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Capitals Win Blockbuster Trade for Now
By Jason Sheehan, Washington Correspondent

The Washington Capitals (24-32-7) and Boston Bruins (21-34-9) are two teams with a reputation of making the playoffs every year. This season, both clubs are on the outside looking in, and decided that something needed to be done.

Last Saturday, the Boston Bruins shipped disgruntled center Adam Oates, right wing Rick Tocchet and goaltender Bill Ranford to the Washington Capitals for goaltender Jim Carey, center Anson Carter, center Jason Allison, a 1997 third-round draft pick, and a conditional second-round pick in 1998 if the Capitals re-sign Tocchet.

Tocchet, 29, becomes an unrestricted free agent when his contract ends in May.

It was the biggest deal made since 1992, when Philadelphia acquired center Eric Lindros from Quebec for six players, two draft picks and $15 million.

The Bruins, in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in 30 years, are obviously thinking about the future. Oates, 34, and Ranford, 30, have been involved in many NHL wars. Now, Boston has decided to rebuild with a group of youngsters, all of which are under the age of 25.

Carey, a 22-year-old Boston native, has struggled this season (17-17-3, 2.74 Goals-against- average, .893 save percentage). But lately, he's been showcasing the style of play that won him the Vezina Trophy a year ago. The Bruins are banking on the fact that Carey has many good years ahead of him.

Yet, after viewing his first game in a Bruins uniform, Coach Steve Kasper cannot be happy. Due to defensive breakdowns and a lack of concentration in goal, Carey was pummeled by the Toronto Maple Leafs for four goals on nine shots in the first period. He was pulled soon after in favor of Rob Tallas.

"Jim Carey, as we all know, won the Vezina Trophy last year, and is a fine young goaltender," Capitals General Manager David Poile said at a press conference. "In some regard, he has struggled a little bit this year, but there's no doubt that he's a fine goaltender, and has a great future in front of him.

"He goes to a city where he was born and raised. Obviously, that seems to be a good fit for the Bruins, and I'm sure for Jim Carey."

The big catch for Poile and the Capitals was acquiring Oates. Oates, 34, lost favor in Boston a couple weeks ago when he blamed management for the way things were being run. According to Oates, the Bruins weren't committed to building a winner. So he asked the Bruins to clean up their act or trade him. Saturday, one of his wishes came true.

But Oates wasn't done playing games. This time he asked that his contract be renegotiated (more money) or else. Well, the Capitals were in no shape to bargain at this late stage of the season. Apparently, Oates realized this fact, but didn't want to take advantage of his new club. So, he decided to play hockey now and talk about his contract this Summer.

In Oates, the Capitals get one of the greatest playmaking centers of all-time. In the 90s, only one player has collected more assists: the Great One Wayne Gretzky.

Age may be catching up to Oates. But based on his stats, he still has plenty left in the gas tank. Oates led the Bruins with 68 points (18 goals, 50 assists). He also has more points than any Capital player, Peter Bondra was the club's leading scorer with 59 (36 goals, 23 assists). Look for Oates to center a line alongside Joe Juneau. Oates and Juneau played in Boston a few years ago, where Oates had over 100 points and Juneau enjoyed his finest NHL season.

Due to a quantity of injured players, the Capitals have lacked toughness over the last few weeks. That problem may now be solved with the acquisition of Tocchet, who has been a tough customer throughout his NHL career.

Tocchet should fit in well. He, too, has battled injuries all season, his latest being a bruised ankle. But in the 40-games he's dressed, Tocchet has collected 16 goals and 14 points. Most importantly, he is the type of player that will stick his nose where it doesn't belong, which is proven by his 67 penalty minutes.

However, don't expect Tocchet to be around for long. Before the trade, he stated that he wanted his next team to be his last. Philadelphia Flyers' GM Bobby Clarke called Poile soon after the trade and inquired about Tocchet's status on the open market. Tocchet has stated that he'd like to end his career in Philadelphia. But if Poile gives him what he wants, Tocchet would be happy to end his career as a Capital.

Washington, who ranks last in the league in goal-scoring, needed an extra surge of offensive power. With Oates and Tocchet, Poile's wish has finally come true.

Meanwhile Boston, who is six points out of a playoff spot, may be throwing the towel in and looking ahead to the future. Carter, 23, and Allison, 21, are promising forwards that have yet to mature. Due to a bucket-load of injuries, the Capitals relied on the two youngsters, but didn't receive the amount of goal-scoring pop they needed so badly. Allison hasn't scored in his last 47 games. Carter, however, has shown signs of potential lately, scoring three goals in 20 games.

Right now, the Capitals are the winners of this deal. But in a few years, the tables could very well be turned when Washington is stuck with the over-the-hill gang, and Boston has the most promising young players in the league.

And Carey will probably win a few more Vezina Trophies before his career comes to a close, if he finds a way to break out of his current slump. Only time will decide who is the winner of this blockbuster trade.

"I think with young players you have to be patient and you have to give them time to play," Poile said. "In Jason Allison and Anson Carter's case, I think they were two young guys that were getting a big opportunity with the amount of injuries the Capitals had."

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