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Mats Sundin's solid play of late has helped the Canucks climb to fifth place in the Western Conference. ((Ian Jackson/Getty Images))

A lot of NHL general managers are expected to wait until March 4 to make a big trade to shore up their teams as the NHL season enters the home stretch.

Vancouver GM Mike Gillis, on the other hand, made his big move back in December, long before next week's trade deadline, when he signed unrestricted free agent Mats Sundin to a one-year deal.

The former Toronto Maple Leafs captain had a slow start to his career in Vancouver, and the team didn't exactly flourish when he first took to the ice with his new teammates — the Canucks lost 10 of their 12 games in January.

But the Swede has rediscovered his scoring touch and his solid play of late has helped the Canucks climb to fifth place in the Western Conference.

The addition of Sundin was Gillis's "big move," and with that out of way, the Vancouver GM expects to have a quiet day at the office on March 4.

"From my perspective, the pursuit of him was absolutely critical to how we made decisions going forward," Gillis told reporters this week. "The fact that he came to play for us, that made about the biggest change in our philosophy. We now have four high-quality centre-icemen. If you include Pavol Demitra, we have five.

"In our top six forward group, we have four guys that are capable of playing centre. It's really changed the dynamic of our team."

Gillis believes that the addition of Sundin also helped solidify the Canucks.

Looking ahead

"It's presented much less of an impetus to do a whole lot at the trade deadline. So we're going to take the next week and we're going to continue to watch our team play," Gillis stated.

"If something really good comes our way, we'll act on it. If it doesn't, we won't."

That said, Gillis isn't averse to making a deal, especially if it provides the club depth in defence or at the checking centre position, now that Ryan Kesler is playing on wing next to Sundin.

Should one of the Canucks' tops stars get injured between now and March 4, Gillis might be more apt to make a trade.

"When we have a healthy team, we've got a good team that we're very confident in," Gillis said. "Obviously, if there's a major injury [before March 4] we'll have to try and do our best to overcome that and do what we have to do to continue to be competitive."

Looking past March 4, his big task is to sign unrestricted free agents Henrik and Daniel Sedin, the team's top two scorers this season, to new contracts.

The Canucks GM is still negotiating with the Swedish twins, but is confident they will be back in Vancouver at the start of the 2009-10 campaign.

"We've got a lot of common ground. They want to stay and we want to keep them," Gillis revealed. "I think for both parties, it's really a matter of evaluating where the salary cap is going to go and how we're going to manage the team best and how they can be the most effective players.

"I'm hopeful and confident we can get them signed."