Familiar faces for Canucks

KEN WIEBE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:51 AM ET

Nolan Baumgartner is going back to a place he didn't want to leave in the first place and Alexandre Bolduc has the NHL contract he's been coveting.

As the free agent frenzy continued yesterday, the Canucks announced they've signed Baumgartner to a two-way, one-year deal and Bolduc to a two-way, two-year deal.

Baumgartner, a 32-year-old defenceman, provides depth to a Canucks organization reeling from the death of prospect Luc Bourdon.

Should Baumgartner not make the Canucks out of training camp, he would be a veteran presence with the Moose and be among the blue-liners considered for recall.

'BEST PLACE TO PLAY'

"My mindset is to play for Vancouver. I have to go in there for training camp and be ready to make the team," said Baumgartner, the 10th overall pick in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft by the Washington Capitals. "If I'm not in the NHL, Manitoba is the best place to play in the minors. I have been treated very well here, I love playing here and I feel some loyalty to the organization."

Thanks in part to a slow start and a quirk in the collective bargaining agreement, Baumgartner played only six games with the Flyers after signing a lucrative two-year deal worth $2.4 million in 2006.

Late in the 2006-07 season, Baumgartner was picked up on re-entry waivers by the Dallas Stars and played seven games with them.

Last season, Baumgartner opened the season as the Stars' seventh defenceman but he was demoted to the Iowa, where he had five goals and 18 points in 56 games.

Re-joining the Moose at the AHL roster-freeze rejuvenated Baumgartner's career and he provided a stabilizing presence to a young defence corps.

When he became an unrestricted free agent Tuesday, Baumgartner waited patiently for the phone to ring and drew interest from three other teams, the Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins and San Jose Sharks.

In the end, the choice was relatively easy.

"It's going to be a fresh start but a familiar one," said Baumgartner. "It's always positive going to a place where you're comfortable."

Moose general manager Craig Heisinger said the Baumgartner signing is a positive for both the Moose and Canucks and credits Bolduc with taking advantage of an opportunity in Manitoba after the St. Louis Blues decided not to sign him after drafting him in the fourth round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.

During the course of a calendar year, Bolduc has gone from training camp fodder to a legitimate prospect.

After not getting invited to Canucks' main camp last September, Bolduc, 23, posted career highs with 18 goals and 37 points in 70 games to finish sixth in Moose scoring.

The versatile forward, who can play either wing or centre, drew interest from several teams but felt the Canucks provided the best fit.

"I'm super happy and just excited to see what happens in camp," said Bolduc. "It's nice because I have been working so hard and now I have to prove to them they made a good decision signing me. At least now I have the chance to make the team or get called up."

With the departure of Drew MacIntyre to the Nashville Predators on Tuesday, the Moose/Canucks are expected to pursue an experienced goalie to share the crease with Cory Schneider.


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