The Washington Capitals
were certainly industrious buyers on the final day of trading in the NHL.
Washington General Manager George McPhee made three separate deals for unrestricted free agents in a span of two hours Tuesday, acquiring goalie Cristobal Huet from Montreal in exchange for Anaheim’s second-round pick in 2009, center Sergei Fedorov from Columbus for defensive prospect Ted Ruth and winger Matt Cooke from Vancouver in exchange for winger Matt Pettinger.
Huet (21-12-6, 2.55 goals-against average), an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, could possibly step in and take over for Olaf Kolzig (21-19-6, 3.03 GAA) once acclimated to his new team. The fifth-season goalie, who was 21-12-6 this season with a 2.55 GAA and .916 save percentage in 39 games, was making $2.750 million this season.
Washington, which is currently 11th in the Eastern Conference and five points behind eighth-seeded Philadelphia, already has Kolzig, an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, and Brent Johnson (7-8-2, 2.67 GAA) in the fold. Washington’s 3.05 goals-against average per game, 25th in the League, perhaps forced McPhee to pulling the trigger on the trade. Huet has a pair of shutouts this season with the most recent coming, ironically, against the Capitals, 4-0, on Jan. 29 with 35 saves.
”When I got the call that I had been traded, it was a shock,’’ said Huet, a seventh-round choice of the Los Angeles Kings in 2001. “It was a lot of fun in Montreal and it was a great organization and great city to play for. But it’s time to move on. I would have loved to finish the job here (Montreal), but I guess I didn’t play well in recent weeks.’’
Huet has played in 170 career games in the NHL (72-59-24) and sports a 2.49 GAA and a. 917 save percentage. He posted a 58-39-13 record in 117 career games with the Canadiens, with a 2.53 GAA and a .918 save percentage.
The deal by Canadiens GM Bob Gainey would appear to signify the beginning of the Carey Price era in Montreal. Price, who signed a three-year contract prior to the 2007-08 season, was a first-round pick (fifth overall) of the Canadiens in 2005. In 26 games this season, Price (12-9-3) sports a 2.83 GAA and 91 percent save rate. The move comes at a time when the Canadiens are in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race as the fifth seed with 77 points, two behind the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Gainey obviously feels Price can withstand the rigors of postseason competition in his first season. Last season, Price led the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League to the Calder Cup with an impressive 2.06 GAA and .944 save percentage, becoming the youngest player (19) to win the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as Calder Cup playoff MVP. He spent his junior hockey career playing for the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey, going 30-13-1 with a 2.45 GAA and .917 save percentage in 46 games in 2006-07.
Fedorov, 38, who has nine goals and 28 points in 50 games this season, had two goals and seven assists in eight January games before being sidelined with a concussion. He returned to the lineup Feb. 17 and played four games before suffering a charley horse. Despite being listed as day-to-day, Fedorov certainly gives Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, who lost center Michael Nylander (shoulder surgery) to injury last month, added depth down the middle.
The six-time NHL All-Star, who is in his 17th NHL season, won three Stanley Cups as a member of the Detroit Red Wings (1997, ‘98 and 2002), won the Hart Trophy as the league MVP in 1994 and won the Selke Trophy as the League’s top defensive-forward in 1994 and ‘96. Fedorov has averaged nearly a point per game in his career, with 1,133 points (470 goals, 663 assists) in 1,178 games with Detroit, Anaheim and Columbus. As one of the most decorated Russian-born players in history, he has played in two Olympics, two World Cups, a Canada Cup and three World Junior Championships. In NHL history he ranks 47th in career points (10th among active players), 50th in career goals (12th among active players) and 54th in career assists (13th among active players).
To acquire Fedorov, McPhee parted with Missouri native Ruth, a second-round (46th overall) pick by the Capitals in 2007. Before being drafted, Ruth, 19, played for USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program for two seasons and is currently starring at Notre Dame University.
Cooke, 29, has spent all nine of his NHL seasons in Vancouver and heads to Washington with seven goals and nine assists in 61 games. He is excited to have an opportunity to possibly skate with All-Star left wing Alex Ovechkin.
”He’s an amazing player and I realize the Capitals are making a push to make the playoffs,’’ Cooke said. “It’ll be nice to be playing somewhere where they want me. But I feel fortunate to have played in Vancouver for nine seasons and I’ll remember my time there.’’
Cooke has played in 566 career games and has scored 83 goals and 120 career assists. He has also appeared in 32 career playoff games, scoring eight goals and four assists. Cooke was a sixth-round choice (144th overall) of the Canucks in 1997.
Pettinger, 27, who had two goals and seven points in 56 games this season with Washington, had not scored a goal in his last 28 games. He played seven seasons and established a career-high of 20 goals in 2005-06.
``I don’t know exactly where I’ll fit in in Vancouver, but, hopefully, I’ll have an opportunity to crack a spot among the top nine forwards,’’ Pettinger said.
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.