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Busy summer upcoming for Canucks GM Gillis

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The Canadian Press
5/14/2009 11:16:27 PM
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VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Canucks are still shocked over their playoff loss to Chicago and won't make hurried off-season personnel decisions, general manager Mike Gillis said Thursday.

The Canucks were dismissed from the Stanley Cup playoffs on Monday by a 7-5 Game 6 loss to the Blackhawks, the first team to score that many goals on all-star netminder Roberto Luongo in more than nine years.

"Everyone is extraordinarily disappointed with losing a series that we felt we should have won and it's a little bit unfair to expect answers, commitments, ideas from people who are angry and despondent that this opportunity got away from them," Gillis said.

"We're going to give everyone the breathing space to think for a little bit before pushing our agenda."

Gillis and head coach Alain Vigneault met the media on a day both felt Vancouver should be playing Game 7.

The Canucks led in all six games of their Western Conference semifinal. They lost Game 4 in overtime after surrendering the tying goal with less than three minutes remaining.

Despite dealing with disappointment, Gillis said he wants to re-sign twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin and a contract extension will be explored with Luongo.

The Sedins are unrestricted free agents on July 1 while Luongo has a year remaining on his US$7.5 million contract.

Gillis said there were questions at the beginning of the season about the Canucks, a team many expected to miss the playoffs for a second straight year.

They lost promising young defenceman Luc Bourdon in an off-season motorcycle crash, Luongo missed 24 games with a serious groin injury and forward Taylor Pyatt's fiance died in a car accident.

"I think for the most part we answered as well as we could given the ups and downs that we faced this year," Gillis said of a club that won the Northwest Division with a 45-27-10 record.

"Based on the adversity we faced at different points of the season it was not only admirable but quite an accomplishment."

Gillis said he met Thursday with the Sedins, who each led Vancouver with 82 points in the regular season and 10 in the playoffs.

"We seem to be in a really good place in terms of how we're going to move forward and I'm hoping that when we get an opportunity in the next couple of weeks, I'll speak to (player agent) J.P. (Barry) then.

"We intend to keep them but . . . we are going to let everyone take a little breath and we're going to approach this in a professional and business-like way."

But he has not had time to focus on Luongo's contract status.

"I'll approach it internally with Roberto the way I think is best," Gillis said. "That'll come over the next few weeks.

"But we have a lot of stuff to do and we need to see where we sit in a few weeks and we need to talk to Roberto more."

He also said he would be in touch with Mats Sundin, the 38-year-old former Toronto Maple Leaf captain who was paid US$5.6 million for half a season in which he scored nine goals.

"I am really pleased with everything he brought to this organization, professionally, integrity, character . . . I can't say enough about the guy," Gillis said of Sundin who had three goals and eight points in eight playoff games.

Vancouver has nine unrestricted free agents but their restricted free agents were reduced to three with a two-year deal for Steve Bernier.

The 23-year-old forward scored 15 goals last season but Gillis said he has greater potential and will be working with a skating coach and a nutritionist.

"It'll be a tough summer, but for good reason," said Bernier.

Vigneault, with whom Gillis plans to discuss a contract extension beyond next season, said it's still too early to dissect the Chicago series.

"We're still disappointed and shocked," Vigneault said.

"I felt that with everything that happened to our organization . . . I really believed that we were going to be that team of destiny and get the bounces that you need sometimes to get to be a Stanley Cup-winning team."

Gillis, a former player agent who took over from the fired Dave Nonis, said his first year as GM wasn't a success if that's measured by winning the Stanley Cup.

But Vancouver should have advanced beyond the second round.

"I didn't take this job to feel complacent and comfortable getting to the second round," said Gillis who felt his administration is making a mark in the Canuck organization.

"From the beginning bricks of a foundation I think that it's been OK," Gillis said. "I feel comfortable in where we're going and I think we have the right people to get there."

Notes: Canuck forwards will soon be having operations to deal with a number of injuries. Pavol Demitra will have shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum, winger Taylor Pyatt will have arthroscopic surgery on his knee, Alex Burrows will need a bone chip removed from his wrist and Ryan Johnson will need more work on an injured finger.

Mike Gillis (Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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