VANCOUVER — Never one to shy away from a microphone, defenceman Shane O’Brien didn’t disappoint Thursday as the vanquished Vancouver Canucks packed their bags for another summer.
O’Brien will be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights but doesn’t expect to take that route if push comes to contract shove. He made $1.6 million in 2009-10.
“Hopefully I don’t have to go to arb and, from what I heard, it’s not a pleasant process,” he said. “They’ve probably got a lot of material they can use against me so it probably wouldn’t work too well.”
O’Brien has battled his weight since joining the Canucks two seasons ago and was exiled from the team for a week in early April after being late for practice and eating too much during the Olympic break.
He admitted he would prefer a deal for longer than a one year if the club opts to bring him back.
“If a one-year deal is all I’m going to get, I’ll come in and play hard but obviously, as a player, you’re looking for a bit of security,” he said.
O’Brien also took a little shot at the coaching staff for not giving him enough rope.
“I think I could be an even better player if I had a little bit more leeway,” O’Brien stated. “If you make a mistake, or have a bad game, they stick with you and you don’t have to worry about sitting in the press box.”
KESS A MESS: Centre Ryan Kesler admitted he was having a difficult time getting over another second-round exit.
“Shocked, depressed, not happy,” Kesler said, not even bothering to talk in complete sentences. “Obviously we had visions of going farther. It doesn’t feel like our season is over. It still feels like we should be going on.”
Kesler had an MRI on his sore shoulder but said it wasn’t separated and insisted it didn’t prevent him from shooting the puck or finishing his checks in the Chicago series, even though he wasn’t effective. He didn’t score and had four assists, only two coming after the first game.
“I just had an MRI and, hopefully, it’s nothing,” Kesler added. “Hopefully it’s just a strain. We’ll see.”
NOT FINN-ISHED: Oft-injured blueliner Sami Salo, the team’s elder skatesman at 35, intends to play out the final year of his contract next season. He’ll make $3.5 million.
“Yes, I am planning to come back,” he said. “I still have a feeling our team can do what our goal was going into these playoffs. I think the disappointing thing is us taking a lot of undisciplined penalties and obviously our special teams.”
Salo, who played Game 6 against the Hawks after taking a shot in the testicles two days earlier, reported that he is slowly improving.
“I’m not quite there yet,” Salo said. “Obviously we’ll have to do a follow-up ultra-sound but things are moving in the right direction.”
KYLE’S CALL: Third-line centre Kyle Wellwood will be unrestricted July 1 and can pick his next destination, assuming there is a market for his services.
He had a poor start and strong finish but completed the regular season with just 25 points. He made $1.2 million. He did not rule out returning to the Canucks if management wants him back. He would appear to be a good bridge player if first-round picks Cody Hodgson and Jordan Schroeder aren’t ready.
“I’m okay with being the third-line centre here and I enjoy that,” said Wellwood, who turns 27 on Sunday. “This is a great place to play. Moving forward, I know they’re going to need to inject some youth in the lineup. I definitely thought I played well enough in the playoffs to come back so we’ll see how they feel.”
Wellwood would have no problem moving on either if he received a better offer.
“I like Vancouver, I like playing in Canada, but at the end of the day it comes down to other factors,” Wellwood explained. “If you’re willing to do the role at the price they want you, you either say yes or no. If you figure it’s not the best spot for you, you move on. Years and opportunity, all those things are important.”
FOOT FAULTS: Winger Jannik Hansen sprained his left ankle during the Chicago series, which deprived him of an opportunity to play in the world championships for Denmark. He was wearing a boot Thursday.
Alex Edler, injured in Game 6, was on crutches with his right ankle in a boot.
ON THE MOVE: Defenceman Christian Ehrhoff was not around Thursday after flying home to Germany to play for his country, which is host to this year’s worlds ... Alex Burrows will get married in July to his long-time girlfriend Nancy Roy.