ANAHEIM, Calif. (CP) - Jean-Sebastien Giguere figured last winter that his days with the Anaheim Ducks might be numbered.
"I wondered if I'd be back," he said of the angst of playing through the last year of his contract with unrestricted free agency in the offing. "But I decided I wasn't going to worry about it. "By the time the trading deadline came, I was playing most of the games and I felt pretty comfortable that I was going to be here for the rest of the season."
The star 30-year-old goaltender from Montreal will be around a lot longer than that after agreeing to a US$24-million, four-year contract Thursday.
Giguere will be pulling down $5.5 million in each of the first two years, $6 million in the third year and $7 million in the fourth year. He might have got a bit more somewhere else but he loves life in southern California too much to part company with a team he just helped win the Stanley Cup.
"It's a great organization and a great team, a team that is going to be good for the next four or five years at least, and that's worth money right there," he said. "In life you want to try to have fun.
"Every player in this league would want to play on this team. You'd be crazy to want to leave."
GM Brian Burke made re-signing Giguere his top priority after the playoff run, and during the team's rally three days after winning the Stanley Cup, fans started a chant directed at Burke to re-sign Giguere.
"He's an important part of our hockey team, not just the way he's played in the regular season but in the way he's excelled in the playoffs," said Burke. "His work ethic is the best I've ever had at his position. He's a vital part of our ability to compete and repeat."
Burke lauded Giguere for not testing the open market.
"This is a player who, had he gone to July 1, could have obtained a greater deal," Burke said from Columbus, Ohio, where he and his staff were preparing for the first round of the entry draft Friday night. "When a player makes that commitment, which is so rare in professional sport, it should never go unnoted.
"GMs should say 'thank you' when a player does that. It is rare in this landscape, this modern era of pro sport."
Burke knew he'd have to make an offer that would average out to $6 million a season.
"Burkie knew where the numbers should have been at," Giguere said from his California home. "They didn't make any fuss about it.
"They wanted to keep me and I think they knew what they'd have to spend to do that. I wanted to stay here and I knew what I'd be satisfied with. It was very easy to get the deal done. There was a willingness on both sides to get the deal done. Everybody came out of it happy with what we got."
Giguere was consistently good during the playoffs. His 1.97 goals-against average and .922 save percentage were improvements on his regular-season GAA of 2.26 and .918 save percentage. It was his sixth season with Anaheim.
The six-foot-one butterfly specialist and his wife, Kristen, welcomed a son, Maxime, into the world in April. He has a vision problem that has required the attention of medical specialists and Ducks owners Henry and Susan Samueli made it clear they'd do anything to help.
"The Samuelis stepped up on this," said Burke.
It was another reason Giguere wanted to stay.
"They do everything first class," he said of the owners. "They treat every single player as if he was their son.
"They would have lent me their plane to see any doctor in the world."
Said Burke: "We want to be known as a player-friendly organization 21 1-2 hours a day. The other 2 1-2 hours they work and sweat."
In praising Giguere, Burke offered an anecdote from the first round of this year's playoffs, when backup Ilya Bryzgalov started the opening games against Calgary while Giguere had newborn Maxime on his mind. A lunch was laid out for the players at a practice rink one day. The price tag would have exceeded $500.
"Giguere bought lunch and he wasn't even playing," said Burke. "He's that kind of guy.
"He's a leader on our team. I admire him. His work ethic, his character, he's a wonderful young man."
The re-signing of Giguere likely means Bryzgalov will be dealt to make room for a less expensive backup.
Giguere won the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player in the 2003 playoffs after Anaheim lost to New Jersey in a championship series that went the limit. It is hard to believe the Ducks got him from the Flames in 2000 for only a second-round entry draft pick that year. Burke has been his boss for two seasons now.
"I knew he was a good goaltender, a money goaltender from watching him in the playofffs, but I didn't know what a fine person he is," said Burke.
Meanwhile, Burke awaits word from captain Scott Niedermayer, who revealed earlier this week he's contemplating retirement. One might deduce that Burke would like something definitive by July 1 so he could quickly seek a free-agent replacement in case Niedermayer quits. But Burke said he is not thinking that way.
"There's no one out there who can fill Scotty's skates," he said.
So, Burke said, July 1 is an insignificant date regarding Niedermayer.
"We're going to give him as much time as he wants. He deserves that."
Added Giguere: "We're sure hoping a little bit of rest will change his mind and make him want to stay."
Same for Teemu Selanne.
"We sure hope that both of them will be with us next season," said Giguere.
But he won't phone the players to personally urge them to return.
"They know we want them back. At this point, it's more of a family matter, and I'll respect that all the way."