VANCOUVER – When Dave Nonis considered some of the NHL trades being offered him, the Vancouver Canucks general manager decided it wasn’t worth dealing away the team’s future, even if it meant some gain in the present.
Nonis did a minor deal Tuesday, sending feisty forward Matt Cooke to the Washington Capitals for Matt Pettinger, a player who scored 20 goals two seasons ago.
“I wasn’t about to take significant, young roster players off our team at this point in order to land a player,” said Nonis. “I think it would have set us back. For me, I don’t think it was a situation that at the end made sense for us.”
Vancouver was reported to be one of the teams looking at making a deal for Brad Richards. Some of the players the Tampa Bay Lightning wanted in return for Richards included centre Ryan Kesler, rookie defenceman Luc Bourdon, goaltending prospect Cory Schneider and forward Mason Raymond.
Nonis refused to give specifics on any deal he didn’t make but said the Canucks did put some packages together.
“We put packages out there that, in our mind . . . were superior to maybe some of the packages that were accepted,” he said. “We put a very strong proposal in front of a couple of teams in order to land a player that could help us.”
While the Canucks tinkered with their roster, a couple Western Conference teams did some retooling.
The Dallas Stars obtained Richards from Tampa Bay while the San Jose Sharks picked up Brain Campbell from the Buffalo Sabres.
The Colorado Avalanche acquired defencemen Ruslan Salei and Adam Foote, one day after signing free-agent centre Peter Forsberg.
The Minnesota Wild got tougher after trading for Chris Simon from the New York Islanders
The Canucks have used a season-high, four-game win streak to climb back into the playoff picture of the phone-booth tight Western Conference.
Vancouver’s 32-24-8 record gives them 72 points, leaving them tied with Nashville for seventh place. Just seven points separates sixth place Minnesota (73 points) from 12th place Columbus (66 points).
The Canucks are a team that struggles to score goals and relies on strong defence and the goaltending of Roberto Luongo to win games.
Nonis said that won’t change.
“We’re not going to turn into a team that is going to score five goals a night,” he said. “We are going to have to take care of our own end and we’re going to have to score by committee.”
Canuck captain Markus Naslund was asked if Vancouver has enough talent to go deep in the playoffs.
“I hope so,” he said. “I think we’re going to give it our best. Who knows where that might take us.”
Luongo didn’t seem upset that Nonis didn’t deal for more offence.
“If the right deal would have been there he would have done it,” said Luongo. “We are comfortable with the guys we have in this locker room.”
Nonis said he had been talking to Washington about Cooke for “about 45 days.” Cooke, who is earning US$1.525 million, becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1 while Pettinger has another year left on his deal at $1.1 million.
“If we were going to move Matt Cooke I wanted to find a player who we’d get for more than the next month or two,” said Nonis. “I was trying to find somebody we thought could help us for the rest of the year but also be around next year.”
Cooke learned of the trade before the Canucks practice Tuesday and left the arena without speaking to reporters.
Later, in a telephone conference call, he was asked about his relationship with coach Alain Vigneault.
“I like Alain as a person,” Cooke said. “Him and I had some issues and maybe didn’t see quite eye to eye.”
Vigneault denied any rift with Cooke.
“I really enjoyed coaching him,” said Vigneault.
Pettinger said he’s seen his ice time drop since Bruce Boudreau took over as Washington’s head coach.
“We sort of butted heads a little,” said Pettinger. “Some coaches get along with certain players and some coaches don’t.
“I know I haven’t played unbelievable hockey this year. I know my potential is there and I have proven it in the past. I’m hoping the change of scenery will sort of ignite me.”
Pettinger, 27, was picked 43rd overall by Washington in the 2000 draft. The six-foot-one, 210-pound Edmonton native, who grew up in Victoria, has two goals and five assists in 56 games this year. He also is minus-11 and has 25 penalty minutes.
Cooke, 29, has spent his entire career in Vancouver after being chosen 144th overall in the 1997 draft. The gritty five-foot-11, 205-pound forward is an agitator on the ice. He has the ability to get under an opponent’s skin but has a habit of skating away from a scrum he has instigated.
The Belleville, Ont., native has seven goals and nine assists in 61 games. He also has 64 penalty minutes and is minus-4.
Cooke’s best NHL season was 2002-03 when he had 15 goals and 42 points.
The emergence of Alex Burrows as a hard-nosed player who can rough up the opposition and score the occasional goal made Cooke expendable.