The Vancouver Canucks will have their captain back next season.

After being courted by several NHL clubs, Markus Naslund has elected to stay with the Canucks, agreeing to a three-year, $18 million US deal.

"It was really the only choice for me and my family," Naslund said during a conference call Wednesday. "We've had the best years of our lives here and I'm very happy to hopefully retire as a Canuck."

"At the end of the day, I think the fact that we wanted Markus Naslund in Vancouver and more importantly that Markus Naslund wanted to be in Vancouver put us in a position where we were able to sign him," Canucks GM Dave Nonis told a news conference.

"From a club standpoint, fan standpoint and I think the excitement standpoint that we'll see in this building, it's a win-win for everybody and we're absolutely thrilled to have Markus Naslund back for at least three more years in Vancouver."

The Vancouver Province said two other "high-revenue" teams matched the Canucks' offer, but Naslund chose Vancouver because it has a better chance to challenge for the Stanley Cup.

"We evaluated every element to this and in the end it all pointed to the market being what it is and Markus' desire to return to Vancouver," agent Mike Gillis told the Province.

"There's no doubt that competitiveness played a huge part in his decision and maybe the way it is now, you really do have to sacrifice a little to be on a winner. I mean, there's a reason why [goaltender] Martin Brodeur took less to stay playing in New Jersey.

"Obviously, money was not the overriding factor in Markus' final decision."

Naslund, who had 35 goals and 49 assists in 78 games for the Canucks in 2003-04, is entering his 11th NHL season, nine of which have been in Vancouver.

With Naslund's salary, the Canucks are up to $34.7 million in payroll, which is close to the $39 million ceiling set by the NHL's new collective bargaining agreement.

The Canucks also traded defenceman Brent Sopel to the New York Islanders Wednesday in exchange for a conditional draft pick in 2006.

Nonis also said the status of Todd Bertuzzi's suspension is still up in the air, saying he expected to hear from the NHL later this week or early next week.

"I would hope at the end of the day that Todd is reinstated immediately," Nonis said. "That's our expectation."

with files from Canadian Press