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Canucks acquire center Smolinski, defenseman Sopel

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -The Vancouver Canucks acquired center Bryan Smolinski from Chicago and defenseman Brent Sopel from Los Angeles in separate trades on Monday.

"This was more about trying to add some depth and give our team the best chance we possibly could," Canucks general manager Dave Nonis said. "Both players have been very productive this year."

Vancouver sent a second-round pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft to Chicago for Smolinski, a 14-year NHL veteran who was second on the Blackhawks in scoring with 37 points.

"I'm ecstatic about it," said Smolinski, who is expected to play on a line with Vancouver captain Markus Naslund, a former teammate in Pittsburgh.

Smolinski also played with Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo when they were with the New York Islanders.

The only downside about parting ways with the 13th-place Blackhawks for Smolinski will be leaving his wife and three young children - ages 6, 4 and 6 months - behind in Chicago.

"It's going to be tough on my family but to have a chance play on a great team and to hopefully fulfill a lot of the expectations this team has. I'll do that in any way, and I'm ecstatic to do that," he said.

Smolinski has 619 points in 972 regular season games with six teams, and 45 points in 99 playoff games. The 35-year-old center can play the power play or kill penalties, and led the Blackhawks in the faceoff circle, winning 51 per cent of his draws this season.

"We've talked a long time about getting more depth at center," said Nonis, who lost third-line center Ryan Kesler for the rest of the regular season after hip surgery in late January. "Bryan has a great deal of experience, he's having a good year and he's a good puck mover, and I think he gives the coaching staff a lot of different options."

The Canucks also sent a second-round pick in either the 2007 or 2008 draft, and a fourth-round pick in 2008 to the Kings for Sopel, who was originally drafted by Vancouver in the sixth round in 1995 and played for the Canucks from 1998-04.

"I'm very excited, my family is very excited, we never wanted to leave Vancouver in the first place," Sopel said. "I love the city and I love the team."

Sopel, 30, had four goals and 19 assists in 44 games with the Kings this season. He has 176 points in 414 career NHL games, and had his best season with the Canucks in 2003-04, when he had 10 goals and 32 assists. It was also his last season in the playoffs. Sopel signed with the New York Islanders before last season and was sent to the Kings at the 2006 trade deadline.

"It's a playoff spot," Sopel said of being dealt from last-place Los Angeles to the Northwest Division-leading Canucks. "That's what we play for and it's been a while since I've been in the playoffs."

Sopel and Smolinski will both be unrestricted free agents this summer. Both are also expected to play for the Canucks at St. Louis on Tuesday night.

To clear room under the salary cap, the Canucks put Kesler on the long-term injured list. They also waived center Marc Chouinard earlier in the day.

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