- The Washington Times - Monday, February 28, 2011

With the Washington Capitals struggling to recapture last year’s on-ice performance, Capitals General Manager George McPhee made a splash at this year’s trade deadline, landing both New Jersey Devils center Jason Arnott and Florida Panthers defenseman Dennis Wideman in separate deals Monday.

The Capitals acquired Arnott in exchange for center David Steckel and a second-round pick in 2012. While Arnott is an unrestricted free agent this summer, Steckel still has two years left on his current deal.

“We’ve got guys that have been around a long time and specifically with Arnott he’s been a captain of an NHL team, he’s won a Cup and those kinds of intangibles I think are something we want in the room like we had when we picked up Fedorov [in 2008,]” McPhee told reporters.

Since the beginning of the season, the Capitals have struggled to fill the role of second-line center, using Tomas Fleischmann, Marcus Johansson and Mathieu Perreault in the role. But with the 36-year-old Arnott, the Capitals get a player who can balance Washington’s offense and also has a Stanley Cup ring, which he won as a member of the Devils in 2000.

“I’m at the end of my career,” Arnott told the Star-Ledger of Newark after waiving his no-trade clause to come to Washington. “I want a chance at another Stanley Cup. I think Washington has a good potential to be a Stanley Cup championship team.”

Like the Devils, Arnott has struggled this year, scoring just 13 goals and 11 assists with New Jersey, although he is just two seasons removed from a career-high 33 goals he scored with the Nashville Predators. He also has spent time with the Edmonton Oilers and the Dallas Stars.

Steckel, who has 11 points in 57 games with Washington this season, earned some notoriety for his hit on the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sidney Crosby in the Winter Classic.

Wideman, who had 9 goals and 24 assists in 61 games with the Panthers this year, was dealt for Washington’s third-round pick in the 2011 draft and prospect Jake Hauswirth. He also has a connection with Dale Hunter, who has his number hanging in the Verizon Center rafters as one of four retired by the Capitals.

“My first reaction was excitement,” Wideman told reporters via a conference call. “I’ve played a lot against Washington … I’ve heard so many great things about the organization from my junior coach, Dale Hunter.”

“Everybody knows what kind of player Dale was and what he meant to the franchise,” Wideman said when asked about what Hunter had told him about the Capitals. “[He had] just positive things to say about the franchise … I had the pleasure of playing for Dale for three years, and playing for him got me to where I am today.”

McPhee also told reporters that he consulted with Hunter before acquiring Wideman, and the retired Caps’ great said of Wideman he “would block a shot with his face if he has to win a game.” That endorsement was good enough for the Capitals to make the deal.

Wideman is a seven-year NHL veteran who also has spent time with the St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins during his career, notching a career-best 50 points with Boston in 2008-09. The defenseman also has one more year left on a four-year, $15.75 million contract extension he signed with the Bruins in 2008.

“I don’t think we could’ve made a better defensive pickup than that,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He’s a really good defenseman; he plays lots of minutes.”

“Their team is a little bit different [from Florida], with the firepower they have,” Wideman said of his new team. “I’m going to help out wherever I can and pass the puck to [Nicklas] Backstrom and [Alex] Ovechkin.”

Wideman also added that despite hearing trade rumors involving his name, Washington wasn’t one of the destinations he thought he might be going, and that he was excited to be heading to the nation’s capital.

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