Matt Niskanen was traded by the Washington Capitals to the Philadelphia Flyers for Radko Gudas on Friday in an exchange of defensemen.
It is the first time the Capitals and Flyers have made a trade involving two full-time NHL players since Washington entered the NHL in 1974.
Niskanen won the Stanley Cup with the Capitals last season. He had 25 points (eight goals, 17 assists) and was minus-3 in 80 games this season, his fifth with Washington, after he was plus-24 and plus-20 the previous two seasons. The 32-year-old has 323 points (64 goals, 259 assists) in 881 NHL games with the Dallas Stars, Pittsburgh Penguins and Capitals.
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"I like their team," Niskanen said of the Flyers. "I've always said they have dangerous people. They've added young players with a lot of promise, [they're] hard to play against. I know they missed the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs [this season] but I remember saying to a teammate they should be doing better than they are because they have good people, have dangerous people, talented forwards, a young group of [defensemen] that can really play. They're on the upswing. It was hard to play against the Flyers. Good organization, they play the game hard, they play to win. Lot of promise there. I'm excited about that."
Niskanen has two years remaining at $5.75 million per season on a seven-year contract he signed July 1, 2014, to join Washington as a free agent.
"We're very happy to have Matt join the Flyers," Philadelphia general manager Chuck Fletcher said. "He is a veteran right-shot defenseman who has a track record of success as a Stanley Cup champion. Having played heavy minutes in all situations throughout his career, Matt will be a steadying influence to our talented and young group of defensemen."
Ivan Provorov, 22, has led the Flyers in average ice time in each of his three NHL seasons, including 25:07 in 82 games this season. Travis Sanheim, 23, was third among Flyers defensemen at 19:34 per game. Also expected to compete for roster spots next season are 23-year-olds Philippe Myers and Samuel Morin.
"I think they have two or three young studs that are offensively talented, gifted, have good instincts, can move the puck well, assist in the offense," Niskanen said. "At this point in my career, in talking with [Fletcher], my job is going to be a good partner for someone. It'll be up to the coaches to decide what my role is, and I'll fill that the best I can. I envision myself being a good partner for one of those young studs and trying to give them confidence to do the things they do well, and I'll be right beside them.
"I think I can help one of these guys, maybe a couple of them, at different points in the year to keep getting better, do the things they do well, play a more rounded game, play some hard minutes, produce. I think I can fit in well with these young kids that can skate and move the puck. It'll be good for our team. I think I'll fit in well.
"I see myself as a real good support piece for one of these young guys that is really talented, and maybe together we can be a really formidable pair with some good balance of puck moving, defending well, using our legs, adding to the offense, all that good stuff. I think I'll be a good part of a real good pair depending on who they put me with."
Video: Caps deal Niskanen to Flyers in exchange for Gudas
Gudas had 20 points (four goals, 16 assists) and was plus-6 with 63 penalty minutes in 77 games this season. The 29-year-old has 105 points (24 goals, 81 assists) in 416 NHL games with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Flyers.
He signed a multiyear contract on June 23, 2016, to remain with the Flyers. Washington said Philadelphia will retain 30 percent of Gudas' salary and that the contract will expire after next season.
"We would like to thank Matt for all of his contributions to our organization for the past five seasons," Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said. "Matt is a consummate professional and was a big part of our success. We wish him and his family all the best moving forward.
"We feel this move provides us with financial flexibility as we look for additional ways to strengthen our team. In addition, we are pleased to welcome Radko to our organization. Radko is a good defensive defenseman that plays a competitive, physical game."