Canucks load up before deadline

The Vancouver Canucks acquired centre Bryan Smolinski from the Chicago Blackhawks and re-acquired former defenceman Brent Sopel on Monday, the eve of the NHL trade deadline.

Panthers forward Gary Roberts has waived his no-trade clause to sign with Pittsburgh: report

The Vancouver Canucks added some depth and experience to their forward corps and brought back a familiar face to the blue-line Monday.

The Canucks grabbed veteran centre Bryan Smolinski in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks, then re-acquired defenceman Brent Sopel from the Los Angeles Kings on the eve of the NHL trade deadline.

The Canucks paid a small price for their two new additions. They gave up a conditional second-round draft pick for Smolinski and conditional second-and-fourth-round draft picks for Sopel.

In other trade news, Florida Panthers forward Gary Roberts has reportedly waived his no-trade clause in order to sign with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Canadian Press is reporting that the deal will become official on Tuesday morning.

Roberts, 40, wanted to be dealt to either Toronto or Ottawa, but after some reflection decided to join the Penguins and their trio of young stars including Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal.

Roberts is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

Smolinski 'ecstatic' about trade

Smolinski, 36, a two-way centre with strong faceoff skills, is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. He has 14 goals, 23 assists and 37 points in 62 games with the Blackhawks this season.

Though he has to leave his wife and three young children in Chicago, he couldn't help his excitement about joining the Stanley Cup contending Canucks, who currently sit in third place in the Western Conference.

"I'm ecstatic," Smolinski said from Chicago. "To have a chance to play with a great team, and to hopefully fulfill a lot of expectations, I will do that in any way."

Sopel, 30, a seven-year NHL veteran with an offensive upside, gives Vancouver another booming right-handed shot from the point along with Sami Salo. Sopel has four goals and 23 points in 44 games this season.

Canucks general manager Dave Nonis made it known he was looking for an experienced centre and utility blue-liner before Tuesday's league trade deadline and he got his wish with Smolinski, a 13-year NHL veteran, and former Canuck, Sopel.

"I think our depth is much better, much improved," Nonis said on a conference call. "They are both players who were very productive this year."

Nonis, who got both deals done before the wave of action that is expected before Tuesday's 3 p.m. ET deadline, believes Vancouver is ready for a post-season charge.

"We have a team that has steadily improved as the year has gone on," he said. "The players have worked very hard to put themselves in a position where we are more than competitive.

"If you are in that position you have to at least see what you can do to shore up your club."

In order to make room under the salary cap, the Canucks waived forward Marc Chouinard and put Ryan Kesler (hip surgery) to the injured reserve list.

Wings, Flyers, Hawks swing three-way deal

In other moves, the Detroit Red Wings completed a three-way deal to bring in winger Kyle Calder from the Philadelphia Flyers via the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Flyers first sent Calder, who becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1, to Chicago for a third-round draft pick in 2007 and defenceman Lasse Kukkonen. The Hawks then sent Calder to the Wings for winger Jason Williams.

Detroit general manager Ken Holland wanted to adddepth up front as his squad embarks on the post-season and Calder, an unrestricted free agent after the season,fit the bill.

"We like Kyle Calder, we like his grit," Holland told the Canadian Press on Monday night. "We really wanted to get a little grittier heading into the playoffs."

Earlier Monday, the New York Islanders acquired winger Richard Zednik from the Washington Capitals in exchange for a second-round draft choice in 2007.

With files from the Canadian Press