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Gillis unsure if Canucks can keep Ehrhoff

Vancouver Canucks General Manger Mike Gillis wasn't very optimistic Tuesday about being able to sign free-agent defenseman Christian Ehrhoff.

Defenseman Kevin Bieksa took what was likely a discount to stay with the Canucks, signing a five-year, $23 million deal to remain in Vancouver. When Gillis was asked about how the negotiations with Ehrhoff were going, he made it sound as though Ehrhoff is pricing himself out of Vancouver.

"We're still taking about different possibilities, but like I said earlier, playing on this team is more important than individual compensation," Gillis said. "That's our expectation with everybody. It works with some but it may not work with others. I can't tell you what I expect.

"We'll just see how it goes. If he's unwilling to accept what we think is fair and allows us to be competitive, we'll go in a different direction."

The free-agency period begins Friday, giving Gillis time to reach an agreement with the offensive defenseman. But if the chances of working out a contract seem bleak, Gillis wouldn't rule out potentially trading Ehrhoff's negotiating rights.

"I think if we get to a point in the negotiations where we have an offer to trade someone's rights who won't be signed here, then we'll do that," Gillis said. "There's still a few days here and we'll see what happens. There's lot of things to a negotiation. If we don't get anything done, we'll explore all our other opportunities."

Ehrhoff is one the game's best at adding offense from the blue line. The 28-year-old had a career-high 14 goals and 36 assists in 79 games last season. He had 2 goals and 10 assists in 23 playoff games, but struggled mightily during the Stanley Cup Final as he played through a shoulder injury he suffered in the Western Conference Final.

It might be tough to replace Ehrhoff, but Gillis offered a confident response when asked if he would try to replace the German defenseman with a free agent. He even mentioned Sami Salo, another free-agent Canucks blueliner, in his potential plans for 2011-12.

"I think Keith Ballard is going to be a good player for us next year," Gillis said. "I think Chris Tanev can step up and play more minutes and have a more active role. Sami Salo we'll have for all of next season hopefully, not what we just had. We'll take it as it comes. I'm not sure if there will be a defenseman out there that can help us. We'll see what's available."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo