Money well spent for Vancouver

Considering Todd Bertuzzi's final contract package of $27.9 million over four years, it's a testament to how much the Vancouver Canucks and their burly winger needed each other and desired to stick together as they try to remain Stanley Cup contenders and avoid falling back into the pack.

If the long-awaited deal would have fallen apart, it very well might have been the start of the team's decline back into mediocrity. Failing to lock up Bertuzzi would have surely meant the departure of captain Markus Naslund when his contract ends after next season and quite possibly prompted general manager Brian Burke, who has been the primary architect of the team's revival in recent years, to jump ship.

But fortunately for the Canucks, they announced a deal Sunday night that rips up the final year of Bertuzzi's old contract and replaces it with a $4.3 million deal with a $3 million signing bonus for this season. But $500,000 of the signing bonus will be paid next season, regardless of whether there is a lockout or players' strike. Bertuzzi will earn $6.633 million next season and $6.933 million in each of the final two years of the deal.