Initial labour pains over for Canucks’ Andrew Alberts
Depth defenceman, whose wife is expecting their first child, is happy to be signed and back home
VANCOUVER — As the summer weeks went by and Andrew Alberts remained without a team or a contract, real life was intruding on another front. His wife Kelly was pregnant and expecting their first child in mid-September.
So here they were, waiting it out in their off-season home in Deephaven, Minn., and wondering what to do.
“The uncertainty was the worst part,” Alberts said Thursday, a week after re-signing with the Vancouver Canucks for $600,000, less than half the $1.225 million he was on the books for the last two seasons.
“It was kind of a pressing thing where we were trying to figure out, all right, where are we going to have the baby? So it was a big concern. We were waiting, waiting, waiting and going through all the scenarios. Would she have to stay there, or could we get her to wherever I was going? The unknown was definitely the hardest part.”
Alberts obviously didn’t have a lot of leverage at the bargaining table. He is a depth defenceman, a sixth or seventh guy. When it’s seven, that spells healthy scratch, which Alberts was under former Canuck coach Alain Vigneault for the first 17 games of the lockout-shortened season and 24 overall.
When free agency arrived July 5, National Hockey League general managers did not come pounding on Alberts’ door with overflowing bags of money.
“It’s part of the process of being the player that I am, a role player,” said the 32-old-year with a shrug. “It’s just the way it works. The high guys go right away for the big money and you sit around and wait and see what teams need. Usually towards the end of August, teams start finding out what they do need on their roster, and what-not. So it was frustrating but, in the end, it’s good to be back in Vancouver.”
In fact, Alberts was so anxious to return that he hopped on a plane last Friday, the day after he signed, to begin workouts with teammates. Kelly arrived on Monday. They are now looking for a place to live as they were uncertain whether they would be back and shipped all their stuff home to Minnesota from a rental place here. They also have two dogs, a boxer and Rhodesian Ridgeback.
“Now we have to move everything back,” he chuckled. “The dogs, the wife, everything.”
As for the contract and the drastic pay cut, Alberts was reluctant to get into the nitty-gritty of the talks between himself and the team.
“I’m just going to say there was a deal on the table and I’m just happy to be back,” said the 6-foot-5 blue-liner, who joined Vancouver from the Carolina Hurricanes on March 3, 2010. “I knew the Canucks were waiting to sign another D-man and when the situation came up, I just made the decision this is the place I wanted to be.
“I like the team, and the organization has been good to me. So it was a fit for the situation. I think the biggest thing for me right now is to have a good camp and show that I can be an everyday player and not be in and out of the lineup.”
Alberts is hoping the switch from Vigneault and Rick Bowness to John Tortorella and Mike Sullivan will result in more minutes on the ice rather than in the press box. The first five spots on the Canuck blue-line, barring injury, appear earmarked for Alex Edler, Jason Garrison, Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Bieksa and Chris Tanev. That leaves Alberts to battle it out with Yannick Weber, Frank Corrado and whoever else might appear on the scene for spot No. 6.
“A fresh start with a new coach is something I’m looking forward to,” said Alberts. “I didn’t get the playing time under AV. That’s just the way it went. Now I’m looking forward to having a new coach here and maybe a guy who can use my physicality a little bit more.”
Alberts didn’t actually delve too deeply into Tortorella’s history before re-signing but he does have some familiarity with Sullivan, who was his head coach with the Boston Bruins during Alberts’ rookie NHL season in 2005-06.
“I talked to a couple of players (about Tortorella) after I signed just to get an idea of what his tendencies are and what he’s looking for,” he said.
They may have an interesting discussion on their pets, too. Tortorella is into rescue dogs and has four of them. Alberts’ dogs are purebreds.
“So I don’t know if he’s going to like me,” Alberts said.
Tell you what, Andrew. You block shots and run over a few opposition forwards, Torts is going to love you.
ICE CHIPS: Joining Alberts for a skate at UBC on Thursday were Henrik Sedin, Dale Weise, Tom Sestito, Brad Richardson, Eddie Lack, Bieksa and Edler. Chris Higgins was in the building but not on the ice ... Veterans report to main camp on Sept. 11.
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