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Deals already done, Canucks spend Tuesday watching others making moves

"There was a couple of things we thought about but nothing we felt made our team better," Nonis said from St. Louis, were the Canucks played the Blues on Tuesday night. The Canucks lone move prior to the trade deadline was to send veteran centre Marc Chouinard, a free agent signing who has been a disappointment this season, to the AHL's Manitoba Moose.

On Monday, Vancouver picked up centre Bryan Smolinski from the Chicago Blackhawks for a conditional second-round draft pick and re-acquired defenceman Brent Sopel from the Los Angeles Kings for conditional second-and fourth-round draft picks.

While neither deal was flashy, they addressed Vancouver's need for a third-line centre and depth on defence. Nonis also refused to give away the future in draft picks and prospects for rental players that could be gone in July.

Nonis still has a first-and second-round pick in this year's draft.

"We could have done other deals, we could have been part of some more significant deals, but at the expense of the future of our team," he said. "We didn't feel we were in the position to do that.

"We felt if we made some additions like the ones we made, we would have a positive impact on our team and give ourselves the chance to win without mortgaging the future."

Nonis waffled when asked if the additions of Smolinski and Sopel were enough to make the Canucks a threat in the playoffs.

"We want to do as well as we can and go as far as we can," he said. "That's going to be predicated on our play.

"For me, if this team plays up to its potential, then that's all you can ask. How far that brings us, I don't know."

After a slow start to the season the Canucks have become one of the NHL's hottest teams.

Heading into Tuesday's game the Canucks were 19-3-4 since Christmas. Their 36-21-5 record had them first in the Northwest Division and the third seed in the Western Conference.

"We have come a fairly long way in a short amount of time," Nonis said. "I think we are going in the right direction. We've added pieces that will help us."

Nonis may have been content to cause a ripple but other Western Conference teams made some splashes at the deadline.

The Detroit Red Wings acquired former Canuck Todd Bertuzzi from Florida, the San Jose Sharks took Bill Guerin from St. Louis and the Dallas Stars obtained defenceman Mattias Norstrom and winger Konstantin Pushkarev from Los Angeles.

Earlier, Nashville showed it was serious about a playoff run by dealing for Peter Forsberg while Calgary picked up defenceman Brad Stuart and forward Wayne Primeau, plus added Craig Conroy.

"They have to do what they think is right for their clubs and the pieces they think will help them," Nonis said.

Last year Nonis dealt away two second-round draft picks, plus third-and fourth-rounders to pick up players as his team fought desperately to make the playoffs.

The Canucks missed the post-season and none of the players Nonis acquired - goaltender Mika Noronen and defenceman Eric Weinrich, Keith Carney or Sean Brown - are still with the team.

"It's a different scenario than last year," said Nonis. "We weren't trying to plug a lot of holes we had seen develop because of injuries.

"This is more about trying to add some depth and give our team the best chance it can have."

Sending Chouinard to the minors helped open up cap room for the Canucks.

The native of Charlesbourg, Que., never turned out to be the player the Canucks wanted after they signed him to a two-year deal worth $US1.1-million a season last July.

The 29-year-old had just two goals and a pair of assists in 42 games.

"I think that we expected more," Nonis said. "I know that Marc expected more."

By sending him to the minors, the Canucks still must pay Chouinard his salary but it doesn't count against Vancouver's salary cap.



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