The longtime Nashville Predator's rights were traded twice, to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, in the days leading up to Thursday's opening of the NHL free agency period, and he was highly pursued by other clubs. But the Smithers, B.C., native preferred to return to his home province.
"We prepared for free agency looking at a lot of teams and a lot of different fits and Vancouver fit us really well," said Hamhuis in a conference call. "It was a city we were familiar with, a team I always grew up watching and I'm very excited to play there."
Hamhuis signed a six-year deal for $4.5 million per season, giving the Canucks a home-province discount after seriously considering offers from the Penguins and Flyers in the past two weeks and an undisclosed number of other clubs on Thursday.
But the 27-year-old rearguard, who has trained in Vancouver since turning pro as a first-round Nashville draft choice in 2001, decided the West Coast would be the best place for himself, wife Sarah, who is from Prince George, B.C., and their two daughters aged two and four.
"We did get some different offers and some were higher in contract value but we like the fit in Vancouver," said Hamhuis. "We liked the opportunity from a hockey perspective and a lifestyle perspective for my family."
Gillis said the Canucks were thrilled to get a British Columbian who was willing to return home for less money. Ultimately, he said, players will have to take less if they want to play for a Stanley Cup contender.
"He was the No. 1 guy on our list and we pursued it, because there was clearly some interest in coming here," said Gillis. "Most of the other guys had signed by the time we finalized it, so we weren't going to be able to do anything anyway."
Hamhuis recorded 24 points in 78 games with the Predators in 2009-10 and added two assists in six playoff games. The six-foot-one, 209-pound blueliner has registered 161 points and 375 penalty minutes in 483 regular season games and nine post-season points with the Predators. His signing further shores up a Vancouver defence following the draft-day trade for Keith Ballard from Florida.
"I think it's a great day," said Gillis. "(Hamhuis and Ballard) were the two guys that we really wanted to try and get. It gives a lot of flexibility going forward and addresses some needs that we had."
The Canucks are looking to Hamhuis to help them get past the second round of the playoffs -- which has proved insurmountable in their past three post-season efforts. Describing Hamhuis as a mobile defenceman who moves the puck well, Gillis said he will get an opportunity to put up more offensive numbers while competing for a spot as Vancouver No. 1 or No. 2 defenceman.
Hamhuis, meanwhile, is looking forward to an opportunity to just get past the opening round of the playoffs -- which Nashville could not do while he was there. His Prince George Cougars junior club reached the second round only once in his four seasons there, in 2000-01.
He also gives the Canucks defence corps the potential for more durability. He has missed only seven games in six NHL seasons, but he will need to develop a thick skin to play for the constantly-scrutinized Canucks after toiling in obscurity in Music City.
"It will be a big change as far as being anonymous in Nashville to going to Vancouver," he said. "I've already received about 100 texts a day just from people. It's going to be fun. There's two ways to handle it, you can either put yourself in a shell or you can embrace it and we're going to embrace it. We enjoy the community support."
In a bit of an ironic twist, defenceman Willie Mitchell helped sell Hamhuis on Vancouver, but that move may have ended up costing Mitchell a spot on the roster. Mitchell, an unrestricted free agent, remains unsigned after missing most of last season with concussion issues.
Gillis reiterated his desire to sign Mitchell if he is healthy enough, but his days in a Vancouver uniform appear to be over.