The Vancouver Canucks re-signed one of their key players today, inking defenseman Kevin Bieksa to a five-year deal worth $4.6 million per season, with a "no-trade" clause.
Bieksa,30, was eligible for unrestricted free agency on July 1st, but had suggested shortly after the 2011 Stanley Cup Final he'd be willing to return to the Canucks for less than market value.
He was true to his word, as this deal represents a modest raise above the $3.75 million per season average salary he earned on his previous deal, and given his performance this season, especially during the Canucks run to the Final, he could've earned considerably more.
Bieksa however was willing to forego the richest of free agency to stick with the only NHL team he's ever played for, one that will still be considered a Stanley Cup contender next season, especially with himself in the lineup.
His offensive numbers during the regular season have declined from the highs of 43 and 42 he had prior to 2009-10, but his defensive game has significantly improved. In 66 games this season, Bieksa had 22 points and a plus-minus of +32, the best on the Canucks and tied for second-best overall in the league.
Interestingly, Bieksa entered this past season with some critics suggesting the Canucks should trade him or let him walk via free agency, but his emergence as the team's best all-round blueliner made him too valuable to lose.
With Bieksa now under contract, the focus of the Canucks management shifts to blueliners Christian Ehrhoff and Sami Salo. Both have expressed their wish to remain with the Canucks, and Salo has acknowledged he'll have to accept a pay cut to stay. It remains to be seen what Ehrhoff's plans will be.