The Canucks landed Smolinski, a reliable two-way player, for a conditional second-round draft pick. To get Sopel, a rugged defenceman who can score, Vancouver sent conditional second-and fourth-round draft picks to Los Angeles.
“‘I think our depth is much better, much improved,” general manager Dave Nonis said during a conference call from St. Louis, where the Canucks play Tuesday night. “They are both players who were very productive this year.”
Both players are expected to be in the Canucks lineup when they face the Blues.
Sopel said he’s thrilled to return to the team that took him in the sixth round of the 1995 draft.
“‘I’m excited to be back in Vancouver,” he said from Los Angeles. “Whatever I have to do, I’ll do.”
Smolinski is excited to join a team that’s sitting third in the NHL’s Western Conference and has the potential to make some noise in the playoffs.
“I’m ecstatic,” he said from Chicago. “To have a chance to play with a great team, and to hopefully fulfil a lot of expectations, I will do that in any way.”‘
Smolinski is joining a Canuck team that’s thin at centre since Ryan Kesler underwent hip surgery. The 35-year-old has 14 goals and 23 points in 62 games for the Blackhawks. A 14-year veteran, who becomes a free agent July 1, he also has scored 20 goals and 25 assists in 99 playoff games.
“‘Bryan is a guy with a great deal of experience,” said Nonis. “‘He’s having a good year.
“He’s a good puck mover. He gives the coaching staff a lot of different options. If he brings his game to a level he can play at he will help us, there is no question about that.”
Smolinski isn’t fancy but knows his role.
“‘I don’t try to do anything I can’t do and don’t ask anything more than what I ask of my linemates,” he said.
Sopel, 30, had four goals and 19 assists in 44 games for the Kings this year. He becomes a free agent in July but said he’d be interested in re-signing with the Canucks.
Nonis said he knew what he was getting in the six-foot-two, 205-pound Saskatoon native.
“We know what Brent brings,” said Nonis. “He adds to our defensive core in a lot of different ways.
“One through six, I think we have a very strong defence.”
Nonis wanted a defenceman to take the No. 5 spot behind Mattias Ohlund, Sami Salo, Willie Mitchell and Kevin Bieksa.
Sopel said he’s glad to be leaving the Kings, who are last in the NHL’s Western Conference.
“It’s a playoff spot, that’s what we play for and it’s been a while since I’ve been in the playoffs,” he said. “We play 82 games as a warm up to play in the playoffs.
“When you’re out as early as we were it is frustrating.”
To make room under the salary cap, the Canucks waived centre Marc Chouinard and moved Kesler to the injured reserve list.
Nonis said it hasn’t been decided if Chouinard will be sent to the minors.
Asked if he has any other deals in the works, Nonis said it will depend if something comes up before Tuesday’s trade deadline.
“‘At this point I don’t have anything else in the hopper,” he said.
Sopel spent parts of six seasons with Vancouver before being dealt Aug. 3, 2005, to the New York Islanders for a conditional draft pick in the 2006 NHL entry draft.
The Islanders traded Sopel to the Kings on March 8, 2006, with Mark Parrish for Denis Grebeshkov, Jeff Tambellini, and a conditional 2006 draft pick.
Smolinski was picked 21st overall by Boston in the 1990 draft. During his career the six-foot-one, 208-pound American has had stops in Pittsburgh, New York Islanders, Los Angeles Kings, Ottawa Senators and Chicago.
The Canucks are a difficult team to play against, said Smolinski.
“They have a fantastic goaltender,” he said. “They have great skill and they are a very passionate team.
“You can tell they are hard working.”