VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Canucks were busy right before the NHL Trade Deadline on Wednesday, but the transaction announced wasn't the one most expected.
The Canucks sent depth defenseman Raphael Diaz to the New York Rangers in exchange for a fifth-round pick, but hung onto center Ryan Kesler despite widespread speculation he would be dealt.
Vancouver general manager Mike Gillis refused several times to get into specifics, or even talk about Kesler in particular despite a report from TSN's Darren Dreger that as many as six teams were interested in the 2011 Selke Trophy-winning center. The strongest speculation involved the Pittsburgh Penguins, including a report in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that had center Brandon Sutter, two picks in the 2014 NHL Draft, and one of two defensive prospects offered up.
"We entertained multiple offers on multiple situations today, and none of them fit our expectations or our long-term needs," Gillis said. "None of them really fit that vision. We have very high expectations in Vancouver. Our fans have very high expectations, and none of the opportunities fit with our expectations today."
Gillis believes there will be more opportunities in the summer, when both the Canucks and other teams have more to spend under a rising salary cap.
"This time of year is very unique, especially this year with limited (salary) cap space, and I think moving forward players under contract are extremely valuable provided the contract is reasonable," he said.
Kesler, who leads the Canucks with 21 goals, has two years left after this one on a six-year contract with a $5 million salary cap charge.
Kesler has 39 points in 63 games and leads NHL forwards in average ice time at 22:18, playing on the top power play and penalty kill in Vancouver. He also has a no-trade clause but denied talk he asked for a trade at the start of this season.
Instead he remains on a Canucks team fighting to make the playoffs with one win in the past 11 games to fall to 11th in the Western Conference. Vancouver is two points behind the Dallas Stars, who currently hold the second wild-card berth in the Stanley Cup Playoff race, but the Stars have played two fewer games.
The Canucks are in Dallas on Thursday, but Gillis said he never considered adding offense to a team that has eight goals in the past eight games and was shut out 1-0 by the now ninth-place Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday night.
"We didn't see giving up draft picks or prospects," Gillis said. "We've been in that position before, the prices are always high around this time, and we just didn't feel that was part of our long-range plan."
The question will be why the Canucks didn't take advantage of those higher prices and move Kesler now. Gillis refuted a Tribune-Review report that ownership held up a deal with the Penguins, saying they were involved but did not turn a deal down.
Now they'll have to wait until the summer to try and make another one.
"We're going to have additional cap space and more flexibility, so we'll wait and see who is available and what the costs are on July 1," Gillis said. "We feel confident we are going to be in a good position, but there has to be players available."