- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 14, 2001

With some last-minute maneuvering before the trade deadline, the Washington Capitals yesterday acquired the large center they had been looking for, a young wing with plenty of potential and a healthy defenseman who can step right in and play.

Coming to the Caps from Montreal are center Trevor Linden and right wing Dainius Zubrus; already in town was defenseman Jason Marshall, obtained from Anaheim. Marshall did not play against his former teammates last night but skated warm-ups in a Caps jersey.

In order to acquire those three players, the Caps sent forwards Richard Zednik and Jan Bulis to Montreal and defenseman Alexei Tezikov to Anaheim.

More than anything, size appeared to be a key factor in the deals. Zednik and Bulis are both 6 feet, about 200 pounds; Marshall is the smallest of the incoming players at 6-2, 200. Linden is 6-4, 211, while Zubrus is 6-4, 224.

Size is critical because of what Washington will face in the playoffs from Eastern Conference opponents. For instance, the smallest player on Pittsburgh's first line is Jaromir Jagr at 6-2, 235. And Philadelphia doesn't hire centers who can't dunk.

"I don't think any player wants to be traded, that's always a difficult situation, but every player wants to be in the playoffs and be a part of a team like Washington," Linden said.

Linden was the Vancouver captain when the Canucks took the New York Rangers to seven games before losing the 1994 Stanley Cup and had 12 goals and 13 assists in 24 games. Without question, Linden's playoffs stats (30 goals, 50 assists in 79 games) played a huge part in the Caps' decision to acquire him.

"Trevor can play 5-on-5, 4-on-4, take faceoffs, kill penalties," said Caps general manager George McPhee, who was the Canucks' assistant general manager during the '94 Cup run. "At 5-on-5, he's a very well-rounded player."

But the center did not come cheap. He will make $3.5 million this season, putting him second in the team's payroll structure. McPhee hinted that Montreal was picking up part of that salary. Linden will make $8.5 million over the next two seasons.

The acquisition of Linden, however, leaves the Caps with a glut at center. Adam Oates, understandably, is not movable. Behind him are Andrei Nikolishin, Jeff Halpern and Trent Whitfield. Obviously, one of them is going to be a wing.

Zubrus won't be 23 until June but is in his fifth NHL season and observers feel that is part of the problem why he has yet to reach his potential. Drafted 15th overall in 1996, he played only seven games in junior before being rushed into the NHL without a chance to develop. He is still trying to catch up but had 12 goals and 24 points in 49 games this season.

"The Caps don't get the respect they deserve," Zubrus said. "They've been able to really put the pieces together. After you play them, you have a whole lot more respect. Washington is so good in all areas."

Bulis and Zednik were both Caps draftees and popular with fans. But Zednik, while flashy, had trouble playing as part of a unit and was inconsistent. Bulis had been considered a top prospect but seemed to spend more time rehabbing injuries he missed 23 games this season alone than playing.

"Bulis asked to be traded twice in the last week," McPhee said. Bulis usually started games with spots on offensive lines, but ended up either on the fourth line or riding the bench.

McPhee admitted Zednik "was really hurt" when he found out he had been traded. "I really liked him," the general manager said, but the Canadiens insisted he be part of the package or Linden was going to stay in Montreal.

The need to get Marshall or somebody like him was paramount. The Caps have suddenly gone through a rash of injuries, many of them involving defenders. Dmitri Mironov (back surgery) and Ken Klee (concussion) have both been out recently, leaving the Caps with six healthy men on the blue line. Marshall gives them eight with Klee back last night (Mironov is out for the season).

Marshall played for coach Ron Wilson in Anaheim for three seasons and is a stay-at-home defenseman. He was obtained for a fourth round pick this June and Tezikov, who has been a major disappointment for the Caps this season.

In another deal, the Caps swapped minor leaguers with Philadelphia, sending center Matt Herr to the Flyers in exchange for Dean Melanson, a defenseman who was assigned to Portland to take Tezikov's spot.

Eric Lindros?

"We never talked to Philadelphia," McPhee said.

Said Flyers GM Bobby Clarke: "I never talked to Detroit or Washington."

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