By Leslie Silvey (District Sports Page)
By now everyone knows that GM George McPhee decided to stand pat with his current roster at the trade deadline on Monday, rather than “sell the farm” of talented youngsters and upcoming prospects for a potential rental who might help the team in a playoff push.
It’s certainly shaping up to be an extremely tight race to the finish - as of this writing, the Caps are only 3 points behind Florida and Winnipeg trails Washington by one measly point. This year’s trade deadline turned out to be much ado about nothing with rumors of blockbusting trades rapidly dissipating as the clock ticked closer to 3 p.m.
While Caps fans waited with baited breath to see what, if anything, the team would do, several of our conference mates did do a bit of wheeling and dealing right up to the deadline. The Florida Panthers haven’t made the playoffs in 12 long seasons and they are fighting tooth and nail (make that, claw) to make sure that drought ends in 2012. Meanwhile, the rejuvenated Jets are still enjoying their hockey honeymoon while giving their hometown fans plenty to cheer about in the battle for the eighth seed.
The Lightning made quite a few moves – they are currently five points out of the playoffs and without the services of Vinny Lecavalier indefinitely. They picked up feisty veteran defenseman Mike Commodore, recognized throughout the League for his out-of-control curly locks. The Bolts were focused on their blue line as they also picked up Keith Aulie from Toronto and Brian Lee from Ottawa. In the words of Craig Laughlin, Aulie is quite a “big rig” who adds more size and grit to the defense corps, but Steve Yzerman had to let go of prized prospect Carter Ashton in exchange.
Florida did not make any actual moves on deadline day but acquired a pair of forwards over the weekend. Forward Wojtek Wolski was acquired from the Eastern leading New York Rangers on Friday and has already contributed a goal and an assist in less than a week with his new club. The Cats also picked up center Jerred Smithson from the Nashville Predators.
Meanwhile, in hockey-crazed Winnipeg, the Jets moved a defenseman while acquiring a new face for their blue line. Former New Jersey Devil, Johnny Oduya, was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for a second- and third-round pick in the 2013 draft. Traveling in the other direction was Grant Clitsome, who was traded from the Columbus Blue Jackets. He previously played under current Jets’ coach Claude Noel in Columbus.
Like the Capitals, the Carolina Hurricanes stayed the course with no trades going down on the big day.
With no huge names dealt within the conference, we’ll be seeing some old, familiar faces in the sprint to the finish line. The Caps face Tampa Bay two more times this season, while they’ll meet the Jets twice in March. And of course we expect a physical game as they finish out the last week of the regular season against the Panthers on April 5.