- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 20, 2002

The Washington Capitals yesterday caught the Philadelphia Flyers with a major manpower shortage and made Bob Clarke and his organization pay dearly. But it also cost the Capitals, with the club sacrificing arguably the best forward who has ever played for the team and possibly a shot at making the playoffs.
The Caps traded center Adam Oates to Philadelphia 90 minutes before yesterday's 3 p.m. trading deadline for Maxime Ouellet, an outstanding young goaltending prospect, and the Flyers' first-, second- and third-round picks in this June's draft.
Earlier in the day Washington claimed veteran forward Benoit Hogue off waivers from the Boston Bruins.
But in the process of acquiring Ouellet and the Flyers' draft picks, the Caps may have ended their already slim prospects of making the playoffs. Before last night's games the Caps were five points out of the last playoff spot and had 13 games remaining. But eight of the 13 are on the road, where the team has had little success this season, making a postseason bid razor thin even before the trading deadline.
"Even if Adam was here it might have been difficult to make the playoffs," said general manager George McPhee, acknowledging the obvious. "It doesn't mean we're conceding anything. If you do the math it's very difficult sometimes to overcome these spreads. Once you get past the three-quarter pole, five-to-six points is hard to overcome. It can happen but it's hard."
The problem all season long has been defense but with the trade, offense also becomes a major concern. It had taken months to find a center that could take advantage of Jaromir Jagr's incredible scoring gifts and Oates finally filled the void after several false starts. Between them, the pair had scored 10 goals and 25 points in their last 10 games and there is no guarantee Oates' replacement, whomever that may be, will be able to step in and make a difference.
McPhee confirmed that he had been contacted about the availability of Jagr but trading the right wing "wasn't something we were doing."
"Dallas was in on the [Pavel] Bure thing but he ended up in New York," McPhee said. "Somebody in Dallas said they still wanted a marquee guy, what about Jagr? People called."
McPhee also maintained last night that there had been no intention of trading the 39-year-old Oates, who will probably enter the Hockey Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. But the Flyers Monday night lost two of their four centers, Jeremy Roenick and Keith Primeau, to injury, and needed at least one top-flight replacement immediately. Philadelphia is locked in a tight struggle with Boston for the Eastern Conference championship and had no time to haggle with the deadline pressing.
"The injuries changed the dynamics for them," McPhee said. "They called early [yesterday] morning and were aggressive all day. They did a real nice job of making an offer we couldn't refuse."
Even Oates admitted that.
"George told me it was a deal he couldn't refuse and I think they got a lot for me," he said yesterday. "I've got mixed feelings about the thing. It's always hard to say goodbye, to leave the guys but obviously Philadelphia is a very famous team and I think every player at some point has wanted to don the Flyer uniform. I'm excited and at the same time I'm sad."
It will be the fifth NHL team Oates has played for in a career that has taken him into the all-time top 20 in points with 1,347. He was only the eighth player in league history to amass 1,000 assists in a career and has gained a reputation as one of the most gifted playmakers in league history.
But he will be 40 by training camp next season, one of the key reasons the Caps were reluctant to give him a contract extension this season. He has also been an outspoken critic of management to the extent he was stripped of his captaincy last summer. But at 39 he was leading the Caps in scoring, leading the league in assists and was fourth overall in the NHL scoring parade, factors that made him extremely desirable to the suddenly center-poor Flyers and a half-dozen other teams.
What the Caps end up with is a 21-year-old goalie from Beauport, Quebec, who made it very difficult for the Flyers to send him to the minors after training camp last fall.
Ouellet was picked 22nd overall by the Flyers in 1999 and this season was 16-13-8 with a goals-against of 2.72 for the Philadelphia Phantoms of the American Hockey League.
The Caps also end up with a bumper crop of draft picks for this summer three in the first round (their own, Vancouver's and Philadelphia's), three in the second round, two in the third, two in the fourth and one each in rounds five through nine.
"We're wide open now to do a lot of different things," McPhee said.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide