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THE MOJ: Winning what matters most as B.C.’s Dillon ponders next stop

Coming home to Vancouver has its appeal for veteran defenceman chasing his first cup

Surrey’s Brendan Dillon is going through a range of emotions.

Coming off is 12th season in the NHL, the veteran defenceman will become an unrestricted free agent for the first time on July 1.

“I got to be honest, there’s a little bit of everything. When you think about it, I have almost been too big of a wuss to go to free agency the last couple times I’ve had the opportunity,” said Dillon. “San Jose was a great fit for me and I obviously loved it as we had some success there as a group, so I stayed. The same with Washington. From the moment I got there and was offered a deal to stay, I enjoyed it.

“I was traded to Winnipeg during the season and we had some early playoff exits, but overall, it was a really good group of guys and I had a lot of fun. I’ve never closed the door on a return but you need two to tango. But for now, with the anxiety, stress and whatnot of the business side, you definitely look forward to see what’s going to transpire over the next little bit.”

Dillon has had an outstanding career for someone who wasn’t chosen in the WHL Bantam Draft or the NHL Entry Draft.

A solid stay-at-home gritty defenceman, he has had to earn an opportunity at every level but has managed to play in 892 NHL games to date. The Surrey Minor Hockey product is 108 games away from joining the 1,000 games played club – a milestone only 398 players have achieved in the history of the NHL.

But there is one thing that has eluded him thus far: The Stanley Cup.

Dillon got close in 2016 when his San Jose Sharks made the Cup finals only to lose to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games.

Being on a team that has a shot to win it all will be one of the criteria that will have to be met come July 1.

“I haven’t won yet. I’ve gotten close. I’ve been fortunate to be part of some incredible teams with San Jose. It was just the expectation that we had from training camp on - it was Cup or bust. I was fortunate to go to the finals and to go to the conference finals and to play some meaningful hockey. When you’re playing, it truly is the best time of year.

“I think a big part of me needs to be on a competitive team. I know the role I’m going to play and it will be nice to feel valued and to know where you’re at on that specific team. Those are my two biggest things. I’ve been fortunate. I’m at the point in my career where I’m not looking for the biggest payday. Of course, you want to have a fair value contract for what you’re able to provide.”

Then there is the potential of playing for the Canucks.

Dillon grew up a Canuck fan and would love to play for his hometown team. He and his family have an off-season home here and finishing his career in Vancouver would be ideal.

“I drive by Rogers Arena every day coming home from the gym. It’s hard to beat when you see the sun shining on a Vancouver summer day to not want to be here. The team and to see the success they had this season…I think back in 2011 I was one of those guys down on Granville Street buzzing around with my buddies and cheering on the Canucks. I’m completely open to it. We’ll see what July 1 brings in terms of opportunities and who knows?” explained Dillon

During his time with the Sharks, Dillon got a taste of hockey in Vancouver two to three times a year for six seasons.

“You kind of saw how exciting that was. I got more than enough buddies that I just have to text and ask how the Canucks are doing to get the full breakdown on the roster and what they’re feeling,” said the 33-year-old.

“There’s lots of expectations that come with playing in Canada. There’s the excitement of when things are going well, yet at the same time, you’re under a microscope and you really get to experience what you mean to that city and what you mean to hockey in Canada.”

As far as the Canucks organization is concerned, they will be looking for a defenceman with the impending departure of Nikita Zadorov and Dillon is on their radar.

Reports indicate Dillon and his representatives from Newport Sports Management will be looking at $3.5 million per while the Canucks would like that number closer to $3 million.

It’s been a busy summer for Dillon and his family. There was a week-long trip to Disney World with his wife Emma and two-year-old daughter Elton which occurred during a heat wave. He’s also had to deal with the transition of a rental property Canuck farmhand and former Sharks teammate Matt Irwin was utilizing this season. And, of course, it’s wedding season.

Then there’s the rehab on the lacerated hand that required 15 stitches to close and ended his post-season.

“It’s probably about 95% now. I’ve only golfed once, unfortunately, because I was a little scared and I don’t want to mess with it. I went on the ice last week just to feel how it feels and it was okay,” Dillon said with a chuckle.

The next couple of weeks will be interesting for Dillon but he’s excited to see how it plays out.

“Seeing whatever fits in terms of my role and where the team’s at, I think, is going to be the biggest thing. I just I want to win. I want to be a part of something special. I got to play with the Tyler Toffoli this year and even buddies in the past that have won and you see their 10-year reunions and stuff like that, it’s pretty cool. I want to be part of something special like that,” said Dillon.

The decision he makes on July 1 will go a long way in determining whether or not he does.

Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media.

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