksa.

“I’m 30-years-old now and I have a family and that’s the important thing, I want to be somewhere where I can commit to and I wanted a team that was going to commit to me and Vancouver was willing to do that. I don’t want to have to worry about uprooting my family now; my kids are in school so that was an important thing for me.”

Now that Bieksa has signed, he can sit back and relax during the chaos that is NHL free agency. He said he won’t even be paying attention to what moves are made outside of Vancouver’s deals, he’ll be too busy with his off-season workout.

Bieksa is, after all, well behind in his training thanks to a memorable playoff run that ended a game short.

“It’s definitely going to be a short summer, something we’re not used to. In the past, losing in the second round to Chicago, I was home at the end of May already starting my training, so I’m a month behind.”

Not that it’s a bad thing.

“It’s exciting to have a condensed summer because of what we just went through and hopefully next summer is a short summer too. Hopefully over the next couple of years we get used to having two-month summers and figuring out how to prepare in condensed time.”

Condensed time didn’t stop Bieksa and Gillis from reaching their goals and because of it Vancouver’s blueline is solidified for the foreseeable future.

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