When the Canucks began skating at Scotia Barn this week, curious onlookers noticed a familiar face that wasn’t supposed to be there. Unrestricted free agent Alex Chiasson, still decked out head to toe in blue and green gear, had been permitted to skate with his former teammates ahead of NHL training camps in September.
And yet despite not having a contract, Alex Chiasson doesn’t see the Canucks as part of his past just yet. He still sees Vancouver as his present and future.
“My hope was to get something done here. Not sure where that’s gonna go, but they’re giving me the opportunity to skate here, so we’ll see how that folds out,” Chiasson said to reporters on Tuesday.
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“But obviously we’re three weeks away from camp, so I have to make a decision for myself as well.”
Chiasson came to Vancouver on a one-year deal signed right before the start of the season last October. After a sluggish start mirrored by the entire roster, the 31-year-old winger posted 22 points in 67 games, thanks to a strong finish with 11 points across the team’s final 12 games.
Rather than return home to Montreal for the summer, Chiasson remained in Vancouver, taking up residence at Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s home. Between trips to Spanish Banks and Stanley Park, he’s remained in contact with the Canucks about potentially returning to the team and making the city home.
“I’ve always wanted to play here, I heard summers were great. We’ve moved around quite a bit in the last couple of years, so we just decided to stay in probably one of the nicest cities I’ve played or lived in my career.”
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So far, that plan hasn’t come to fruition. A rumoured signing with a team in Switzerland never went past the discussion stage, as Chiasson remains firmly focused on continuing his NHL career, still preferably with the Canucks.
“With the end of the year that I had, I feel like I can still play and contribute and help a team,” Chiasson said.
“I can move up and down the lineup. Those are all things that I’ve shown in the past. I feel good physically, and I feel like I’ve been able to do my own thing and prepare really well. We’ll see how things go.”
But the odds of Chiasson earning a new deal in Vancouver are slim. The offseason additions of Andrey Kuzmenko, Ilya Mikheyev, and Curtis Lazar leave the Canucks with next to no room for another winger, let alone a player most see as a power play specialist.
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But Chiasson’s existing knowledge of the system and valuable chemistry with teammates like J.T. Miller could still be enough to earn him another short-term, no-frills contract. Especially if Bruce Boudreau wants him back on board.
“Playing with J.T. I felt like he understood how I played and he never asked me to do anything different. He just asked me to go and play my game, then with that momentum it was building confidence in my game,” Chiasson said. “Bruce was giving me a lot of ice time.”
Chiasson briefly talked to Boudreau when the coach arrived at the rink on Tuesday and talked about the qualities that make Boudreau a coach he wants to keep playing for.
“He’s one of my favourite coaches I’ve had in my career for sure,” Chiasson said. “Just an easy guy to play for. He doesn’t demand a lot. Yes, you show up to work, but you know exactly where you’re standing. Just a genuine person really.”
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But even if such an opportunity doesn’t present itself in Vancouver, Chiasson believes it will be on a playoff contender somewhere in the NHL.
“Down the stretch where we felt like we had to win every game, those are situations that [are like] playing in the playoffs and the Stanley Cup in Washington. Those are all situations that I’ve been in,” Chiasson said.
“You just never know when the next opportunity is going to be, and I think that’s kind of how I approach things.”