Canucks' Manny Malhotra’s playing days over in Vancouver

 

'Hardest thing I have done in this job': General manager Mike Gillis says he felt veteran centre was putting himself at risk by playing

 
 
 
 
Vancouver Canuck Manny Malhotra skates informally with a few teammates and the UBC Thunderbirds at the Vancouver Universities arena on Monday, Jan. 7, 2013. The veteran centre was put on long-term injured reserve by the Canucks on Thursday and will not play again for the NHL team.
 
 

Vancouver Canuck Manny Malhotra skates informally with a few teammates and the UBC Thunderbirds at the Vancouver Universities arena on Monday, Jan. 7, 2013. The veteran centre was put on long-term injured reserve by the Canucks on Thursday and will not play again for the NHL team.

Photograph by: Ward Perrin, PNG

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VANCOUVER — Mike Gillis made up his mind last summer, but wanted to give Manny Malhotra a chance to prove him wrong.

And when the veteran centre could not, the Canucks general manager met with Malhotra earlier this week and did what he described Thursday as "the hardest thing I have done in this job."

Gillis told Malhotra that his playing days were over in Vancouver.

Gillis said he believed Malhotra was putting himself at risk by continuing to play and had never fully recovered from a serious eye injury during a game on March 16, 2011.

"I came to this decision last year and I wanted to give Manny the opportunity to put his best foot forward, the opportunity to get in great shape," Gillis said Thursday after the Canucks announced that Malhotra was being put on injured reserve for the remainder of the season.

"The year before because of the (eye) procedures he was going through he didn’t have a chance to train. And he felt strongly that a better opportunity to get into great shape would help him and we wanted to give him that chance. I wanted to give him 10 games to watch and see if there was any discernible change and felt there wasn’t and there were certain instances I felt he was extremely vulnerable and I went to him like I said I would if I felt this way."

• PHOTOS: Manny Malhotra on and off the ice

Malhotra only played nine games this season, mainly on Vancouver’s fourth line. And while he continued to excel in the faceoff circle, he was never the same player he was before a stray puck cut open his left eye while he skated through the neutral zone during a game against the Colorado Avalanche at Rogers Arena.

Neither the Canucks nor Malhotra have ever divulged the exact specifics of the injury.

But Malhotra did undergo multiple procedures on the eye — and both he and the team have acknowledged that the centre’s vision is now impaired.

Malhotra did not have a point this season and only two shots on goal.

Gillis said he could not say whether Malhotra plans to try to continue his playing career elsewhere next season, but said he hopes he will remain in the Canucks’ organization. He indicated that Malhotra did not completely agree with the decision.

“Manny is an extremely proud guy who is very stubborn,” Gillis said. “A lesser person wouldn’t even have come back from what he endured. There were points where I felt he shared my opinion and points where I felt he didn’t. I have to make the decision and I wouldn’t put anybody in a position (if) I was uncomfortable with their ability to protect themselves, or their ability to function out on the ice and be at a higher risk than normal, particularly in today’s game where it is so fast, the players are big ... I wasn’t prepared to live with that any longer.”

Malhotra had been absent from practice in recent days. The team had described his absence as a personal issue. He played his final game last Saturday against the Calgary Flames.

Gillis said Malhotra, who is in the final year of a three-year contract that pays him $2.5 million a season, will stay with the team for the remainder of the season and perhaps beyond. Malhotra will continue to collect his salary through the end of this season.

“We haven’t exactly fleshed out what the role is going to be but he is a terrific person, he is a great spokesperson, I can’t say enough about him as a professional and member of this organization,” Gillis said. “I have asked him to stay on and we are going to sort through the particulars of that over the next couple of days. He could fill a variety of roles.”

The 32-year-old Malhotra has played in 864 NHL games and registered 278 points.

Gillis met with the team’s leadership group earlier this week to tell them what was happening.

“Just being around him every day, you wouldn’t think there was an issue,” said goalie Roberto Luongo. “That is the type of guy that he is, probably one of the best teammates I have ever had. It’s unfortunate.”

Malhotra trained during the recent NHL lockout at UBC with a group of Canucks that included defenceman Kevin Bieksa.

“I was with him every day of the lockout and I know he trained hard,” Bieksa said. “His limitations only he knows, he is not a guy who is ever going to complain about anything. He has got a lot of pride, is a hard worker and has never let anything be an excuse. Only he knows how bad it is. Certainly it’s a tough situation. He’s a big part of the team and we are going to miss him.”

Coach Alain Vigneault said he hoped Malhotra would remain close to the team.

“Ever since the day Manny joined this organization he has been a huge part of our group, not just with what he does on the ice but what he does off the ice and the way he conducts himself with his teammates, with the community, the fans,” Vigneault said. “He’s such a strong individual in all categories.

“I know that this is a real emotional time for Manny and he is still going to be part of our team. We are going to try to find ways for him to contribute and, hopefully, it will be an easy adjustment for him.”

Malhotra’s roster spot will be filled by centre Ryan Kesler, who is expected to return from injury and play Friday against the Dallas Stars.

bziemer@vancouversun.com

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Vancouver Canuck Manny Malhotra skates informally with a few teammates and the UBC Thunderbirds at the Vancouver Universities arena on Monday, Jan. 7, 2013. The veteran centre was put on long-term injured reserve by the Canucks on Thursday and will not play again for the NHL team.
 

Vancouver Canuck Manny Malhotra skates informally with a few teammates and the UBC Thunderbirds at the Vancouver Universities arena on Monday, Jan. 7, 2013. The veteran centre was put on long-term injured reserve by the Canucks on Thursday and will not play again for the NHL team.

