ARLINGTON, Va. – In danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007, the Washington Capitals added forward Dustin Penner in a deal with the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday, while also trading disgruntled forward Martin Erat to the Phoenix Coyotes.
Penner could be the left wing that the Capitals put on their top line alongside right wing Alex Ovechkin, the NHL’s leading goal scorer, and centre Nicklas Backstrom.
The Capitals began Tuesday in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, one spot away from a post-season berth. The NHL trade deadline is Wednesday, and Washington was expected to try to improve its defence.
Ovechkin tops the NHL with 43 goals, and Backstrom is third with 48 assists. Both entered Tuesday ranked in the league’s top 10 in total points—Ovechkin has 65, Backstrom 60. But Washington’s defence has been a real problem: Only five of the other 29 teams in the NHL have allowed more goals this season.
General manager George McPhee began his manoeuvring a day ahead of the deadline by working on his offence, giving up a fourth-round pick in the next draft for Penner, who amounts to a 20-game rental, essentially. He signed a $2 million, one-year contract last year and can become a free agent this summer.
The draft pick originally belonged to Anaheim, which had given it to Washington in September in a deal that sent forward Mathieu Perreault to the Ducks.
The 31-year-old Penner also has played for the Los Angeles Kings and Edmonton Oilers during his nine NHL seasons. He had 13 goals and 19 assists with the Ducks this season.
“I look forward to coming in,” Penner said, “and hopefully adding something they were looking for.”
Until now, Capitals coach Adam Oates’ best options for a left wing to play with Ovechkin and Backstrom have been Marcus Johansson, Brooks Laich and Erat.
But Erat made clear earlier this season that he wanted to be traded by the Capitals, and now he got his wish. Washington sent Erat and another forward, John Mitchell, to Phoenix. The Coyotes sent forward Chris Brown, defenceman Rostislav Klesla and a fourth-round pick in the 2015 draft to Washington.
The 32-year-old Erat has one goal, 23 assists and 22 penalty minutes in 53 games with the Capitals this season.
Brown and Klesla will report to Hershey of the American Hockey League. Mitchell had been at Hershey.
The Capitals were off Tuesday; they play at the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday.