- The Washington Times - Monday, February 29, 2016

Brooks Laich, a longtime forward with the Washington Capitals whose role had decreased in recent seasons, was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs just before midnight on Monday in exchange for right wing Daniel Winnik.

Laich, 32, was obtained from the Ottawa Senators in Feb. 2004 and played parts of 12 seasons with the team, making him the longest-tenured professional athlete in Washington. A three-time 20-goal scorer who had a career-high 59 points in the 2009-10 season, Laich had been relegated to a fourth-line role for the Capitals over the last two years after his previous two years had been cut short by injuries.

Joining Laich in the deal were defenseman Connor Carrick, who had spent much of the season with Hershey of the AHL, and a second-round pick in June’s draft. The Capitals picked up Winnik and a fifth-round pick in the draft that originally belonged to the Anaheim Ducks.

Winnik, 30, had four goals and 10 assists for the Maple Leafs this season, returning to a team he originally joined the previous year as a free agent. He spent parts of three seasons with the Phoenix Coyotes before being traded to the Colorado Avalanche, with whom he spent parts of two seasons before being dealt to the San Jose Sharks. He signed with the Anaheim Ducks in 2013, playing there for two seasons.

Daniel is a versatile player who plays with grit and can be used in all situations,” Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said in a statement announcing the move. “This move enables us to add some depth to our forward group and balances our lineup. We would like to thank Brooks for all of his contributions to our organization over the past 10 years. Brooks is a true professional and we wish him all the best in the future.”

The Capitals did not retain any of Laich’s salary in the trade, which figured to be part of any deal considering the left wing counted for $4.5 million against the salary cap for this and next season.

Between the addition of Winnik, who counts for $2.25 million against the salary cap, and the recent move of defenseman John Carlson to long-term injured reserve, the Capitals will enter the trade deadline on Monday with roughly $6.1 million in available annual salary cap room, according to GeneralFanager.com, a salary database.

With the Capitals, Winnik could assume a third- or fourth-line role, though MacLellan said on Thursday, in speaking in depth about the trade deadline, he was pleased with the play of the top nine this season.

He also acknowledged then that there was “a business decision that needs to be made” at some point regarding Laich, whom he scouted in the minor leagues, because of his salary. Laich, who served as one of the Capitals‘ top penalty killers, had just one goal and six assists through 60 games and has not scored since Nov. 5, a span of 48 games.

He had played in 742 games for the team, the eighth-most in franchise history.

“He’s been a good soldier here for a long time, and he’s done well,” MacLellan said on Thursday. “You know, it’s frustrating to see the injuries and the impact it’s had, but it’s part of a pro career, you know? I think we’ve got to respect what he’s done in the organization. He’s played a long time. He’s played here. He’s been loyal to the organization, so I think we have to give him respect for that.”

Carrick, 21, played in three games for the Capitals this season. His most extensive run in the NHL was in 2013-14, when he had one goal and five assists over 34 games.

Shipping out Winnik was the latest in a series of trades made by the Maple Leafs. Toronto, seeking to acquire expiring contracts, traded away Dion Phaneuf earlier this month and dealt Shawn Mattias, Roman Polak and James Reimer in recent days.

Earlier on Sunday, the Capitals exchanged minor-leaguers with the New York Rangers, acquiring Ryan Bourque in exchange for Chris Brown. Bourque, the son of Ray Bourque and brother of Chris Bourque, already playing with the AHL’s Hershey Bears, had been the captain of the Rangers’ affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack, and has only played in one NHL game.

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