Vancouver Canucks: 5 Worst Free-Agent Signings in Team History
On the heels of the Canucks' recent signing of oft-injured forward Marco Sturm to a one-year, $2.25 million contract (a contract many Canucks fans are shaking their heads at), it is time to once again take a look at some of the more egregious free agent signings in team history.
Side note: Yes, I understand it's too early to call Sturm a bust, but nevertheless, the facts are astounding. He has played a total of 130 games since 2008 (for three different teams, mind you), and with this Canucks team that came oh-so-close to lifting the coveted silver chalice last June, anything less than a championship next year will not sit well among what has become an insatiable Vancouver fanbase.
5. Jeff Tambellini
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It pains me to include Jeff Tambellini in this list since I grew up watching him play junior hockey out in Chilliwack, but apart from the scoring the occasional goal (occasional in every sense of the word; he netted nine goals in total), Tambellini's tenure with his hometown Vancouver Canucks was a major disappointment.
Drafted 27th overall by Los Angeles in 2003 (one ahead of reigning Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry), Jeff Tambellini was supposed to play a significant role in returning the Los Angeles Kings to the prominence they enjoyed with Wayne Gretzky and company back in the early '90s. Upon being drafted, he chose to attend three years of college in Michigan.
After spending much of the 2005-06 season with AHL affiliate Manchester, Tambellini finally joined the big team... for four games. He was promptly traded to Long Island, spending the majority of the next four years collecting dust in the AHL.
His stop in Vancouver, a perennial Stanley Cup contender, was viewed as his last opportunity to establish himself as an NHL-quality player. Although the speedy forward had a strong start to the 2010-11 season, he was never able to contribute on a consistent basis. While the Canucks did manage to march their way into the Stanley Cup Final this past season, Tambellini played in only six of the team's 25 postseason games, scoring zero points.
He's now off to Switzerland.
4. Mathieu Schneider
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When the Canucks signed Mathieu Schneider to a one-year contract in August 2009, he was expected to provide veteran leadership off the ice and copious amounts of experience on the ice.
Vancouver already possessed a deep defensive core with the likes of Kevin Bieksa, Sami Salo and Alex Edler, so with Schneider's modest $1.55 million contract, he was to play a somewhat diminished but still important role on the back end, perhaps getting some time on the penalty kill or quarterbacking the second unit power play.
He missed some time at the beginning of the 2009-10 campaign due to offseason shoulder surgery, but after reports surfaced concerning Schneider's apparent displeasure over playing time, he was waived by the team in December.
Mathieu Schneider played a total of 17 games as a member of the Vancouver Canucks.
3. Pavol Demitra
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As a member of the St. Louis Blues from 1997 until 2004, Pavol Demitra was a bona fide superstar. He played in three All-Star games, had three 30-goal seasons, four 70-plus point seasons and worked his way up to fifth on the Blues' all-time scorers list.
After the lockout, Demitra spent the next three seasons in Los Angeles and Minnesota, putting up decent, if mildly unimpressive numbers. Nevertheless, when it was announced that the Canucks had signed Pavol to a two-year $8 million contract in the summer of 2008, fans were ecstatic. They finally had depth at center, and a scoring touch to boot! Surely the team will rebound nicely from a poor performance in 2007-08, where they missed the playoffs by a considerable margin.
And, for the most part, they... no, they were wrong. In 69 games in the 2008-09 season, Demitra earned $4 million, and scored 20 goals and 53 points. Certainly those were not the numbers expected from a $4 million dollar man!
He spent much of the next season on the sidelines, licking various wounds. He was held to three goals and 16 points in 28 games, although he was one of Vancouver's less miserable forwards during the '10 playoffs and the second annual Blackhawk Bashing.
Pavol Demitra, like Jeff Tambellini after him, has since found employment across the pound.
2. Mats Sundin
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If you're a Canucks fan, you're still sick of hearing about Mats Sundin. It seemed during every offseason in the latter portion of Sundin's admittedly impressive career, fans had to sit and wait all summer for Mats to make up his mind about whether or not to return to the NHL.
So when Canucks GM Mike Gillis made the splash of the century by offering him a two year $20 million contract on July 1, 2009, Mats Sundin chose to return to Sweden to contemplate his future, promising a decision would be made soon.
I'm not sure if Mats knows the general definition of "soon," but after months of intense speculation and scrutiny regarding his decision, he finally decided to sign with Vancouver on Dec. 18, a full two months and change into the season.
Now, granted, considering he played only half of the season, Mats Sundin's numbers in Vancouver were not as abysmal as, say, the next player in this article. The issue most fans had with big No. 13 was his three and a half months of humming and hawing over whether or not to retire.
As Gillis' megadeal to Sundin remained on the table throughout the summer, it heavily restricted the team's ability to explore other options, and that's why he's No. 2 on this list.
1. Mark Messier
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You had to know this was coming.
Mark Messier is/was one of the most beloved, admired and consistently looked-up to players in the history of hockey. He was a stalwart on the Oilers' five Cup championship teams, and helped lead the New York Rangers to a title in 1994 for the first time in 54 years. His name has become synonymous with success.
In 1997, the Canucks were desperate for someone to come and carry the team on his back, to help squash the elongated Stanley Cup hangover of 1994. Team leaders Trevor Linden, Pavel Bure and Kirk McLean had all seen better days, and were in need of some ... direction.
So the Canucks went out and signed Messier to a three year, $18 million contract. Quite a chunk of dough for a 36-year-old. The issue of finances, however, proved to be his least concern.
Upon arriving in Vancouver, he demanded the team unretire the No. 11, which had been taken out of circulation in honour of former player Wayne Maki, who died from brain cancer while he was a member of the team. He also usurped the captain's "C" from Trevor Linden, the long-time leader of the team who was (and still is) viewed by Canucks fans as some messianic hero who had descended from the heavens to play hockey. Linden was promptly shipped out of town a year later.
Following that PR nightmare comes the actual stats. You know. What hockey players are paid to do: play hockey. In three seasons with the Vancouver Canucks, Messier was an atrocious -37, the first of which was his best (least worst), where he put up 60 points in 82 games. He never took the team to the playoffs despite having super-sniper Pavel Bure on the wing.
In 2000, he quickly jettisoned Vancouver, never to return. Eleven years later, simply uttering his name is still considered a cardinal sin amongst many long time Canucks fans.