WASHINGTON – Suddenly in an unfamiliar position at the NHL trade deadline, the Washington Capitals set out to help their bid to make the playoffs with a flurry of deals Tuesday, including adding centre Sergei Fedorov and goalie Cristobal Huet.
“It feels good to be able to try and do this, this year, after selling off for a few years,” general manager George McPhee said. “We’re sending the right message to everybody.”
Washington got Fedorov, the 1994 Hart Trophy winner as league MVP, from the Columbus Blue Jackets for defenceman Theo Ruth, who was a 2007 second-round draft pick.
The Capitals picked up Huet, a 2007 all-star, from the Montreal Canadiens for a 2009 second-round draft pick.
“They said they are excited to have me, and they hope I can help them make a push for the playoffs,” Huet said in a conference call with reporters. “They are a young group of guys playing hard and they were hard to play against.”
Huet played for Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau in the minors.
“He’s a very smart coach, and I think he’s very close to the players,” the goalie said. “From what I’ve seen this year, he’s done a great job with the Capitals.”
In yet another swap shortly before Tuesday’s trade deadline, Washington acquired left wing Matt Cooke from the Vancouver Canucks for left wing Matt Pettinger.
Cooke called the Capitals “a dangerous hockey club to play against.”
“Obviously, Alex (Ovechkin) brings a lot of speed and passion to the game,” Cooke said, “and that’s something you would hope goes through the entire lineup.”
Fedorov, Huet and Cooke can become unrestricted free agents after the season.
Led by Ovechkin, the league’s leading scorer, the Capitals have jumped from last place in the NHL in late November to within striking distance of first place in the Southeast Division. They headed into Tuesday night’s game against the Minnesota Wild with a 28-27-8 mark for 64 points, five behind division leader Carolina.
Washington, which hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2002-03, was in a 1-2-3 slump over its previous six games.
“It can change in a hurry,” Cooke said. “We just need to win some games.”
The Capitals also did a swap of minor leaguers, getting left wing Alexandre Giroux from the Atlanta Thrashers for right wing Joe Motzko. Giroux will report to the Hershey Bears of the AHL.
Fedorov is 38 and in his 17th NHL season. He has nine goals and 19 assists this season. The Russian, a six-time All-Star, has 470 goals and 663 assists in the NHL for Detroit, Anaheim and Columbus.
McPhee said that he hoped Fedorov could replace centre Michael Nylander, done for the season with a torn rotator cuff.
“I was trying to find another centre without giving the future away – and the price seemed right for that,” McPhee said.
Ruth was chosen in the second round of the 2007 draft by Washington. He is a freshman at Notre Dame.
Huet went 21-12-6 with a 2.55 goals-against average for Montreal this season, splitting starts with rookie Carey Price.
The Capitals’ top goalie has been Olie Kolzig, who is 21-19-6 with a 3.03 GAA, and with Huet and backup Brent Johnson, they now have three goaltenders.
“It’s tough with three goalies,” Boudreau said. “Let’s see who plays better.”
McPhee shook his head vigorously when asked if the team tried to peddle Kolzig.
“No, I didn’t try to trade Olie. Not a chance,” McPhee said. “That wasn’t part of the plan.”
Cooke has seven goals and nine assists in 61 games this season, his ninth in the NHL, all with Vancouver. Pettinger has two goals and five assists in 56 games this season.
Huet was scheduled to arrive in Washington on Tuesday night, while Fedorov was expected to arrive Wednesday. Cooke’s arrival could be delayed by visa issues, the Capitals said.
With the flurry of activity leaving the team temporarily short, the Capitals recalled left wing Chris Bourque from Hershey for Tuesday’s game.
AP freelance writer Rich Dubroff contributed to this report.