VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA (AP) - A person familiar with the deal says the Vancouver Canucks have signed defenseman Kevin Bieksa to a five-year, $23 million contract extension on Monday, four days before he could have hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity Monday because the team had yet to announce the deal.
Bieksa, who turned 30 on June 16, had six goals, 16 assists and was tied for second in the NHL with a plus-32 rating in 66 regular season games last season. He played his best hockey after being united with Dan Hamhuis on a defensive pairing that regularly went up against the opposition’s best forwards down the stretch.
Bieksa had five goals and five assists in 25 playoff games, including the Western Conference-clinching goal in double-overtime against the San Jose Sharks.
Bieksa made $3.5 million last season, and his new contract has an annual salary-cap hit of $4.6 million.
Originally selected in the fifth round of the 2001 NHL Draft out of Bowling Green, Bieksa has 34 goals and 113 assists in 347 games with the Canucks. He suffered a pair of serious skate cuts to his legs in 2007-08 and 2009-10, and only got back to full health last season.
There was widespread speculation a year ago he would be traded to clear salary cap space, but that ended when fellow defenseman Sami Salo tore his Achilles’ last summer, and Bieksa re-emerged as one of Vancouver’s more reliable two-way defenders. Vancouver still has three other defensemen that could leave as free agents on Friday _ Christian Ehrhoff, Salo and Andrew Alberts.