The NHL needs more nicknames relating to food and other consumable products. Maybe we could call Kyle Wellwood “The Big Tortilla”, or Zdeno Chara the “Scariest God Damn Man You’ve Ever Seen.” I guess that last one isn’t really a nickname, and it doesn’t relate to anything edible. It’s just a fact.
Kevin Bieksa’s nickname of “Juice” has followed him since his days with the Manitoba Moose of the AHL, and not for the reason you’re thinking. He just really likes pineapple juice, with the legendary folk tales pegging his daily intake at two litres. So when you’re the pineapple man with the persistent smile and stream of witty comments who also happens to be a pretty reliable stay-at-home defenceman, people kind of want you to stick around.
And that’s exactly what Bieksa will be doing, at least according Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos.
Kypreos reports that Bieksa has signed a five-year deal worth $23 million that comes with a full no-trade clause. With an annual cap hit of $4.6 million, the market and/or Canucks GM Mike Gillis deemed Bieksa to be worth slightly more than Dan Hamhuis, the Canucks’ other marquee defenceman who comes at a cost of $4.5 million per year against the cap.
Although he came into this season as public enemy No. 1 amongst some of the Canucks fan base, Bieksa provided a big-bodied, physical presence that anchored Vancouver’s blueline. He finished with a team-leading +32 rating in the regular season.
Slated to become an unrestricted free agent, Bieksa’s signing subtracts from an already thin defensive free agent market that’s now led by Ed Jovanovski, Bryan McCabe, Tomas Kaberle, Joni Pitkanen, James Wisniewski, and Vancouver’s own Christian Ehrhoff.
Gillis has approximately $14 million remaining in cap space, and signing Ehrhoff will undoubtedly be a priority. Ehrhoff just completed a three-year contract worth $9.3 million at a cap hit of $3.1. The forever fragile Sami Salo is also a UFA on the blueline along with Andrew Alberts, with the two combining for a cap hit of $4.5 million last year.
Up front Gillis has to contend with four of his grinders hitting the UFA market. Raffi Torres, Chris Higgins, Tanner Glass, and Jeff Tambellini combined for a cap hit of $3.7 million. The Canucks entering restricted free agency are Maxim Lapierre, Jannik Hansen, and the irreplaceable Lee Sweatt.