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Canadian Press
8/4/2006 12:55:46 PM

VANCOUVER (CP) - Mika Noronen, who had been pencilled in as the backup to Roberto Luongo, has opted to stop pucks in Russia rather than sit on the end of the Canucks bench next season.

Noronen was acquired from Buffalo for a second-round draft pick at the March 9 trading deadline but, with Luongo expected to play most of the games, Noronen is moving to Ak Bars Kazan of the Russian elite league.

Agent Jay Grossman confirmed the goalie's decision Friday.

The 27-year-old Finn, who was the Sabres' first-round draft pick in 1997, has a career NHL record of 22-31-6. He got into four games with the Canucks last spring and was 1-2 with a .844 save percentage and 4.27 goals-against average.

He's one year away from attaining unrestricted free agency status in the NHL, so he viewed a full slate of 45 to 50 games with Ak Bars Kazan as the best route to take.

Noronen had yet to sign a new contract with the Canucks. He'd be in line for at least $1.5 million US in a new NHL contract, and he could make just as much in Russia next season.
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