"We're really happy with what we've acquired. We've addressed specific needs that we had and they're all good, experienced veteran players." -GM George McPhee.
The Washington Capitals -- as expected -- were busy at the trade deadline, acquiring center Jason Arnott from the New Jersey Devils and defenseman Dennis Wideman from their division-rival Florida Panthers. Both moves address positions of need for the Caps that have plagued this team all season.
Arnott, 36, waived a no-trade clause to join the Caps for the stretch run and his contract expires at the end of the season. Arnott told the Newark Star-Ledger:
"I'm at the end of my career. I want a chance at another Stanley Cup. I think Washington has a good potential to be a Cup team."
In exchange for Arnott, the Capitals had to move fan favorite David Steckel and a second round pick in 2012. The Caps 2011 second rounder belongs to Carolina in last season's Joe Corvo deal.
Arnott has 13 goals and 11 assists in 62 games, playing to a minus-9 rating with the Devils this season. He had not scored in the Devils last eight games, a strange coincidence with their 7-1 run during that time frame.
Wideman, 27, is a puck-moving defenseman who had 33 points (nine goals, 24 assists) with Florida this year. He still has another year on his deal and complicates the salary structure, but brings a solid two-way game to D.C.
GM George McPhee surrendered his third round pick in the 2011 draft and ECHL forward Jake Hauswirth to acquire Wideman.
In addition to the waiver wire claim Saturday of winger Marco Sturm (32), the Capitals have added a strong veteran presence to an extremely young NHL locker room. The Caps have been playing with six full-time rookies in positions where playoff teams usually have veteran leaders, and the mixed results have shown why these deals needed to take place.
Centers Marcus Johansson and Mathieu Perreault are both very talented young players, but they've barely combined for as many assists this season than the veteran Arnott brings at the tail end of his lengthy playing career.
Defensemen John Carlson and Karl Alzner are both extremely talented rookies -- but they are still rookies. Neither one have played a season this long, logging this many minutes, in this type of spotlight. Wideman takes some of the heat off these players, especially with Mike Green and Tom Poti's injury status clouding the blue line situation.
All three players acquired bring "two-way" reputations, with Sturm and Wideman expected to provide a boost to the moribund power play which has struggled all season long.
Bottom line: the Caps bring in Arnott, Sturm and Wideman for Steckel, an ECHL forward, and second and third round draft picks in two different years.
"I thought we did really well in that regard," McPhee said. "We did not give away a first round pick, we did not give away any of our "A" prospects."
It's a significant change to this Washington Capitals roster.
No, none of these three players are all-star caliber talent. But they are dependable, NHL veterans in positions where they were relying on rookies.
McPhee explained: "We've got a young group as we all know, and we [acquired] guys that have been around a long time. Especially with Arnott, who's been a captain of an NHL team, he's won a cup, and those kinds of intangibles I think are something that we wanted in the room."
The Caps rolled the dice last off-season not acquiring a legitimate second line center, hoping that Tomas Fleischmann would seize the opportunity. When Flash was dealt to Colorado for Scott Hannan, ending that experiment, the Caps had no other place to turn but 20-year old rookie Johansson and tweener Perreault.
Johansson has had flashes of brilliance, but he is still learning the North American game. Perreault is just too small to play 2C in the NHL. The Caps have -- at least temporarily -- addressed their biggest concern heading into the playoffs.
So no blockbuster at the trade deadline, but McPhee identified and addressed three positions of need for the Capitals without decimating either his NHL roster, nor surrendering any of his top prospects. Whether it's enough to vault the Caps into legitimate contenders will be determined in the weeks to come.
But no one can say McPhee didn't try.
CAPS NOTES: McPhee confirmed that Jay Beagle and D.J. King will remain with the Caps for the rest of the season and will not be reassigned to AHL Hershey this season.
McPhee also noted that Tom Poti and Eric Fehr were placed on Long Term Injured List, retroactive to their last games, and both would be eligible to return when they were healthy. The moves were necessary to make the Capitals compliant with the NHL salary cap with the additions to the team.
Also, McPhee expects the Caps to be very cautious working Mike Green back into the lineup, expecting Green to be out a "couple weeks" after he returns from his grandmother's funeral in Calgary. Green is out of the lineup with a head injury, and McPhee confirmed Green has been suffering headaches since being elbowed in the head by Rangers forward Derek Stepan last week.