Canucks retain RFA Bernier four days after acquiring him

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis already tried to sign a young forward away from St. Louis with an offer sheet this summer, so he wasn't surprised the Blues tried take away one of his players.

The Canucks retained Steve Bernier on Tuesday by quickly matching the one-year $2.5 million offer sheet the 23-year-old forward signed with St. Louis. It came exactly a week after the Blues matched Vancouver's three-year, $7.5-million offer sheet for 24-year-old forward David Backes.

Asked if the move was retaliatory, Gillis laughed and said he had "the utmost respect for Blues management."

Told he didn't sound overly sincere, Gillis said: "Quid pro quo is what it is. We were aggressive and they've been aggressive. ... We had been made aware it was coming and they knew we were going to match it right away."

It appears the Canucks had little choice.

After acquiring Bernier from Buffalo four days earlier in exchange for a third-round pick in the 2009 draft and a second-round selection in 2010, the Canucks would've only received a second-round pick in 2009 from the Blues had they chosen to let Bernier leave.

Vancouver had seven days to decide, but responded within two hours.

"It's probably more than what we would have optimally wanted to pay, but it is what it is," said Gillis.

He said he'd been talking with Bernier's agent, Gilles Lupien, about a longer contract for the restricted free agent, and would continue to do so on Jan. 1, 2009, the earliest date allowed for a player who signed an offer sheet.

Bernier, who averaged 15 goals his first three NHL seasons, split last year between San Jose and Buffalo, combining for 16 goals and 32 points in 76 games.

"We're really happy with Steve Bernier, a player that we went after aggressively in a trade and are very pleased to have," Gillis said.