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Canucks re-sign Lapierre, Alberts to two-year deals

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Outstanding depth both up front and on defense was a major reason why the Vancouver Canucks won the Presidents' Trophy this past season and went all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final before faltering against the Boston Bruins.

Maxim Lapierre and Andrew Alberts, while not stars, were still key contributors to that run, and the Canucks re-signed each of them to two-year contracts on Wednesday.

Lapierre, 26, scored the only goal in Game 5 of the Final as the Canucks took a 3-2 series lead. He finished the playoffs with 3 goals, 5 points and 66 penalty minutes, and ranked second in the League with 83 hits. Alberts, 29, had played in just three postseason games entering the Final, but stepped in to play the final six games after an injury in Game 1 sidelined Dan Hamhuis for the remainder of the series.

"I had a great experience with the Canucks," Lapierre said during a conference call with the media Wednesday. "They gave me second chance, and I'm really, really happy to be back. It's a great team and organization. I know we came close to winning the Stanley Cup and now I'm focusing on winning it next year. We have the team and I know we can do it."

Lapierre finished with 6 goals, 12 points and 80 penalty minutes in 78 games played last season with the Canucks, Anaheim Ducks and Montreal Canadiens. While it was difficult changing organizations multiple times during the season, it ultimately paid off when he landed in Vancouver.

"It was tough, because I worked really hard in the summer training, and when I came to camp last year I was ready for a good season and things didn't go the way I wanted," Lapierre said. "At the end of the day you just remember what happened in the playoffs, not during the year. If I look back, I had the greatest year I had in my life with the run going into the Final, so that's the only thing I remember for now."

A native of Saint-Leonard, Quebec, the 6-2, 207-pound Lapierre has appeared in 333 NHL games, recording 41 goals, 84 points and 301 penalty minutes over the span of six NHL seasons with the Canadiens, Ducks and Canucks.

Vancouver Assistant General Manager Laurence Gilman said Lapierre opened eyes, particularly during the playoffs when he stepped up into a third-line role with Raffi Torres and Jannik Hansen and filled a gap left while Manny Malhotra was recovering from a serious eye injury.

"In Max's case, we initially acquired him to play a fourth-line role," Gilman said. "Due to injuries we were forced to inject Max higher up, and he performed extremely well. He certainly has the skill set to do it, which is one of the reasons why we went to him promptly to try to bring him back. He's versatile and can fill a number of roles."

Alberts, 29, appeared in 42 games last season, recording 1 goal, 7 points and 41 penalty minutes. The 6-5, 209-pound defenseman led Canucks blueliners in hits with 113. He mostly watched from the sidelines through the first three rounds, but Hamhuis' injury and Aaron Rome's suspension for the final four games of the Final opened up a lot more ice time for the veteran, and he took advantage.

"It was awesome," Alberts said. "It was tough coming in after not playing in so long, tough to step right in, but for my game if I can just be solid defensively, be physical, that's what they want me to do. It was a hell of an experience to be part of it, and we can all use that from this year and put it toward next year."

For the Minneapolis, Minnesota, native, who has 6 goals, 51 points and 420 penalty minutes in 381 NHL games playing for the Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers, Carolina Hurricanes and Canucks, having a little job security is a nice thing.

"It's a big relief, I get to go back to a city I love, a team I liked playing for, great coaches, great organization," Alberts said. "We had a great run this year and next year we'd like to make it that much better by taking the next step and winning everything. I'm excited to be back. Two years is a good deal for me, a good deal for the organization, and I'm looking forward to it."

For a team that was beset by injuries to its blue line last season, having the veteran experience of Alberts ready to go at any time was an important

"As we've maintained on a number of occasions, to be a successful team you need to have depth on your blue line," Gilman said. "Look at the injuries sustained by our team last season and over the past several years -- you can't have enough guys who can play in the NHL, and Andrew fits that bill."

Gilman was also asked about the seeming departure of Christian Ehrhoff, whose rights as a pending unrestricted free agent were traded to the New York Islanders earlier this week, as well as Sami Salo, another defenseman the Canucks are hoping to re-sign.

"We obviously had a tremendous amount of depth on defense last year and we anticipate we're going to have a strong depth again this year by the time we start playing in October," Gilman said. "To the extent some of the individuals that might not be here because they left or injuries, that will provide an opportunity for other players and we do expect some members will step up and take on bigger roles."

He declined to comment on the current state of negotiations with Salo, but said: "Sami's obviously been a big part of our organization … from our perspective it would be great if we can find an opportunity to bring him back, but it's something that's got to play itself out."
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