Will red-hot Canucks make a move for big-name forward before deadline?

VANCOUVER – Olli Jokinen of the Florida Panthers and Brad Richards of the Tampa Bay Lightning were the big names linked to the Vancouver Canucks on the eve of the NHL’s 3 p.m. ET trade deadline.

Whether those rumours become reality is what remains to be seen.

Canucks GM Dave Nonis, who did not speak to the media on Monday, has long maintained that he wanted to possibly add a top-six forward – especially a centre – if the price was right before the deadline. And he said last week at the GM meetings in Naples, Fla., that he wasn’t interested in making a deal for a big-name rental player, that if he did make a splash it would be for a player under contract past this season.

While it’s not clear how seriously the Canucks were pursuing either Jokinen or Richards, they both fit the bill of what Nonis had been talking about. They are both top centres and they’re both under contract past this season.

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Richards, 28, has three more seasons on his deal at $7.8 million per season while Jokinen, 29, has two more – $5.25 million next season and $5.5 million 2009-10.

If Nonis doesn’t pull the trigger for a big name, his team has shown of late that they can win with what they’ve got. The Canucks are 6-1-3 in their last 10 games, sitting only two points away from first place in the Northwest Division and the third seed in the Western Conference. On the other hand, they’re only three points ahead of the ninth-place Phoenix Coyotes in the Western Conference.

Centre Brendan Morrison could return in mid-March after missing most of the season while recovering from wrist surgery. He’ll be a major boost. But Nonis was looking for offensive help even before Morrison went down in mid-December.