July 18th, 2024

Vancouver Canucks’ free agency haul highlighted by winger Jake DeBrusk

By Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press on July 1, 2024.

Boston Bruins' Jake DeBrusk (74) scores on Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Ilya Samsonov (35) during third period action in Game 3 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series in Toronto on Wednesday, April 24, 2024. The Vancouver Canucks have signed left-winger DeBrusk to a seven-year deal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

VANCOUVER – Jake DeBrusk won’t have any trouble finding roommates when he moves for the first time in his NHL career.

After all, two of his former teammates are looking for new digs, too.

DeBrusk was the Vancouver Canucks’ biggest acquisition Monday. The club signed the 27-year-old left-winger to a seven-year, US$38.5-million contract as the NHL’s free-agent market opened.

“I knew I had a really good feeling about them,” DeBrusk said of Vancouver. “It’s been really exciting. I just can’t wait to get to the city and I can’t wait to get started. I feel very lucky and honoured to become a Vancouver Canuck.”

DeBrusk had 40 points (19 goals, 21 assists) in 80 games for the Bruins last season, then chipped in another five goals and six helpers in 13 playoff appearances.

Originally picked 14th overall by Boston in the 2015 draft, the six-foot-one, 198-pound forward has spent all seven seasons of his NHL career with the Bruins, registering 138 goals and 128 assists across 465 regular-season games.

He’ll be joined by former Bruins forward Danton Heinen and defenceman Derek Forbort, who both signed with the Canucks on Monday.

Heinen, a 28-year-old winger, took a two-year, $4.5-million deal and the 32-year-old Forbort inked a one-year, $1.5-million contract.

Boston, meanwhile, brought in former Vancouver blueliner Nikita Zadorov on a six-year. $30-million deal and signed former Canucks centre Elias Lindholm to a seven-year, $54.25-million contract.

Seeing five players move between two teams is “very unusual,” said Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin, but the two sides have some similarities in their cultures and playing styles.

“In my opinion, I think Boston has been a top team in terms of culture, standard, system over the years,” he said.

“I think (the new players) were extremely excited to come here and get a chance to continue building what we finished last year and the players we have in our core excites a lot of players.”

Heinen contributed 17 goals and 19 assists across 74 games for the Bruins last season.

The six-foot-two, 195-pound forward hails from Langley, B.C., just outside of Vancouver and said signing with the Canucks means pulling on the jersey of the team he grew up cheering for.

“To me, it does mean a lot to play close to home,” he said. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. It’s a passionate fan base and that’s something you want to play in front of. Also the team. I feel like it’s a team that’s competitive and not far away from winning. And that’s exciting.”

Forbort, too, saw possibility in Vancouver’s roster, particularly after the Canucks finished last season atop the Pacific Division and battled through two tough rounds in the playoffs before falling to the Edmonton Oilers in a seven-game series.

“They were a hard team to play against, they played fast, they have a lot of high-end talent and skill,” said Forbort, a veteran blueliner who contributed four assists in 35 games for Boston last season.

“I can kind of be a nice supporting role, do my job, do my role, do anything to help the team win. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”

Heading to a new market with former teammates makes some things easier, Forbort added.

“I already texted (DeBrusk), said “˜Where are you buying us a house?’ So we’ll see what he comes up with,” he said.

Vancouver also signed winger Keifer Sherwood to a two-year, $3-million contract Monday.

The six-foot, 194-pound native of Columbus, Ohio, had 10 goals and 17 assists in 68 games for the Predators last season – and proved to be a nuisance when Vancouver faced Nashville in the post-season’s first round.

“I think for me, it was just about identity and identifying the best fit. Obviously I got a little close up in playoffs,” Sherwood said. “So when all’s said and done, that’s kind of what excited me to be part of this group. There’s a lot of special things brewing and I definitely want to be part of it.”

After losing Zadorov’s size on the blue line, the Canucks brought in defenceman Vincent Desharnais on a two-year, $4-million deal.

The 28-year-old from Laval, Que., cemented his role as an NHL player last season, putting up one goal and 11 assists with 54 penalty minutes in 78 games for the Oilers.

The Canucks believe the six-foot-seven, 226-pound defenceman has more to give, too, Allvin said.

“He hasn’t been in the league for a long time ,” the GM said. “I think with the coaches I have here in Adam Foote and Sergei Gonchar, I believe they can help him get to the next level.”

Vancouver also picked up goaltender Jiri Patera on a two-year, two-way deal and added former Arizona Coyotes forward Nate Smith on a one-year, two-way contract.

The Canucks made another series of signings ahead of free agency, signing new agreements with veteran defenceman Tyler Myers, burly winger Dakota Joshua and depth forward Teddy Blueger.

“I think we were pretty good here today about managing our money and getting, hopefully, good value out of the players we got here,” Allvin said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 1, 2024.

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