Photograph by: Ward Perrin, PNG

 
Vancouver Canuck Manny Malhotra skates informally with a few teammates and the UBC Thunderbirds at the Vancouver Universities arena on Monday, Jan. 7, 2013. The veteran centre was put on long-term injured reserve by the Canucks on Thursday and will not play again for the NHL team.
Vancouver Canucks’ Manny Malhotra at practice at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on January 13, 2013.
Vancouver's Manny Malhotra (left) and Andrew Ebbett joke at practice last April. Malhotra is out of the lineup for the rest of the season.
Vancouver's Chris Tanev (left) celebrates with teammate Manny Malhotra after Tanev scored the game-winning goal in overtime against the Oilers Monday night in Edmonton.
Vancouver Canucks Kevin Bieksa (left) and Manny Malhotra skate during the NHL lockout of players.
Manny Malhotra rests during Vancouver Canucks skate at UBC in Vancouver, B.C., Jan 08, 2013.
Vancouver Canuck Manny Malhotra, January 7th, during practice with the UBC Thunderbirds at the Vancouver Universities arena.
Vancouver Canuck Manny Malhotra, January 7th, during practice with the UBC Thunderbirds at the Vancouver Universities arena.
Vancouver Canucks forward Manny Malhotra was part of the 31-player negotiating committee for the NHL Players' Association.
Manny Malhotra is all smiles during teammate Kevin Bieka's Buddies charity game at UBC in October.
After a 5 1/2-hour negotiating session between the NHL and the Players Association, Manny Malhotra (L) and Ryan Miller of Buffalo Sabres make phone calls during the break at the Westin Times Square Hotel on December 4, 2012 in New York City.
Vancouver Canucks centre Manny Malhotra at a Vancouver Whitecaps training session in North Vancouver on Friday, Sept. 7, 2012.
Vancouver Canucks centre Manny Malhotra at a Vancouver Whitecaps training session on Friday, Sept. 7, 2012 in North Vancouver.
Vancouver Canucks' Manny Malhotra, centre, walks with members of the Vancouver Cutting Edge, billed as the only gay hockey club in western Canada, during the Vancouver Pride Parade in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday August 5, 2012. Organizers expected as many as 600,000 people to take in the parade which is one of the largest in North America.
Vancouver Canucks' Manny Malhotra walks with members of the Vancouver Cutting Edge, billed as the only gay hockey club in western Canada, during the Vancouver Pride Parade in Vancouver on Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012.
The Canucks sent Manny Malhotra and mascot Fin to meet the members of Kids Can Help. The local youth group raised $15,300.01 over the past year for BC Children’s Hospital. Malhotra went around and met all the members of Langley’s Kids Can Help charity at a gathering May 29.
Sean Thomas, along with Kevin Koltai as mascot Can Man, introduced Fin and Canucks centre Manny Malhotra to those at the Kids Can Help year-end celebration.
The Canucks sent Manny Malhotra and mascot Fin to meet the members of Kids Can Help. The local youth group raised $15,300.01 over the past year for BC Children’s Hospital. Malhotra went around and met all the members of Langley’s Kids Can Help charity at a gathering May 29.
Vancouver Canucks Manny Malhotra (left) practices at UBC Friday, April 20, 2012.
Vancouver Canucks Manny Malhotra ties up LA Kings Jarret Stoll after a face off  in the second period of game 2 of the NHL 2012 Western Conference  quarter final at Rogers Arena, Vancouver, April 13, 2012.
Mike Fisher of the Nashville Predators faces off against Manny Malhotra of the Vancouver Canucks at Bridgestone Arena on Feb. 21, 2012.
Ryan Kesler partners fan Paula Chudley (left) and Manny Malhotra pairs with Suzanna Kalman (right) at the Vancouver Canucks' 13th annual Dice & Ice fundraiser at the Vancouver Convention Centre on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012.
Vancouver Canucks Manny Malhotra pressures LA Kings Brad Richardson as they chase after the puck in the second period regular season NHL action at Rogers Arena, VancouverJanuary 17 2012.
L-R Chelsey Whittle, Andrew Putt and daughter Lilee-Jean Putt pose for a photo with Vancouver Canucks Manny Malhotra at BC Children's Hospital in Vancouver on Dec. 5, 2011.
Canucks players Manny Malhotra (at left) and Dan Hamhuis spearheaded a project to donate a new playground to 
Edmonds Community School in Burnaby. They spent Oct. 7, 2011 installing the equipment.
Manny Malhotra with his wife, Joann, and two kids. Malhotra is one of the Canucks players who led a plan to 
donate a new playground to Edmonds Community School in Burnaby. He spent Oct. 7, 2011 installing the new equipment 
with the help of family members.
Manny Malhotra #27 of the Vancouver Canucks looks on prior to Game Six against the Boston Bruins in the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on June 13, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts.
Vancouver Canucks Manny Malhotra talks to the press after the team's practice at Thunderbird Arena in the Father Bauer rink located at the University of B.C. in Vancouver during the 2011 Stanley Cup Final series.
Manny Malhotra #27 of the Vancouver Canucks grimaces in pain after being cut during the game against the  Colorado Avalanche at Rogers Arena on March 16, 2011 in Vancouver.
Vancouver Canucks forward Manny Malhotra with his son Caleb during the annual Vancouver Canucks SuperSkills festival at Rogers Areana in Vancouver on Feb. 27, 2011.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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