Capitals place Backstrom on long-term IR
ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) -- The Washington Capitals pulled a surprise at the NHL trade deadline -- by making no moves at all.
The Capitals opted to stay put Monday, even though they could use a center while Nicklas Backstrom is out long-term with a concussion -- and even though they have two veterans who have been deemed dispensable in the last week.
The four-time Southeast Division champions, who were expected to contend again for a Stanley Cup this season, sit in ninth place in the Eastern Conference with 20 games to play. Alex Ovechkin is having a career-worst season, and coach Dale Hunter has failed to rally the players into any kind of sustained momentum since replacing Bruce Boudreau in late November.
General manager George McPhee, known as a trade-deadline mover-and-shaker in years past, appeared to set the stage for some deals early Monday when he placed Backstrom on the long-term injured list, a move that could net some $7.6 million in salary cap space. The move is retroactive to Jan. 4, the day after Backstrom was elbowed by Rene Bourque in a win over Calgary.
HACKEL: Live deadline day blog
Even so, Backstrom still ranks second on the team with 42 points.
After the morning practice, forward Mike Knuble and defenseman Roman Hamrlik were among the players eyeing the 3 p.m. deadline. Knuble has been a healthy scratch five times this month, including the last two games, while Knuble has been benched for the last three.
"I'm not standing there with my head in the sand," said Knuble, who has a one-year, $2 million contract. "I know the year I've had, and how things have gone of late, and (my) expiring contract. That's a lot of the characteristics that become tradable this time of year."
Yet and Knuble and Hamrlik will stick around, even though Hamrlik took a potshot at Hunter a few days ago. When Hunter cited Hamrlik's penalties as a reason for sitting the defenseman, Hamrlik responded: "You should ask him about the penalties - because when he played I think he make lots of penalties ... so he should know better."
Hamrlik on Monday said he did not ask for a trade, but he's clearly frustration by his situation.
"It's tough to watch the game from upstairs and not to help the team," he said. "I wish I could play, but that's not my decision. I just try to work hard and stay positive."
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