VANCOUVER, B.C. – Alex Burrows looked around the Vancouver Canucks dressing room and liked what he saw.
The feisty forward, who recently has shown a soft touch around the net, was so happy with the view he doubts the Canucks need to make any major moves before Wednesday’s NHL trade deadline (3 p.m. ET).
“I think we have a lot of good pieces in place,” Burrows said prior to the Canucks playing the Minnesota Wild Tuesday night. “The core is good, we have some depth at a few positions.
“We like how we play. Once we get into the playoffs you never know what is going to happen.”
Burrows believes in the Canucks enough to agree a four-year contract extension believed to be worth $8 million. The deal was announced Tuesday.
Burrows’ opinion is shared by most members of the Canucks, who headed into the game against the Wild sitting fifth in the Western Conference with 72 points from a 32-22-8 record.
The Canucks have revived from a January swoon which saw the team lose eight consecutive games. Heading into the match against Minnesota, Vancouver had won 10 of their last 12 games.
“I am confident with the team we have,” said defenceman Kevin Bieksa. “If management thinks they have to improve in a certain area, that’s up to them.
“I think we’re a pretty confident group right now and we’re playing our best game. We like our chances.”
Of course the final decision on whether the Canucks are good enough rests with Mike Gillis, the former player agent who will be facing his first trade deadline from behind a general manager’s desk.
Gillis made a big splash prior to Christmas when he signed free agent Mats Sundin to a deal that will pay him US$5.625 million for the rest of the season. In 21 games, Sundin has six goals and eight assists.
Vancouver still has about $2.3 million in salary cap space left, so Gillis could go after a front-line player. It’s more likely the Canucks would like a third-line centre or winger.
While deep on the blue-line, Vancouver could also look at adding a puck-moving defenceman.
Like his players, coach Alain Vigneault is pleased with his team but says there’s always room for improvement.
“I am very happy with the group we have right now,” he said. “I think we are in good shape.
“Any team would like to have depth. Obviously depth, going down the stretch run, where games are very intense and very physical . . . all teams would like to have more than less.”
The Canucks depth took a small hit Tuesday when the Calgary Flames claimed defenceman Lawrence Nycholat off waivers. In 14 games with Vancouver, Nycholat averaged nine minutes, 41 seconds of ice time and collected one assist.
To gain a player the Canucks would have to give something up. Bieksa’s name has popped up in rumours.
Players more likely to be available include forwards Taylor Pyatt and Mason Raymond or defencemen Shane O’Brien and Rob Davison.
The Canucks would probably also move forward Kyle Wellwood but it’s unlikely many teams would be interested. After a fast start to the season Wellwood has cooled off.
Veteran defenceman Mattias Ohlund becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer and it’s unlikely he will return to the Canucks. Ohlund has a no-trade contract but has said he would consider waving it.
Swedish twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin are also scheduled to become unrestricted free agents. Gillis and J. P. Barry, the twins’ agent, continue to talk about a new contract.
One thing Gillis would be loath to do is give up draft picks.
No matter what the Canucks do at the deadline, their playoff future likely rests in the hands of goaltender Roberto Luongo.
The Canucks captain looks to have returned to the form he showed prior to being sidelined with a groin injury.
“I feel like I’m back to where I want to be,” said Luongo.
He also believes the Canucks are good enough to make a playoff run.
“We made our big signing in December,” Luongo said, referring to Sundin. “I’m not the GM and Mike is the man to decide whether he wants to bring something else in here or not.
“We’re really comfortable with the guys we have right now.”