VANCOUVER – The St. Louis Blues didn’t get their revenge but they may have forced Vancouver Canuck general manager Mike Gillis to pay a little more than he wanted to get forward Steve Bernier.
The Canucks signed Bernier to a US$2.5-million, one-year contract Tuesday. That came after Bernier, a restricted free agent who the Canucks acquired in a trade Friday, signed an offer sheet with the Blues.
Gillis had no doubt the Blues made the offer to Bernier in retaliation for the Canucks pitching a $7.5-million, three-year deal to St. Louis restricted free agent David Backes.
The Blues matched that offer.
“They made an offer sheet on a player that we traded for and we really liked and we matched it,” Gillis said during a telephone conference call. “We came out very aggressively on July 1. We had done a lot of homework and targeted a player that we liked.
“I guess quid pro quo is what it is. We were aggressive and they’ve been aggressive.”
Gillis was a little more careful when asked about reports the Canucks have offered free-agent Pavol Demitra a $12-million, three-year contract.
“We have had discussions with his agent,” Gillis said. “Nothing has been done so far. We are going to continue those discussions moving forward and we’ll see where we get to.”
Demitra, 33, had 15 goals and 54 points in 68 games last year with the Minnesota Wild.
Gillis admitted the offer from the Blues was more than he originally intended to pay Bernier.
“It may be a little more but in the grand scheme of things, it’s within a range of players,” said Gillis. “It’s probably more than what we would have optimistically wanted to pay but it is what it is.”
Gillis hopes to talk to Bernier about a long-term deal in the new year.
Vancouver acquired the 23-year-old from Buffalo for a second-round draft choice in 2010 and a third-round draft choice in 2009.
The 6-foot-2, 225-pound winger played for San Jose and Buffalo last season, totalling 32 points (16-16).
The Canucks liked Bernier’s size and his youth.
With Bernier signed the Canucks have added four new forwards to the roster including physical player Darcy Hordichuk, defensive specialist Ryan Johnson and playmaker Kyle Wellwood.
Gillis may not be done yet.
“We’re talking to a number of agents currently about different possibilities and a number of teams,” he said. “It’s an ongoing process that we are continuing.”
Gillis is still waiting for free-agent forward Mats Sundin to make a decision on a staggering $20-million, two-year offer.
“We have made an enormous offer to Mats Sundin and are still optimistic about having him here in Vancouver,” said Gillis. “We’ve had ongoing dialogue with his representatives. We really think he is an excellent fit here.
“We are going to stick with it and try and get him signed.”
Even if Sundin rejects the Canucks offer, Gillis thinks young players in the Vancouver system like Mason Raymond, Yannick Hansen and Michael Grabner are “pushing the envelope” to play in the NHL.
On the same day Bernier came to the Canucks, free-agent forward Brendan Morrison signed a $2.75-million, one-year deal with the Anaheim Ducks. Last week captain Markus Naslund signed with the New York Rangers.