Canucks sign defenceman Jim Vandermeer, add defensive depth, 'more push-back' (with video)
Daniel Sedin (right) and San Jose Sharks defenceman Jim Vandermeer skate during practice with the UBC Thunderbirds at UBC on Monday. The Canucks signed Vandermeer Monday.
Photograph by: DARRYL DYCK, THE CANADIAN PRESS
VANCOUVER - Jim Vandermeer knows his new team has a reputation around the league of not being quite tough enough and he hopes to change that.
"You guys all know that is kind of the rumour going around, that they needed a little more push-back to their game," Vandermeer said of the Canucks. "And I know I can bring that."
The 32-year-old defenceman, with 461 NHL games and 664 penalty minutes on his NHL resume, signed a one-year, two-way contract Monday with the Canucks. He'll make $600,000 at the NHL level and $275,000 in the minors.
Vandermeer skated at UBC with several of his new teammates during the lockout and at least a couple of them went to bat for him with Canucks' management. Defenceman Dan Hamhuis was one of them and thinks Vandermeer brings a physical presence that the Canucks could use.
"He is a guy that can settle down an opposing team's player who might be running around a bit and getting guys on our team off our game," Hamhuis said. "Jim is a guy that knows how to handle those situations and settle guys like that down. He's not a guy who needs to prove how tough he is, he's respected and guys know what he can do. That is something you would like to have."
Now all Vandermeer has to do is make the team and that doesn't figure to be easy. His signing leaves the Canucks, who signed free-agent veteran Cam Barker on Sunday, with nine defencemen with NHL experience.
"He's an experienced NHL player that brings an identity to the table," said Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault. "He's a physical tough defenceman that has got a lot of experience. Obviously, he is fighting for the seventh, eighth, ninth spot on our team and we'll sort that out here as we move forward."
With no pre-season games in which to make a statement, Vandermeer knows he'll have to show well in scrimmages scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday nights.
"You are battling for a job, you have to treat it like a game and go out there and obviously not be crazy and do anything stupid and try to hurt anybody, but you have to go out there and show them what you can do," said Vandermeer, a 6-foot-1, 214-pound native of Cochrane, Alta.
Vandermeer knows it is his physical game that will earn him a job with the Canucks.
"You can't get pushed around (as a team) whether it's post-season or regular season," he said. "I think the style of game that I provide is one that doesn't let our team get pushed around."
The two-way contract means Vandermeer could start the season with the AHL's Chicago Wolves.
"Obviously, that is not what I want to happen," he said. "But if that's the case I just have to work hard and play well and earn my way back if I end up going down."
The signings this week of Barker and Vandermeer do not bode well for Kevin Connauton, who came to camp hoping to land a spot as the No. 7 or 8 defenceman.
Connauton is skating at camp with the prospects and with no pre-season games likely won't be able to show enough to stick with the Canucks, who drafted the former Vancouver Giant in the third round in 2009.
"I just have showcase myself the best I can," Connauton said. "It's obviously a much shorter camp than usual so there's not as much time to do that.
"You can't get too focused on the numbers. For me, I am definitely trying to get one of last spots on the D corps. The whole go-down-and-develop stage of my career is kind of passed. I think I can develop up here. It's not a matter of playing games down in the American League. I want to be a guy that is up here practising with these guys. If it means I am not in every game, that's fine. I just want to be on this team and I am going to show them that I want to be here and I want to fight for a job."
Connauton has struggled at times this season, his third as a pro. A gifted offensive defenceman, Connauton has two goals and nine points in 31 games with the Chicago Wolves this season.
Vigneault said Connauton must continue to improve.
"He needs to play to his strengths," Vigneault said. "He's supposedly a good offensive defenceman, a good puck-mover who jumps up in the attack and gets his shot through on the power play and five-on-five from the point. He has shown that in some instances so far this year, he needs to continue to get better. Third-year pro is still a very young palyer. We believe a lot in Kevin and think he is going to get better."
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