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Winds Of Change

Pavol Demitra joins the Canucks after two years with Northwest division foes, the Minnesota Wild.

Thursday, 10.07.2008 / 4:49 PM / Features
By Jeff Paterson
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Winds Of Change
On a day when ocean breezes turned into powerful gales across Metro Vancouver, the long-awaited winds of free agent change also blew through General Motors Place and the Vancouver Canucks organization.

The hockey club announced the signings of scoring forward Pavol Demitra along with the addition of depth defenseman Rob Davison.

Demitra is the prize addition and the type of forward Canuck fans have been clamouring for since the National Hockey League’s free agent window opened for business a week ago. But the 33-year-old Slovak who’s played 13-seasons in the league wanted to approach this period with caution to make sure he found the right place to live and play.

After weighing his options, he feels he’s done just that by accepting a two year offer from former agent Mike Gillis to join the Canucks after spending the past two seasons playing for the rival Minnesota Wild.

INSIDE THE BOX
Jeff Paterson is a Team 1040 broadcaster and a regular contributor to the Georgia Straight.

E-mail him at jeff.paterson@team1040.ca
“I was discussing everything with my wife and my family and I was looking for a place where I can be happy and where I like the hockey style. My wife checked out the city and we liked everything about Vancouver. I was waiting a little bit longer because I didn’t want to make a fast decision,” Demitra told the Vancouver media during a conference call from his off-season Slovakian home.

“It’s going to be a new experience. I played my first year in Ottawa, but I only played a couple of games. But I was always excited when I played against Canadian teams. When I was with Minnesota and St. Louis and Los Angeles, we played many games against Vancouver and with the fans and the city, I always loved it and that was the biggest reason.”

In 750 career games, Demitra has posted 699 points and nine times the versatile forward has posted at least 20 goals. He registered a career-best 37 goals while with St. Louis in 1998-99 and four years later had his most-productive season with 93 points.

“I played my best hockey when I was in St. Louis and I played with guys like Keith Tkachuk and Scott Mellanby,” Demitra explained, when asked about the type of players he’d like to have the chance to work with here in Vancouver.

“They always want to be the best. I like the guys that drive the net and work hard and get me the puck in the slot so I can make plays.”

Demitra’s offensive numbers took a hit last season when he posted 15 goals and 39 assists in 68 games with the Wild. The veteran suggests that while he liked his time in Minnesota, he wasn’t wild about the role he was asked to play.

“I know what I can do and I can definitely do more than I did in Minnesota. We played so much defence and it was working, but my first year every time I played wing I scored many goals, but when I played centre I always had to stay back. I know what I can do and I know I can score much more and have more points,” he said.

“I don’t have a favourite position. I didn’t enjoy playing centre in Minnesota because I like to play all over the ice and to make passes and score goals. But with Minnesota, the centre had to stay high and make sure to be the first guy down low to play defence. I don’t mind where I’m going to play; I just have to play with the right guys. I like to have freedom on the ice.”

Like anyone who’s followed the Canucks of late, Demitra is well aware of the offer that remains on the table to fellow free agent Mats Sundin.

And he’s certainly intrigued by the notion of getting to play on a line with the big Swede. But Demitra insists his signing with the Canucks isn’t linked to Sundin landing here.

“Obviously that would be great for me and for the team if you could bring a guy like that to the team,” he added. “We’d have a better chance to win.”

But the Canucks feel by landing Pavol Demitra they’ve increased their chances of success for the next two seasons. And perhaps the Slovakian’s signing will give Mats Sundin a little something to consider, too.