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Devils feel Steckel quality return for Arnott

by Mike G. Morreale /
New Jersey Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello was seeking the perfect fit after pending unrestricted free-agent center Jason Arnott waived his no-movement clause for a possible trade to a Stanley Cup contender.

The reason being, Lamoriello didn't want to tinker with the magical ride his team has taken during its second-half surge to earning a possible playoff berth. The Devils are on a 17-2-2 run over their last 21 games and still have an outside shot at making the playoffs with a nine-point deficit to overcome in their final 20 games.

In the end, Washington Capitals GM George McPhee made it possible when he offered perennial faceoff specialist David Steckel and a 2012 second-round draft pick for the 36-year-old Arnott.

"We felt that in order for us to trade Jason Arnott, we had to bring a player into our lineup that would not miss a beat in what our team can bring, the type of team we have," Lamoriello said during a conference call. "It had to be a perfect fit because we don't want to lose anything with what has been happening. We also felt that we should get future (in return) because, at this time, it's important to get as much as you possibly can. If we didn't get this type of transaction, we would not have made the transaction."

While the Devils shed salary in 2010-11 with the move since Steckel's cap hit in each of the next two seasons is $1.1 million -- Arnott earned $4.5 million this year -- Steckel is signed through the 2012-13 campaign. The icing on the cake for Lamoriello, however, was the future draft pick.

The 6-foot-5, 217-pound Steckel, who will turn 29 on March 15, had 5 goals and 11 assists in 57 games this season with the Capitals while winning 63.7 percent of his faceoffs.

"He leads the league in faceoff percentage and has done so over the last couple of years," Lamoriello said. "We go way back with him. We interviewed him as a junior (hockey player) and we knew him in college. We know of him what he can bring. We certainly think he has something to offer in all situations and is used in all situations, especially when the game is on the line."

Lamoriello said he was contacted by a few other teams with offers that included future prospects or a combination of different draft picks, but he wanted a player in return that could assist his team immediately.

"It had to be a player that we would have considered to do one-on-one," Lamoriello said. "We looked at age, the contract, what was left on the contract, what he brings in key situations, and it had to be a fit in the quality of a person and Steckel fit all of the key categories. And we were able to get a future in it. Nothing has changed today with our philosophy and thought process of where we're at from yesterday or the day before."

Arnott, who was traded to the Devils by Nashville on June 19, 2010, in exchange for forward Matt Halischuk and a 2011 second-round pick, produced 13 goals, 24 points and a minus-9 rating in 62 games as a third-line center.

Lamoriello feels the addition of Steckel makes his team even better, particularly down the middle with Travis Zajac and Patrik Elias.

"There's no question what Elias and Zajac bring at center and what those two lines brought," he said. "We wanted to make sure we had a third line center that wouldn't miss a beat and would be a defensive responsibility-type of player that could add to the leaders and young players we've had in those positions. We feel this could strengthen that (third) line more than weaken it."

Arnott had been centering Mattias Tedenby and Vladimir Zharkov. Steckel, who should be able to slip right into that role, will be in the lineup Wednesday when the Devils play host to the Tampa Bay Lightning at Prudential Center.

"With David's style, he'll adjust quickly," Lamoriello said. "I certainly feel there will be no issues with his personality or character. He played in college (Ohio State) with Rod Pelley for three years. I think Rod has been in communication with him already. I asked Rod after the transaction a little about it, and he couldn't have spoken more highly about him.

"I hadn't checked, but (former Devils forward) Ben Hankinson is (Steckel's) player rep. Ben gave me a quality endorsement -- saying he's a Devil and Jacques (Lemaire) will love him."

In other news, Lamoriello said Zach Parise will be examined at the Cleveland Clinic by Dr. Anthony Miniaci, the surgeon who performed arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, on March 2.

"He'll be seeing the physician and then we'll have knowledge of exactly where he's at and what he can do and when he can skate," Lamoriello said. He added defenseman Bryce Salvador (cochlear concussion) will not play this season.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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