Canucks find GM in player agent Gillis


VANCOUVER — Mike Gillis will be sitting on the other side of the bargaining table this NHL season.

Gillis, an NHL player agent who has represented stars like Pavel Bure and Bobby Holik, will be named the general manager of the Vancouver Canucks, a source told The Canadian Press Tuesday night.

The news was first reported by media outlets in Vancouver, including Global Television, and confirmed by Sportsnet.

Gillis, 49, will replace Dave Nonis, who was fired last week. He is charged with the job of rebuilding a Northwest Division team that has missed the playoffs twice in the last three years.

Calls to Gillis were not immediately returned.

The Canucks finished the season with a 39-33-10 record, three points out of eighth place in the Western Conference.

One of the first questions Gillis will face is whether he will keep Alain Vigneault, who was named the NHL coach of the year for the 2006-07 season after the Canucks won the Northwest Division title with a team record 49 wins and 105 points.

Gillis also must decide if he will re-sign free agents like Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison. Gillis is the agent for Naslund, the Canucks captain, who earned US$6 million last season.

The Canucks will have about $20 million in salary cap room this season. It’s expected owner Francesco Aquilini will want the new general manager to add some offensive punch to a team that relied heavily on the goaltending of Roberto Luongo last season and a solid defence.

If Vancouver doesn’t sign free agents, the new GM could go the trade route. The Canucks could made a deal involving young players like defencemen Alex Edler or Luc Bourdon, or forwards Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler.

The Canucks have played before soldout crowds the last several seasons at GM Place but the team plays a grinding, defensive style. Fans will tolerate the tedium if the team is winning but there are concerns the crowds could begin to diminish if the Canuck fortunes didn’t improve.

In announcing Nonis’s firing, Aquilini said he wanted a new GM that "has experience. Someone who can get the job done. That’s what it comes down to, and not give excuses."

In Gillis he has a man who has seen the game as a player, and a player’s representative, but not from management’s side.

Gillis, a native of Sudbury, Ont., played parts of six NHL seasons with the Colorado Rockies and Boston Bruins. Drafted fifth overall by the Rockies in 1978, he tore knee ligaments in his first training camp. He was traded to Boston for Bob Miller in February 1981. A solid defensive player, Gillis helped the Bruins reach the 1982 semifinals.

In 246 NHL games Gillis scored 33 goals, added 43 assists and collected 186 penalty minutes.

Gillis retired as a player in 1985, then earned a earned a law degree from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., in 1990. He became a player agent and founded M.D. Gillis and Associates in 1994. That company became part of Assante Sports Management Group in April 2000.

In 1997 Gillis successfully sued Alan Eagleson, the former NHL Players’ Association executive director, for $570,000 in damages in a dispute over a disability claim.

Gillis will become the 10th GM in Canuck history. .Since losing Game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup final Vancouver has missed the playoffs six times. Since the 2000-01 season the Canucks have advanced past the first round of the playoffs just twice.

Besides the coach, there is speculation a new GM might make major changes to the Canucks entire hockey operations and scouting departments.

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