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Canucks deal for centre Smolinski from Chicago, re-acquire defenceman Sopel

Vancouver landed centre Bryan Smolinski from the Chicago Blackhawks for a conditional second-round draft pick, then re-acquired former Canuck defenceman Brent Sopel from the Los Angeles Kings for conditional second-and fourth-round draft picks.

"I think our depth is much better, much improved," general manager Dave Nonis said during a telephone 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."

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."

Smolinski, 35, is a reliable two-way centre who had 14 goals and 23 points in 62 games for the Blackhawks. The 14-year veteran, who also becomes a free agent July 1, has also scored 20 goals and 25 assists in 99 playoff games.

Nonis had said he wanted more depth at centre.

"Brian is a guy with a great deal of experience," he said. "He's having a good year. He's a good puck mover. He gives the coaching staff a lot of different options."

Sopel said he's glad to be leaving the Kings, who are last in the NHL's Western Conference, for the Canucks, who currently sit third in the Western Conference.

"It's a playoff spot, that's what we play for and it's been awhile 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."

Earlier on Monday, the Canucks waived centre Marc Chouinard. Vancouver also moved centre Ryan Kesler, who is recovering from hip surgery, onto the injured reserve list.

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 Toledo, Ohio, native has had stops in Pittsburgh, New York Islanders, Los Angels Kings, Ottawa Senators and Chicago.


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