The Manitoba Moose goaltending situation is beginning to come into focus.
The Vancouver Canucks announced yesterday that veteran goalie Wade Flaherty, who backstopped the Moose to the Western Conference final during the 2005 Calder Cup playoffs, had his one-year contract option exercised.
"The thought has crossed my mind, to retire, but I enjoy the game so much," Flaherty said yesterday from his off-season home in B.C. "If I wasn't helping a team in my play, then obviously it's time to shut it down. As long as I can play at a high level and have success, I'm excited about still playing.
"At this point of my career, I'm just happy being around the guys and having the opportunity to win."
With Dan Cloutier expected to be re-signed and Alex Auld on a one-way NHL contract with the Canucks, Flaherty, 37, will be a valuable No. 3 guy on the depth chart and is likely headed back to Manitoba.
"(Flaherty) did a wonderful job working in tandem with Alex Auld and he also gave us a great playoff run, so we're excited to have him back," Canucks assistant general manager Steve Tambellini said yesterday during a conference call.
The only other goalie in the Canucks system under contract is Brandon product Rob McVicar, but he is probably headed back to the Columbia Inferno for another season in the ECHL.
Winnipegger Lee Goren and enforcer Wade Brookbank also had their contract options picked up by the Canucks and both should get a good shot at making the parent club come September.
Goren, 28, collected a team-high 32 goals last season with the Moose and was the team's leading scorer during the post-season with 10 goals and 13 points. He was a part of the core leadership group and displayed all the tools of a power forward.
DECISIONS LEFT TO MAKE
Brookbank, 27, established a new franchise record for penalty minutes with 285 and also showed his versatility by playing both forward and defence.
Moose scoring leader Peter Sarno, hard-nosed blue-liner Joe DiPenta, second-line winger Jeff Heerema and defenceman Johnathan Aitken did not have their options picked up, but Tambellini said it was possible some members of that group could be re-signed.
"We'll see what happens when we get to the next step here," said Tambellini.
The Canucks also signed three of their 2003 draft picks to entry-level contracts yesterday and the trio will be given an opportunity to crack the Moose roster this year.
Winger Marc-Andre Bernier was chosen in the second round (60th overall) and had 27 goals and 50 points in 65 games with the Halifax Mooseheads last season, centre Francois-Pierre Guenette was chosen in the seventh round (222nd overall) and had 21 goals and 51 points with the Mooseheads, while defenceman Nathan McIver was chosen in the eighth round (254th overall) and had 15 points and 124 penalty minutes for the St. Mike's Majors last season.
MOOSE TRACKS: Tambellini reported that sniper Jason King, who sustained a concussion in March and missed the remainder of the season, was "making progress." The Canucks have until Sunday to make qualifying offers to their restricted free agents.